Arts & Events

Around & About Music: Kent Nagano Conducts at Gala Celebrating Alden Gilchrist's 60th Anniversary at Calvary Presbyterian

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:53:00 AM

In his only West Coast appearance this season, former Berkeley Symphony music director and present emeritus conductor Kent Nagano will conduct the San Francisco Academy Orchestra at a gala concert to celebrate Alden Gilchrist's 60th anniversary as organist and music director at Calvary Presbyterian Church atop Pacific Heights in San Francisco, where Nagano has sung with the Chancel Choir, which will also perform, along with featured soloists, a jazz cycle by the Dave Scott Quartet and the Santa Rosa Children's Chorus, featuring music of Monteverdi, J. S. Bach, Mozart, Dvorak--and Gilchrist, Friday at 6 p. m, with a reception to follow. The community is invited, free of charge, but asked to RSVP: (415) 346-3832 x 60;  

Hoyt Smith of KDFC-fm will interview Gilchrist and Nagano onstage during the gala. 

Gilchrist attended UC Berkeley; a schoolmate was former Chronicle music critic and founder of the SF Classical Voice, Robert Commanday, who Gilchrist credits with getting him his first job as conductor. He was a composition student there of Roger Sessions. Gilchrist also studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory.  

Attending the gala will be Gilchrist's first vocal student and longtime friend from Berkeley, Margot Blum Schevill, now a weaver, author and specialist in folk textiles, and widow of poet James Schevill. Gilchrist's student of many years, Carol Manke, will sing a cycle of four songs by Gilchrist composed last week. 

Nagano praised Gilchrist in the highest terms, speaking of his brilliance and vision, and of what he learned, observing Gilchrist conduct.  

Gilchrist also has led the group "which morphed into" the Berkeley Community Chorus.  

He's created SF CITY (Choral Instrumental Theatrical for Youth), now known as MUST (Music in Schools Today); taught English as a second language through learning song; brought jazz services to Calvary Presbyterian as well as integrating Bach's St. Matthew and St. John Passion into services, rather than performed as concert pieces; won compositional awards (the Prix de Paris as well as the James Phelan awards) and the San Francisco Opera Guild Award; toured the world accompanying tenor James Schwabacher and Europe three times with the Chancel Choir. 

Gilchrist said "I think the most complicated thing a human being can do is pick up a piece of music they've never seen before and sing it ... "