Monday, September 28, 2009

September: Good bye to California for a while

Our last performance at home (before Christmas) was in Sacramento on a 100 degree afternoon, in St. Francis of Assissi Church.

Christmas may SEEM a long way off, but we're working on the program in our warm-ups. While our last two weeks in Northern California have been intense, nothing compares with our Christmas tour. We always look forward to it and love it, and it will be here before we know it! All you Bay Area people should get your tickets now!

Unfortunately while we were doing this, somebody was kicking down the sacristy door (to our dressing room) and making away with six of our backpacks - rental car keys, house keys, wallets, phones, music, our egg shakers for the Mason Bates piece - and more, as you can imagine.

If it had to happen, it was at least better that we were with one of our super-friendly home town (Bay Area) crowds, who spent a very long intermission while we assessed the scene, got mad, calmed down, and made some phone calls about credit cards. They gave us a consolatory standing ovation when we came back out - which really did help!

Tomorrow we head out for Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New York State. We will be having a Youth Choral Festival in Akron, Ohio - and of course we'll tell you how it all goes!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September: a Night in the Woods

Winding down our time here at home, here we are being outdoorsy amongst the California Redwoods in the Armstrong Woods in Guerneville on the Russian River in Sonoma County. This was a benefit for the Park. The venue was amazing. The amplification was actually OK (we don't love being amplified...) we had delicious home cooked food and there were some lovely volunteers there to help us, and everyone seemed very enthusiastic about having us there. Unfortunately not so much that three of us didn't get misdirected into the pitch dark for an hour in the woods afterwards on the way back to the car with the CD suitcases. Good thing there's not audio of that... A local choral group went on before us, a comprehensive speech about government park funding was made, and there was a four-man bluegrass group playing at the entrance, which blew us away! It's the least we can do for those glorious trees and the people who take care of them. The kind of evening we will long remember.

Our dressing room - we didn't actually put up the tent ourselves, but we'd like to think we could have.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September: We visit some Middle Schools

Today we split up and went to visit some of the schools which will attend our Middle School Youth Choral Festival on October 23 in San Francisco. It's always good to get acquainted first. Adam and Eric head to A.P. Giannini Middle School near the beach (which you couldn't see for the fog) in San Francisco. Meanwhile others of us were at Ochoa Middle School in Hayward, and Graham Middle School in Mountain View in the warm California sun.

We work with the mixed choir on the songs they will bring to the Festival.

Our Middle School program was founded a few years ago through several generous grants from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund here in San Francisco. This year our "Open Door" program - which enables us to work directly with music teachers and choir directors - got started thanks again to the Haas Fund, to whom we are always profoundly grateful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September: Over to the East Bay and the Big Education Year begins!

Having been south to the missions, and north to Napa, this week we're going East across the Bay Bridge along the Route 80 corridor for performances in Livermore, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento. We also went today to Oakland to do the first big event in our season of education. In 2009-10 we've got a huge and exciting plan full of Youth Choral Festivals, ACDA conference appearances, school visits, workshops, masterclasses - you name it. The highlight will be our first National Youth Choral Festival in March, attended by 12 high school choirs from here and around the country. We've always wanted to extend our program to Oakland. Thanks to our friend Frederica Von Stade, we were invited to the St. Martin de Porres School which in turn invited 3 groups from neighboring Catholic elementary schools. We'll be back to sing a Christmas concert for the first time in Oakland at the new Cathedral on December 12 - we hope the word spreads!

A photo with the chorus from the St. Jarlath School.

September: the East Bay-Livermore and Walnut Creek

Two relatively new and really good halls in the East Bay - above, the Livermore Center for the Performing Arts, and below the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. Amazingly enough, we had never performed at the Lesher Center before. We were thrilled to find a very nice acoustic (also the case in Livermore), and a lot of friendly faces, including choral singers from Acalanes and Monte Vista High Schools and many people who seemed very pleased to have had us come across the bridge and through the tunnel to see them, rather than vice versa! We'll do it again...

The stage of the Lesher Center gave us the chance to spread out our choreography for Chen Yi's "Spring Dreams" and Steven Sametz' "In time of..."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September: On the Road in California - North to Napa

Two months ago exactly we were surrounded by grapevines in Soreze in the Southwest of France. Here we are with the vines again - but in Napa County- an hour and a half to the north of us, over one or the other of our bridges.

The Napa Opera House (on the left) in downtown Napa was renovated and re-opened about 10 years ago. We perform reguarly in Sonoma County, near here, but haven't heretfore performed regularly in Napa (perhaps that will change.) This was our first time in the Opera House, so we didn't quite know what to expect!

Warm-up (two hours before the concert) usually starts sitting down while everybody arrives on stage and we discuss whatever logistical issues we have to discuss.

The Napa House House has about 500 seats - a very nice size...

From the audience response we realized we were among people who know us - and like us! Our new program "In time of..." seems to be a winner. It has a lot of music written relatively recently (from late 20th century to earlier this year) which doesn't seem like the dreaded 'contemporary music' -just music which is as accessible to the listener as any other. That's a great feeling. The response to our rendition of Kirby Shaw's arrangement of Summertime - featuring Cortez Mitchell - is usually pretty ecstatic.

We've kept it in the program from last year, and it will be featured on our new CD release this fall. Listen to a sample of Summertime and Pre-order your copy here.

Many people stayed to greet us afterwards - turns out they came from all over - as far as Australia & Oregon - Placerville, Danville and other Bay Area locations. The Napa Opera House is a nice destination - lots of good restaurants within steps (not that we get to patronize them, but we get reports!)

Among the friendly faces were choral singers from Napa High School - we work with the choruses there from time to time.

There were also some of our smaller fans - we love to see them!

After an all too brief visit to Napa - that's one place we can imagine staying much longer!- we head this week to the East of San Francisco across the Bay Bridge to Livermore, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September: On the Road Again - in beautiful California

Our season starts with sunny days and cool evenings in the Bay Area (and a bit beyond) at three of the California Missions - San Luis Obispo, Carmel, and Santa Clara . Travelling down Route 101 through magnificent agricultural country and arriving at the Missions is always a homecoming to which we look forward. We're in familiar territory, but lots is new!
We're debuting our new program "In Time Of..." which contains some stunning music, especially from the 20th and 21st centuries: Lesur, Ligeti, Sametz, Chen Yi, McGlynn, Bates. Our two new tenors, Matt Curtis and Ben Jones, made their debuts in San Luis Obispo, and Music Director Matt Oltman takes up his new position in the front of the house.

Three mission bells at San Luis Obispo, the southernmost mission on this trip.

Beautiful Carmel - this is the courtyard side of the mission through which we enter for our concerts.

By request of the artist's mother.

New Dad Eric checks in with his daughter Mia, now five days old.

After ten years singing tenor in the ensemble, Matt Oltman takes up his new full-time post as Music Director.

The three tenors and fan.

The last roses of summer at the Santa Clara Mission.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September: We've had a baby!

Mia Isabel Alatorre was born to Eric and Dorothee Alatorre at 9.18pm on September 9 . Mother, Father and Daughter are doing well.

Mia goes home...