Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Requiem for 2016 at Chapel of the Chimes
The amazingly beautiful Chapel of the Chimes crematory and columbariam in the Oakland Hills was designed by Julia Morgan early in the 20th century.
For 20 years, the New Music Bay Area organization has presented a Summer Solstice concert on June 21st with dozens of composers and musicians performing throughout the sprawling complex simultaneously while the audience roams quietly from one musical surprise to another.
The Berkeley pianist Sarah Cahill above started the solstice concerts, and has been one of the driving organizers of the event with Lucy Mattingly for years. After the shocking, almost simultaneous losses of composer Pauline Oliveros, the young musicians at the Ghost Ship warehouse fire, and the disastrous U.S. election, Cahill sent out a call for a community afternoon last Sunday afternoon...
...with performers ranging from Oliveros students and friends, Ghost Ship survivors, Buddhist monks, and a host of artists from every musical discipline.
They included composer/vocalist Pamela Z above...
...and Meredith Monk singer/dancer Sidney Chen above...
...who joined his Volti chorus colleagues Tim Silva, Ben Barr, and Kelsey Linnett above offering an open rehearsal of requiems by composers from Arvo Pärt to Messiaen.
In another alcove, Andy Meyerson and Danny Clay were playing a delicate percussion piece...
...before moving elsewhere so Sharmi Basu could have an electrical outlet for her performance.
On the top floor, Sarah Lockhart was playing an interactive sound sculpture accompanied by an electronic music tape component, and it was fascinating to watch and hear until she started a new piece with a prerecorded soundtrack that sounded as if she had dialed the amp to 11.
In the main chapel on the ground floor, composer Luciano Chessa played two piano pieces, one by Liszt and one a requiem he had written for a friend.
Chessa was followed by a singer he has long admired, Randy Walker in the persona of Carletta Sue Kay. (Click here for a fascinating 2012 New York Times article by Reyhan Harmanci about Walker.)
We were taken aback by the "tragic drag" appearance and expected the worst, and were quite unprepared for the sheer beauty and power of the acapella gospel song which came out of that mouth, sounding a bit like a Pentecostal Janis Joplin.
Carletta then picked up a small stringed instrument and addressed the audience. "God, this is the third memorial I've sung at. This song is for my friend Cash Askew. And tears are the enemy of singers, so I hope I get through this."
As Carletta wandered down the central aisle, singing a farewell, most of the audience was transported to another dimension and many of us were crying. For a taste of what we heard, click here for a KTVU newscast that features a clip from the performance.