Tag Archives: Summer Solstice Concert

Summer Solstice fun in Oakland, and across the world.

Last night we landed in Greece. Yes, Greece! We flew into Athens around midnight, seeing the merest hint of this 8-million person city, just a smattering of city lights surrounded by a sea of blackness. We arrived at our hotel around one o’clock in the morning while locals were flocking to nearby bars to watch the World Cup game between Greece and Japan, but we were ready to collapse after 24 hours of grueling travel and turned in for a scant four hours of sleep. We rose before the sun in order to catch our transport to the ferry, and while driving to the terminal the sun peeked over the low slung hills as we caught our first real glimpse of the city and the gorgeous blue water surrounding it. Now, as I type this, we are soaring across the Aegean Sea on a ferry the size of the Love Boat, on our way to the island of Naxos. You hate me, right?

athens-small

We’re here for the marriage of our dear friends who are tying the knot on this mythical Greek island on the eve of the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. Our attendance is mandatory since Tim is serving as the ceremony officiant, responsible for the hefty task of ritualizing their union, just as his friend did for us nearly a year ago. I can’t think of a more wonderful favor to return. We know it will be a truly magical event and feel incredibly blessed to be invited to participate.

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I’ll be missing one of my favorite solstice events: the Garden of Memory concert in the Chapel of the Chimes, one of my favorite places in Oakland. The building is one of the most beautiful and historic in Oakland, originating in the early 1900′s and largely redesigned in 1928 by the amazing Oakland-based architect Julia Morgan, one of the first major female architects. The building features a labyrinth-like maze of Moorish and Gothic-inspired rooms, each adorned with unique and ornate stonework, statues, gardens, fountains and mosaics. Needless to say, these rooms make for some amazing acoustics, which is why the chapel and columbarium serve so well as the home for this magical musical experience.

My hope is that some of you will go in my stead, to experience this unique celebration. The concert takes place from 5-9pm this Saturday, June 21st. Parking will be limited so carpooling or public transportation is suggested. You can get a sneak preview on the Garden of Memory website below which includes program and schedule information for this year as well as archives of past years dating back to the first concert in 1996, nearly two decades ago. I also wrote a post about my last visit in 2010 (despite my love for this event, without fail I seem to be out of town on the solstice).

Chapel of the Chimes
4499 Piedmont Avenue
www.gardenofmemory.com
Saturday, June 21st  5-9pm

So I’ll be away from Oakland for a little over a week, but do please stay tuned because I’m planning to get some fun posts up while I’m gone, including several mystery location photos to test how well you really know Oaktown…

Garden of Memory ~ Summer Solstice Concert

Did anyone check out this event?  I did.

I try to go every year and it’s easy to plan ahead because they always hold this event on the Summer Solstice, in the fantastical venue of the Chapel of the Chimes.  If you haven’t seen this incredible building, it’s one of the most precious architectural gems in Oakland… a real treasure.  So much so I think I’m going to dedicate a separate post just to the Chapel. But for now, let’s talk about this awesome event…

garden of memory, summer solstice concert, new music bay area

The event is organized by New Music Bay Area, an organization of composers, musicians, and new music lovers dedicated to promoting contemporary music in the local community. 

So what exactly is “new music”? It’s obviously contemporary, but it’s more than that.  I’m probably not the best person to explain it, but it seems to be primarily experimental in nature.  This is accomplished through any number of means… unusual treatment of conventional instruments (eg – using the body of a standup bass as a percussive instrument), unusual instruments (ie – fabricated concoctions out of organic or electronic materials), unconventional musical arrangements where genres are mixed, boundaries are pushed, and outcomes are completely unpredictable, and more.

It’s often not the easiest stuff to listen to, but as one who is completely uninterested in Top 40 music, and often bored by conventional mainstream music (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus… ho hum), I find this stuff fascinating.

This year there were just under 40 separate performances and an incredibly wide spectrum of musical styles and genres was covered…   It’s nearly impossible to see everything, but half the fun is wandering through the incredible labyrinth of rooms that comprise the Chapel of the Chimes to see what one can discover.

Here are some pics and video from my exploration…

new music bay area, summer solstice concert, garden of memory

This was the first performance I saw… Laura Inserra playing a type of drum that I have never even seen before. Completely mesmerizing…

This musician had fashioned a very Dr. Seussian contraption of an instrument… long plastic tubing from his trumpet climbed around the room, terminating in “speakers” made from the hollowed out gourds of seaweed. Crazy, right? It sounded amazing.

bay area new music, garden of memory concert

bay area new music, dr seuss, organic musical instrument

Here is Larnie Fox with The Crank Ensemble… I’ve seen these guys numerous times over the years. It’s always good fun. Wielding homemade instruments of the most unusual designs (and I do believe every one has to have a crank), all mic’d and connected through a sound board for amplification and sound mixing, they performed while two directors communicated changes to them through a series of small handwritten signs. Hilarious.

A short snippet here of a guitarist performing in one of the tiny cloisters… (regretfully I did not get the artist’s info)

summer solstice experimental music concert

Another brief snippet of the performance of Adam Fong, Ken Ueno, and Edward Schocker. I was particularly fascinated by the incredible sounds that were generated from these vases of water…

This installation (below) by Maggi Payne was really cool. She basically constructed a series of small devices to act as musical instruments, each triggered by the flowing water of a fountain. Essentially, the fountain was conducting its own mini orchestra. She was able to change the instruments by tapping an orchid linked to a motherboard programmed with varying instrument groupings. Incredible.

bay area new music, summer solstice concert

bay area new music, garden of memory

Last, here is a beautiful piece performed by the women’s vocal ensemble Kitka

If you’re at all interested in this kind of music/performance art, there’s a cool event this weekend on Sunday evening at the lovely Kaiser Rooftop Garden near Lake Merritt…

Scenes from a Lingering Garden
Sunday 6/27
5 – 8pm

$5 donation suggested

From the website…

Oakland sound artist and composer Hugh Livingston presents “scenes from a lingering garden”, a combination performance and installation covering the 3.5 acres of the Kaiser Rooftop Garden in Oakland.

A field of gongs will occupy a back corner of the garden, designed and engineered by Matthew Goodheart.

Roving instrumentalists add to the mix of hidden speakers in magnolia trees, ornamental firs and a black bamboo grove. The soundscapes are composed from sounds of Oakland and around the world, calling attention to the presence of wind, water and birds. The scenes are a set of variations, providing different views of similar musical material, without a driving component of time, allowing each visitor to experience the composition at their own pace and according to their own tastes.