The Garden of Memory walk-through music event at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland is, as far as I am concerned, one of the highlights of the Bay Area arts calendar.
One reason for this is to do with the location — the Julia Morgan-designed columbarium with its maze-like nooks and crannies, fountains, fragrant courtyard gardens and beautiful light. Another reason is for the music. The organizer, Sarah Cahill, coopts the talents of about as diverse a range of artists as you can imagine from the throat singer Ken Ueno and the alt-folk string players Dylan Mattingly and Eli Wirtschafter to the whistler Jason Victor Serenius and the electronic composer Paul Dresher. A third reason is the people watching. What a crazy assortment of Bay Area types this unique event attracts.
The highlight of the 2010 Garden of Memory event which happened yesterday evening for me this time around was the performance by the Ukrainian vocalist and harmonium player Mariana Sadovska. Sadovska appeared in the Chimes Chapel following a turn by the all-female vocal ensemble, Kitka. Sadovska is directing a new vocal-theatre production that the ensemble is premiering this week in Oakland.
I usually love Kitka. But the group’s performance didn’t impress me much this time. Some of the music was a bit too precious, self-conscious and quiet. The group tends to touch me more when the singers are at their most full-throated and wild abandoned.
Sadovska performs in the same tradition as Kitka and thankfully she made up for this lack of oomph with her fifteen minute performance in which we saw the pretty petite artist show off her vast vocal range, her passion and her sense of humor. Her wild bacchanal included whoops, grunts, gut-powered singing and yodels. She got the audience completely riled up. It was a breathtaking performance by a beautiful banshee.