Confessions of a Twitter-Phobe

Every day I read articles in the press about how important it is for anyone involved in the arts world (or indeed, any world) to use social media as a way of marketing one's "product". I know how useful tools like Twitter and Facebook are from what I'm told by others. And technologies that enable organizations to mail out information to select members of their mailing lists or entire lists at the touch of a button has revolutionized the way we spread the word about what we're doing, reach new and familiar audiences, generate enthusiasm and … [Read more...]

Two Contrasting London Shows

Just returned from a revivifying trip to the UK. Saw a couple of shows while I was there, which couldn't have been more different in terms of the emotions they provoked in me:The Merry Wives of Windsor at The Globe: Mark Shenton, a wonderful theatre commentator for The Stage, theatre junkie and all-round mensch, invited me to be his guest at the press night performance of Shakespeare's one-joke comedy. The one-joke in question is about fat people, which gets old pretty quickly. But the production, which features Christopher Benjamin as the … [Read more...]

Weekend Roundup (and Extended Absence Greeting)

Three very contrasting cultural experiences this weekend. In brief:1. Euouae at Old First Concerts: A new a cappella ensemble with an unpronounceable name gave its first concert at Old First Church on Van Ness Avenue on Friday evening. The repertoire consisted of sacred music from medieval France: the Tournai Mass, organum from the Magnus Liber of Leonin, and Obrecht's  six voice Salve Regina. What was palpable for me was how much better the music sounded when the conductor, Steven Sven Olbash, wasn't conducting. I couldn't figure out why … [Read more...]

Can Lyrics Survive Without Music?

I have to take exception to one paragraph in John Jurgensen's otherwise expansive "The Secrets of Songwriters" article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about lyricists.The offending paragraphs says:Divorced from a song, words on a page look like poetry--usually bad poetry. "Lyrics just don't hold up without the music," says Billy Collins, professor and former poet laureate. When his students argue that the lines by their favorite rock stars should be assessed as literature, he demurs: "I assure them that Jim Morrison is not a poet in any … [Read more...]

Down With Pre-Performance Monologues

There are probably laws dictating that theatre companies need to make public safety announcements at the start of performances. But I wish companies wouldn't do it. There's no greater Joy Kill.You walk into the theatre, excited about what's about to happen. You buy a drink, take your seat, peruse your program and get ready to experience something unusual. A little thrill rushes through you at the prospect of being transported to a different world for a couple of hours. The auditorium hums with the buzz of expectation and goodwill. You engage … [Read more...]

Taking A Stand Through Song

Community groups are up in arms in San Francisco about Proposition L -- the proposed Sit-Lie Law on San Francisco's November 2010 ballot, which, if passed, would mean that no one may sit or lie on a city side walk after 11 pm at night. One of the less likely outcomes of the news is the formation of a new vocal group.Established by Dr. Kathleen McGuire, (pictured), the conductor of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, Singers of the Streets (SOS) will bring homeless people and other people who like to sing together to protest the proposition and … [Read more...]


Do you ever feel like, culturally-speaking, you've been thrown back into another era? Depending on the experience in question, this can be a good or bad thing. Many great works of art owe their greatness to the fact that they make us feel like we've stepped into a different age from our own. But then there are those experiences that take you back in time unintentionally -- in other words, they're "old hat."I unfortunately faced the latter of these symptoms at the weekend when I went to CounterPULSE, a black box venue in San Francisco, to see … [Read more...]

Santa Cruz Roundup

Spent just over 24 hours in Santa Cruz this past weekend. Caught the opening night concert of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and a matinee performance of Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost at Shakespeare Santa Cruz.I enjoyed the concert immensely. The house was packed and there was a pleasing variety in the programming. The first work, Mark-Anthony Turnage's Scherzoid, lurched and lollopped along like Mediaeval country faire music. The orchestra tackled the rhythmic challenges of the piece very well. The second work, Jennifer … [Read more...]

Where Birds Go Off To Die

Taro Hattori's paper sculpture currently on display at the SF Arts Commission's storefront installation gallery on Grove Street in Civic Center, San Francisco, is one of the most eye-catching works of art that I've ever seen displayed at the small, walk-by space.The sculpture, which is made made out of carefully hewn and folded brown cardboard and white paper, depicts a building not unlike City Hall across the street floating precariously -- or perhaps even sinking -- in a sea of cardboard waves while origami seagulls circle the cupola.If you … [Read more...]

SF Arts iPhone App

I just downloaded the new iPhone app for the SF Arts Guide, a web-based roundup of many arts events in the Bay Area organized under different headings such as "theatre", "dance" and "literary arts" by a bunch of pretty knowledgeable curators.I am fond of the SF Arts website. Though it's not comprehensive, it's fairly user friendly. However, I sometimes get frustrated at having to scroll down long columns to see what the curators recommend.Designed by Dan Zeitman, a local web developer, the new iPhone app has a clean interface and some excellent … [Read more...]

The Joy Of Singing Badly

Since 1993, the Oakland Symphony Chorus has organized a really terrific summer singing program. Every Tuesday evening in July and August, the Chorus invites venerable local choral directors to lead members of the public in singing through masterworks of the classical repertoire accompanied by piano. The "Summer Sing-Ins" take place in a church in Oakland. Anyone can attend and attendees pay $10 for one event (or $50 for the entire six-evening series). The fee includes borrowing a score and intermission snacks.I attended the event for the fist … [Read more...]

Coming To A Comedy Club Near You: The Chloe Veltman

The idea that language is an arbitrary construct, a manmade and sometimes haphazard system created to help us get through our days without too many terrible misunderstandings, is an old one. But it resurfaced in a conversation I had yesterday in an unexpected context.The conversation centered on the naming of a type of long-form improvisation known among improv circles as "The Harold." The Harold came into being in 1967 in The Bay Area through the efforts of the seminal but now long-defunct San Francisco-based improv troupe, The Committee. It's … [Read more...]