Robert Geary rehearsing a San Francisco Choral Society performance in Davies Symphony Hall (photograph by Kristen Loken, courtesy of SF Choral Society)
I have to confess to feeling a bit embarrassed when it comes to the San Francisco Choral Society (SF Choral). This group was established in 1989, meaning that it is now in its 30th anniversary season. Currently led by Artistic Director Robert Geary, the ensemble has the two-pronged mission of presenting great choral classics and introducing bold new works to audiences in San Francisco. Sadly, this is the first time I have been aware of one of this ensemble’s performances before it has taken place. The program schedule has long been a “moveable feast,” bringing different programs to different venues; but a long-standing tradition has emerged for performing in Davies Symphony Hall during the month of August. This time I have a jump on that performance of over two weeks!
Next month will see a representative program, combining the world premiere of a composition by David Lang with Carl Orff’s “choral warhorse,” “Carmina Burana.” Lang’s composition, “teach your children,” was commissioned by SF Choral explicitly in celebration of its milestone year, the sixth commission over the last twelve years. Lang has created a three-movement structure based on a libretto that explores the importance of the lessons that are taught by and learned from parents, teachers, peers, and the environment. Considering that ours is a culture whose collective memory rarely reaches back more than five years (if that long), Lang’s work could not be more relevant. Ironically, he has turned to the major cause of this problem to serve his goal of pursuing a solution. The words of his libretto constitute “found texts” arising from techniques based on Internet search engines. For the performance of “teach your children,” SF Choral will be joined by soprano Marnie Breckenridge and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, for which Geary also serves as Artistic Director.
Breckenridge will also be one of the three soloists in the performance of “Carmina Burana.” The other two will be tenor J. Raymond Meyers and bass-baritone Eugene Brancoveanu. The vocalists will be joined by an array of dancers for a semi-staged performance of Orff’s cantata created by Michael Mohammed.
This program will be given two performances, both at 8 p.m. on Friday, August 16, and Saturday, August 17, respectively. Ticket prices are $36 (Loge and Premiere Orchestra), $33 (rear Orchestra, Side Boxes, and Rear Boxes), and $30 (1st Tier). (Tickets will not be sold for the 2nd Tier.) Tickets may be purchased in advance online from City Box Office, which has created separate event pages for the Friday and Saturday performances.