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Musical Snapshots at the Garden of Memories

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday June 22, 2011 - 09:52:00 AM

Hundreds of locals, many from Berkeley, flocked to the “Garden of Memories” concert that has become an East Bay Summer Solstice tradition at the Chapel of the Chimes on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. 

The 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. annual event, held on June 21 this year, takes place at the historic columbarium that houses the ashes or caskets of thousands of Bay Area residents. 

The event began in 1995 after pianist and “new music” aficionado (and Berkeley High graduate) Sarah Cahill was inspired by a visit to the building. 

It was sponsored again this year by New Music Bay Area, as well as Lifemark Groups Arts, with support from the American Composers Forum and the Berkeley Arts Festival. 

This year, as in past years, attendees who paid a flat entrance fee could wander at will throughout the labyrinthine complex of chapels, arcades, courts, corridors, and nooks, stopping for as long or as little as they wished to listen to some 40 individual musicians or groups performing simultaneously or in sequence in various parts of the structure. 

The musicians are spaced just far enough apart that their sounds don’t clash, but close enough that participants can follow intriguing sounds from one performance spot to another. 

Attendees were charmed or intrigued by material as diverse as the amazing whistling of Jason Victor Serinus, the Cardew Choir which sang “The Heart Chant” in a circle, the absorbing part-electronic, part-poetic performances of Amy X Neuburg, a fountain hooked up to a device that translated the falling water into musical notes, and an energetic accordionist perched on a wall playing what he described as “French café music.” 

The evening sun glowed through the stained glass that roofs much of the structure. The original 1920s building was designed by Julia Morgan, and has been extensively expanded over the decades. Some skylights in the newer sections were rolled back for the warm day. 

Here’s a selection of pictures of performers and scenes from the June 21, 2011 event. 


The Garden of Memory website is here: 

Here’s a more detailed article I wrote for the June 18, 2004 Daily Planet on the concert that year: