Thursday, October 17, 2019

Free Divas

It was too crowded and too hot and too far on Muni to go to Sunday's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival a couple of weeks ago, so we walked across the street to the Veterans Building for SF Music Day. Dozens of musicians were performing from noon to eight in four different venues in the beautiful old building, and we caught violinist Kate Stenberg and pianist Sarah Cahill in Herbst Theater playing Debussy and Lou Harrison. Cahill is playing more Harrison next month, his Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan, with Gamelan Sari Raras on Friday, November 8th at Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. It looks fascinating.

We went home to watch Judy Collins live-streamed from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and then returned to The Green Room for pianist Allegra Chapman and soprano Sara LeMesh presenting underperformed modern songs, with composers ranging from George Crumb to Grazyna Bacewicz to Henry Cowell.

The Green Room has terrible acoustics, but but somehow the two performers had the packed place mesmerized, and you could hear a pin drop. LeMesh is an intensely dramatic singer who gets her effects musically rather than with histrionics while Chapman is a lively, almost superhumanly gifted pianist who makes complex music sound clear.

The blessed, silent concentration of the audience was too good to last, and a young mother with a noisy four-year-old and infant sat down next to us halfway, so we exited. No matter. The same two performers will be appearing this weekend at Bard Music West, a three-concert festival at the Noe Valley Ministry this weekend. They will be joined by a whole host of performers from around the world celebrating the 20th century Polish, female violinist and composer Grazyna Bacewicz. Check it out by clicking here.

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