My Extra Good Sunday

Shane and I had a particularly artsy Sunday afternoon this week.

We spend the early afternoon at SFMOMA, where we saw Melissa Caywood, Kelly Kemp, and Wendy Rein dance Deborah Slater’s “Echoes Made Visible” on the 5th floor bridge, right in the middle of Bill Fontana’s “Sonic Shadows.” (More on this later – I’m digesting more wonderful dance and choreography than usual right now!)

Walking around the museum also lead to me falling into a Rothko for a while, which was a pleasure.

By early evening, we were entering Holy Innocents Episcopal Church for what would turn out to be a truly enjoyable performance by Nonsemble 6. The program focused on the natural world and was full of stylized birdsong – not especially surprising when featuring Messiaen – and struck a nice balance between variety and cohesiveness. The program included Harbison’s “The Natural World,” Davidovsky’s “Biblical Songs” and Messiaen’s “The Quartet for the End of Time.

While there are many gushy praises I can heap on the ensemble, what strikes me most in retrospect is their clear and remarkable sense of humor. The most obvious example of this is the second movement of the Davidovsky, “And Samson Said.” The text is brief and violent, and soprano Amy Foote sang it with an intelligence and lack of self consciousness that, outside of a concert setting (in a church!), might have inspired cringing laughter as observers took in the murderous glee of the piece. The sense of drama and attention to detail brought by each member of the ensemble was only enhanced by the noticeable enjoyment they drew from interacting with one another.

And I can’t end this without mentioning Annie Phillips’ exquisite performance of the Abime des Oiseaux. She managed to be both conversational and trancendant in a movement where achieving either can be a challenge.

The concert was part of the Noe Valley Chamber Music Emerging Artist Series, which has apparently been around for 19 seasons! I will never stop being impressed by how many wonderful things are going on all over this city.

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