Making A (Small) Splash

There's an art to knowing how to tackle a museum. The massive civic institutions that grace most major cities around the world, from The Prado to The Met, are overwhelming and exhausting to many visitors.If you happen to live in a city with a big museum, you can buy a membership and enjoy seeing the institution bit by bit. You can pop in and out in a lunch-break. You never have to wear out your soles by attempting to "do" the whole museum in one visit.But if you're a tourist and feel like you have to get around the museum in one day, you're … [Read more...]

Behind And In Front Of The Proscenium At SF Opera

Enjoyed a fabulous private backstage tour at San Francisco Opera House on Saturday evening courtesy of my vocal instructor and SF Opera chorus member, Kathy McKee. Prior to our attending a performance of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, Kathy took my friend Alice and I into the bowels of the venue, where we wandered around a maze of corridors, and popped in and out of rooms where a motley assortment of singers, musicians, janitors, administrative staff and others were going about their business.It was particularly fascinating going into the chorus … [Read more...]

A Marketing Revamp for Chanticleer?

By the end of the sublime choral concert I experienced on Thursday in Berkeley by Chanticleer, I was convinced of two things: One -- that the all-male a cappella vocal ensemble deserves every bit of praise it gets from the classical music press, and two -- that the ensemble needs an image overhaul.Let's start with point one, with which most people would agree. The opening concert of the group's 31st anniversary tour brought together songs from many different parts of the American choral tradition, from the simple, spun-gold lines of the … [Read more...]

Do Critics Have Sell-By Dates?

Like dairy products, theatre critics come with sell-by dates. At some point after you've been in the game for a while and have covered shows on similar subjects by the same companies over and over again, you wake up one day and realize that you've said just about all you have to say about these plays and players. You find yourself repeating yourself. The word choices, sentence constructions and themes that once seemed so fresh now seem stale by dint of endless repetition. You've gotten to know people in the business, making the job of being … [Read more...]

You Can’t Sing A Footnote

The quest for so-called "authenticity" in the early music movement is one of those crusty topics that never goes away. Research into Medieval music practices serves an academic purpose, sure, in as much as finding out how music may have been performed in the distant past enriches our experience of it. But to what extent are all the academic tracts useful when it comes to the practical business of performing? My mixed feelings about this topic crystalized last week when I attended the Anonymous 4 "Chant Camp" which I initially blogged about … [Read more...]

Flying Blind

One of the many fascinating things I learned last week while attending an afternoon-long "Chant Camp" in Silicon Valley led by two members of the great New York-based early music collective, Anonymous 4, was that it is in fact possible to learn a piece of music quickly and easily without having to refer to a score.When I had previously tried to pick up some of Hildegard von Bingen's chants while preparing for a production of Ordo Virtutum by Hildegard von Bingen alongside fellow singers in San Francisco Renaissance Voices, I found the score … [Read more...]

Fringe Versus Mainstream

Last night, around 35 Bay Area theatre community members gathered at Last Planet Theatre in San Francisco for the latest in an ongoing program of "theatre salons" hosted by a group of six local performing arts people, myself among them.The theme was "what is fringe?" and we spent the evening eating, drinking, and hotly discussing issues surrounding notions of fringe theatre. Wide-ranging ideas came up during the conversation, but we essentially kept returning to one issue: Whether fringe is a type of theatre (ie something that can be defined by … [Read more...]

Obama, California (Pop 55, Elev 60)

On the way through the tiny hamlet of Olema, California on Friday, my eye caught a sign at the edge of the village which looked just like the kind of sign you'd find at any city limit in America, except instead of "Olema, California (Pop 55, Elev 60)", it read, "Obama, California (Pop 55, Elev 60)." My friend and I drove onwards towards the coast, thinking, "what a terrific trompe-d'oeil."We weren't the only people to notice the sign. The next day, the local paper, The Marin Independent Journal, ran an article about the sign."Olema resident … [Read more...]

Everyone Else Is Doing It!

What is it about all these arts organizations now stampeding onto the information super highway with such enthusiasm? Have all the marketing directors suddenly woken up to the fact that there are audiences to be found out there on the Web? Or have they just been taking their time about reaching out to be people through online channels?San Francisco Ballet is the latest in a long line of arts companies to announce the launch of the holy triumvirate of blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. The only thing that's missing from this offering is a … [Read more...]

The Dating Game

The Climate Theater in San Francisco seems to have created a niche for itself as the place to go to experience popular TV and Web-based entertainment on stage.Just under a year ago, I blogged about YouTubed, the Climate's whacky and wonderful series of live skits based on people's favorite You Tube videos.I'd heard about the Climate's intermittent stagings of the old ABC television seriesThe Dating Game soirees a while ago and thought they'd probably be more embarrassing than make for interesting theatre. But having experienced the live stage … [Read more...]

Jump Aboard The CultureBus

By the end of this week, San Francisco culture vultures will have their own special mode of transportation to help them get around the city.Starting on September 20, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's CultureBus will transport people to and from many of the city's main cultural institutions. For a flat fare of $7 for adults and $5 for seniors, youths and people with disabilities, the entirely new bus route (route 74X) gives customers unlimited access to CultureBus for the day.The bus runs between downtown San Francisco to … [Read more...]

Doing Time

As I strolled through downtown San Francisco yesterday afternoon, I couldn't help but wonder if all the tower blocks, traffic, stores, roads and other signs of "civilized" life would exist if we didn't have clocks -- if we didn't have a system for regulating this slippery notion known as time. If human beings had only nature's cycles upon which to count to figure out what to do when, would the economy as we know it not exist? Maybe so, because without clocks, the concepts of past and future would cease to be meaningful in the same way. Maybe … [Read more...]