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May 9, 2017

Lifting the Lamp Beside the Golden Door in Fremont

“It’s the right time, it’s the right place” for the Music at the Mission concert, “The Golden Door,” in Old Mission San Jose on May 13. The place is Fremont, a wondrously diverse city in the East Bay. The time is now, when the poem inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is no longer uniformly accepted as expressing basic American values. The poem, “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, inspired the concert. In it, Lazarus voices Liberty’s call to send “the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Music at the Mission Artistic Directors Bill Everett and Aileen Chanco organized the multimedia music-and-screening event, feeling that “In the social media noise about immigration, the faces of individuals are often lost in a dark sea of generalizations, political posturing, ignorance, prejudice, and fear.”

In addition to works by Antonín Dvořák, Chen Yi, and Silvestre Revueltes, the concert features the premiere of composer-in-residence Mark Fish’s The Golden Door, commissioned by Music at the Mission, and performed alongside a documentary by local filmmakers. The combined music and film presentation celebrates the multicultural immigrant experience in the community of rich cultures from the Philippines, Mexico, China, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

“Many people think of classical music as an art from another era,” says Everett. “This concert is very much about music being alive and modern, but also about it being relevant to both our present-day society and to our local community. If there is anything that defines modern day Fremont, it is multiculturalism.”

“We are incredibly lucky to have the talents of composer Mark Fish as part of Music at the Mission,” Everett adds. “Last year’s Charlie Chaplin concert was the first piece of Mark’s referencing the local Fremont community, specifically the films made at Niles’s own Essanay Studio. This year’s work is a musical documentary of Fremont today.”

The program opens with Dvorak’s String Quartet in F Major, No 12, Op. 96 (“American”), followed by Chen Yi’s Tunes from My Home, and Revueltes’s String Quartet No. 4 (“Musica de Feria”), before the premiere work.

Participating artists are Steve Huber, violin; Matt Szemela, violin; Emily Onderdonk, viola; Adelle-Akiko Kearns, cello; Bill Everett, double bass, and Aileen Chanco, piano.

Community and business leaders participating in the documentary film include Anu Natarajan, Moina Shaiq, Michelle Liu, Patty Maciel, and Ysmael Chanco. They will describe their early years in India, Pakistan, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, tell about their journeys to the U.S., and share observations about resettlement and experiences during the current turbulent times.

Bay Choral Guild to Serenade Shakespeare

Sanford Dole, artistic director of the Bay Choral Guild (and leader of many other music groups) has programmed three Bay Area concerts in June with settings of Shakespeare sonnets and quotes from his plays by composers from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

Selections include the same text set by two different composers, Dole says, “for example, bookending the first half of the concert is ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind,’ from As You Like It, set by both Thomas Arne (1710–1778) and Matthew Harris (b. 1956). The shorter Arne composition is light and melodic, even though the text concerns ingratitude and the failure of friendship. Shakespeare’s sarcastic commentary (missing from the Arne setting) is included in the Harris setting: ‘Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly. Then heigh-ho, the holly! This life is most jolly!’”

The “400 Years of Shakespeare” concerts are held in Campbell United Methodist Church on June 2, Palo Alto’s All Saints Episcopal Church on June 3, and St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco on June 4.

Ralph Vaughan Williams is represented by two songs from The Tempest and one from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Recent works on the program include a set of three songs by Cecilia McDowall combining texts from several different plays and poems into a commentary on love and relationship; Nils Lindberg’s “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day,” and songs by Dominic DiOrio and Nancy Wertsch.

Bay Choral Guild’s 2017–2018 season includes the completed version of Paul Ayres’s commissioned Messyah, to be performed with Eric Kujawsky and the Redwood Symphony; Bach’s St John Passion with the Jubilate Orchestra and soloists; the a cappella works of Byrd’s Five Part Mass, and the Herbert Howells Requiem.

It’s Dr. Patricia Racette at the Conservatory

Patricia Racette, an acclaimed diva with an illustrious local history, will receive an honorary doctorate at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s 2017 Commencement on May 19.

“Highly sought after for her dramatic interpretations of roles both iconic and new,” says the announcement, Racette “is known the world over for her lyrical expressivity and dynamism. She has performed on the stages of La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Royal Opera House, among many others. She is also the recipient of the prized Richard Tucker Award and the Opera News Award.”

SFCM President David H. Stull calls the soprano “one of the great artists of our time ... who illuminates each role with a powerful, dramatic persona that blends seamlessly with a spectacular voice, offering us the unique and transcendent experience of true opera.”

The Conservatory began to award artists of exceptional merit an honorary doctorate in 1974, the honor going to school alumnus Isaac Stern. Other recipients have included Michael Tilson Thomas (2012), Marilyn Horne (2000), and Leon Fleisher (1990). Last year, the honorary doctorate was presented to pianist Garrick Ohlsson.

Racette last visited SFCM in January when she held a “Seminar in Integrative Artistry” with voice students, dealing with aspects of vocal performance from technique and health to repertoire and interpretation. She had participated in the Merola Opera Program and Adler Fellowship, and received the Merola Distinguished Alumni Award recently. 

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at