Arts & Events

Opus-Q Vocal Ensemble Re-Launches in Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday June 15, 2011 - 08:14:00 AM
Four members of Opus Q including, second from right, the Willard neighborhood’s George Beier, during the June 12, 2011 inaugural performance.
Steven Finacom
Four members of Opus Q including, second from right, the Willard neighborhood’s George Beier, during the June 12, 2011 inaugural performance.

A sweet and hopeful pair of concerts on Sunday, June 12, 2011 signaled the re-launch of a Bay Area men’s singing group. 

Started in 2001, but dormant for several years, the vocal ensemble Opus Q has been revived this year by founding Artistic Director Jerry Foust. 

Ten local men—some Bay Area natives, some recent arrivals—currently make up the ensemble. They include locals George Beier (Willard neighborhood association President, and former City Council candidate), Kevin Allen, described in the program notes as “Innkeeper at the Rose Garden Inn” on Telegraph Avenue, Tony Clark, the Sr. Minister at Arlington Community Church in Kensington, and John Paul who works in Student Affairs at UC Berkeley. 

Other ensemble members are Jarrod Olson, Dan Ocampo, Declan McCarron, Mike Ballesteros, Todd Roman, and Paul Sinasohn. 

Most, but not all, have extensive singing background. Foust himself was the Artistic Director of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, and Assistant Director of the San Diego Men’s Chorus, and is currently the Executive Director of the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts & Berkeley Playhouse. 

The concerts were held on the stage of the Julia Morgan. “The idea of putting you all down there, away from us, just broke our hearts”, Foust said, pointing to the darkened, fixed, seats below and beyond the stage. There was plenty of room on stage for an intimate program. 

“You’re here for the re-launch”, Foust said, in introduction. The Sunday performances included 14 numbers and a reprise, with intermission. Foust has selected a very wide musical range for the group. “We try to do many, many, types of music”, he told the audience. 

The performance jumped from a drinking song from a Verdi opera, to “Dancing through Life” from the musical “Wicked”, the traditional Sunday school song “This Little Light of Mine”, and an arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. 

Bay Area native Antonio Barraza was a featured guest soloist. Three musicians—Jeff Patterson (bass), Andrew Maguire (percussion), and Heather Pinkham (pianist / keyboard) ably backed up the singers. 

Handel, Gershwin, Copland, John Legend, and Stephen Schwartz were all represented on the program. 

I’m not a musical expert, so I’m not going to attempt to evaluate the show either singer by singer or number by number. Everyone seemed accomplished, the singing was well-integrated and generally poised after what Foust said were just two and a half months of rehearsals, and the songs were moving and uplifting. 

If the group lacks anything it’s a few more singers to fill out the ensemble; some of the numbers could have benefited from the cumulative power of more voices. 

Additional members are actively being sought. “If you want to be part of a group that is fun, high energy, and absolutely zero drama, come and meet us, we’re going to have a good time”, member Jerrod Olson told the audience when introducing one of the numbers. 

The group is also searching for volunteer supporters in areas such as publicity and fundraising. 

Opus Q has three additional 2011-12 concert programs scheduled. A holiday program, “Songs for A Winter Night”, will be performed on December 20, 21, and 22 at the Julia Morgan Center. 

“Songs from the Heart”—described as a “Valentine Cabaret”—is planned for February 14, 2012,while “Songs for the Soul”, “a collection of songs from the African-American experience”, will be performed in late Spring, 2012. 

The Opus Q website is at 

Miko Sloper reviewed Opus-Q in its original incarnation for the Planet in the July 12, 2001 issue, nearly ten years ago.