The other day, I received a strange phone call from someone called Igor who works at the Russian Consulate of San Francisco.I had sent the consulate an email a few days previously to ask if the organization might be interested in supporting an upcoming episode of my weekly public radio show about singing on KALW, VoiceBox. The show in question is about Tuvan throat singing. I thought the consulate might consider underwriting the program. (Tuva is situated in the far south of Siberia and part of the Russian "empire.")"We do not sponsor projects. … [Read more...]

Narcissism As Art

The San Francisco Art Commission's current playful outdoor art installation in the mid-Market area of downtown San Francisco demonstrates just how much people like to "publish" themselves. Faces, an interactive artwork by Theodore Watson projects enormous photographed portraits of passersby from The Warfield Theatre building (Market Street at Golden Gate/Taylor) onto a wall overlooking Market Street at 6th Street. Passersby stand in front of a "capture station" embedded in a wall at the Warfield, the image is snapped and seconds later it's … [Read more...]

Choirs: Top 20 Lists and some thoughts about the use of space in holiday concerts

Gramophone Magazine's List of the Top 20 choral ensembles of the world is causing controversy because so many of the choirs that make the cut are British -- and all the top five are British choirs. None are American. The magazine defends itself in this interesting Q&A between Gramophone editor James Inverne and NPR writer Thomas Huizenga and published a sycophantic piece by choral composer Eric Whitacre (pictured) about why British choirs are the best in the world.Here's my two cents worth: Top 20 (or Top 10 or Top 100 or Top whatever) … [Read more...]

From Hard Nut to Hard Rock

It's always a great solace to me as a non-believer, that the Bay Area offers so many interesting forms of non-traditional cultural fare during the holiday season.For instance, one of the highlights for me personally last year was finally making it over to Berkeley's Cal Performances to catch the Mark Morris Dance Company's irreverent take on The Nutcracker, The Hard Nut.This year, I've moved from hard nut to hard rock, as the best thing I've experienced so far has been a musical by The Climate Theater, a small local theatre company, entitled … [Read more...]

Never Stop Singing & Holiday Pops With the Andrea Fulton Chorale

A couple of musings about vocal music for the start of the week.1. A few days spent in Yosemite last week took me to the Bracebridge Dinner for the second time and, for the first time, to a concert of yuletide vocal music performed by the Andrea Fulton Chorale, the group that provides the entertainment at the Bracebridge Dinner. My impressions of the Dinner haven't changed much since I wrote about it last year on this blog and a couple of months ago for American Theatre Magazine, so I won't add anything new except to say that the production is … [Read more...]

A Tempest, A Train and A Triple Lutz

A fab weekend of eclectic arts activities to summarize today...1. Cutting Ball Theatre's production of The Tempest: Rob Melrose is one of the Bay Area's more thoughtful and creative directors, but on occasion he overthinks things. This is the case with his production of Shakespeare's magical late play, The Tempest. The director tries to impose an uber-Jungian reading on the fantasy which destroys all the magic. The central conceit is that the entire play takes place in Prospero's head, with all the characters being embodied by three actors. The … [Read more...]

Cutting Room Floor

It's a sad but all too common thing when an artist shares their experiences with a journalist for an article and then their comments don't actually make it into the published story.Most interviewees understand that journalists do a lot more reporting than can possibly be used in the average piece. But sometimes they don't get it and you feel just awful about it.I felt particularly bad about a source that got omitted from the article I wrote for today's New York Times about Bay Area string quartets. I interviewed many people for the story and … [Read more...]

Raising Money In Spite of Iffy Entertainment

As someone who started a non-profit a year ago and recently mounted her first fundraiser, it's always fascinating to me to see how the big guns go about their fundraising event efforts.Last night, the University of California at San Francisco mounted something approaching the mother of all benefits at the Masonic Temple on Nob Hill. The evening's proceedings included solo performances by Neil Young and Joanna Newsom, an introductory address by Colin Powell and copious amounts of truly delicious food and wine. Even the statutory silent auction … [Read more...]


I just ran into the opera director Francesca Zambello in Arlequin, the lovely cafe on Hayes Street in San Francisco which practically serves as my office. "Why isn't there a place like this in New York?" Zambello, who lives on the East Coast but is here on San Francisco Opera business, said.I'm sure there must be places like Arlequin in New York, but it's true that if you're a culture industry worker in San Francisco, Arlequin is the place to be.On the average morning while sipping my coffee, checking my email and writing my daily blog post for … [Read more...]


Watched an extraordinary and highly improbable five-minute animated film on YouTube yesterday which succinctly captures the disjunct between the non-profit arts funding model and the general public's understanding of the economics involved in creating non-commerical art in this country.I say "improbable" because the tongue-in-cheek film, entitled "Explaining an Arts NonProfit," takes the form of a conversation between two saccharine-cute, tubby, panda-bear-like characters with tinny computer-processed voices. It sounds like an exchange out of a … [Read more...]

Weekend Roundup: From Presidio to El Nino

A weekend of dazzling indoor performance and drizzly outdoor community engagement. Fun.1. Volunteer planting day in The Presidio: Stumbled across this wonderful event led by the Presidio Trust while out on a random walk in the rain which up to that point had involved walking all over Andy Goldsworthy's newly installed eucalyptus tree installation, Wood Line, near the Presidio Gate (the wooden beams were slippery, but I trod the entire thing without once falling off.) Joined about 60 other volunteers (most of whom had planned to be there unlike … [Read more...]

Defining Chamber Music – A Moving Target

These days, with string quartets playing Jimi Hendrix and clarinet quintets playing latin jazz, the definition of what constitutes chamber music is becoming blurred. I got into this today during an interesting conversation with Susan Bates, a long-time string player in the Bay Area and board member of the local service and grant-making organization, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM).SFFCM defines chamber music as: "music performed by two or more players, with one player per part and no conductor."Hearing this definition, and given … [Read more...]