Around & About--Music & Theater: Lou Harrison Centennial at Mission Dolores on Saturday; Diasporas Festival Over Memorial Day Weekend

By Ken Bullock
Saturday May 20, 2017 - 07:34:00 AM

--Composer Lou Harrison, who died "on tour" in 2003, is being widely celebrated during his centennial year--his birthday's May 14--from Harrison House, his straw bale "composer's cave" near Joshua Tree, to Finland--and one of the most ambitious events is this weekend, part of Berkekeley's Other Minds Festival 22, Just 100: Homage to Lou Harrison ... a gamelan orchestra and chorus of 100 performing Harrison's setting of the Fourth Century Buddhist Heart Sutra at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.

(Thursday night saw the fascinating premiere of Harrison's incidental tack piano music to Corneille's 17th century stage masterpiece, 'Cinna,' which Harrison originally wanted performed by rod puppets, brilliantly condensed and voiced by Larry Reed of Shadowlight Productions to the staging of shadow puppets, beautifully etched on a backlit screen, splendidly accompanied by Linda Burman-Hall, at the Center for New Music in San Francisco. More on this performance next week.)

7:30, Saturday May 20 at Mission Dolores Basilica, 3321-16th Street at Dolores, San Francisco. $12-$20. https://otherminds.org/shmtl/cm22-info.shmtl

--Giulio Perrone's Inferno Theatre, Berleley's innovative stage company, is hosting its Fourth Annual Diasporas Festival--solo and ensemble theater, music, dance, poetry, performance art--over the Memorial Day weekend, always a lively string of surprises, this year featuring a sample of Perrobe's upcoming 'Ophelia's Ripple Effect'--and performances by Indigo Jackson (splendid as Lucky in Ubuntu Theater's recent 'Waiting for Godot,' directed by Perrone), Anton's Well, Bay Area Zera Players, Joel Knopf, Molinete, WordDance Productions, Onyinye IIIkezukniy, & Tobey Kaplan.

South Berkeley Community Church, 1801 Fairview at Ellis, off Adelaide, just south of Ashby BART. $10-$20 (discounts, including theatrical). infernotheatre.org or 788-6415 to reserve. -more-

New: An open letter to the Berkeley City Council regarding gentrification (PUBLIC COMMENT)

Charlene M. Woodcock
Friday May 19, 2017 - 08:20:00 AM

As the 2016 city election demonstrated, rapid gentrification bred by housing speculation and loss of diversity are unacceptable to the majority of residents in Berkeley. I’ve been thinking, as I know the council has too, of how we can reverse this process. -more-

Charles Dutoit Leads San Francisco Symphony in the Berlioz Requiem

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday May 16, 2017 - 10:46:00 AM

It is not clear how much or how little religious inspiration Hector Berlioz felt in composing his Grande Messe des Morts, aka his Requiem. This work was commissioned by the French government and was intended to be performed on the day of the annual service commemorating the dead of the 1830 Revolution. This date had great significance for the French people, for it marked the end of the Bourbon monarchy, which had been initially overthrown in the French Revolution of 1789-99 only to be restored, with limited powers, in 1815. The July Revolution of 1830, however, brought about a populist overthrow of the Bourbons in favor of a constitutional monarchy headed by the House of Orléans. Stirred as much by patriotic fervor as by religion, Berlioz composed his Requiem only to have its performance canceled at the last minute. Later, another event stirred up French patriotism – an important military victory in France’s colonial enterprise in Algeria, during which the French commander, General Damrémont, was killed. A solemn service for the French soldiers killed in this battle was scheduled to be held in the immense chapel of the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris; and it was here that the Berlioz Requiem had its premiere on December 5, 1837. -more-

On the Issue of Urban Shield and the City of Berkeley

Jack Kurzweil
Tuesday May 16, 2017 - 11:09:00 AM

I am Jack Kurzweil, representing the Coordinating Committee of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. -more-

Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council on Police Agreements with the Trump Regime

James McFadden
Tuesday May 16, 2017 - 10:40:00 AM

As you make your decision this coming Tuesday on Berkeley’s cooperation agreements with NCRIC (3.12) and UASI (3.6), and make decisions regarding the purchase of militarized equipment (armored van) and participation in Urban Shield, it is important to recognize that you, our City’s representatives, are deciding on cooperation with the Trump regime. With the firing of FBI director James Comey, one can no longer argue there are independent institutions within the executive branch. Before you vote on this cooperation, you should examine what your cooperation means by reviewing the related Trump Administration’s actions, policies and appointments undertaken during its first 100 days in office: -more-

Page One

SQUEAKY WHEEL: West Berkeley on the Chopping Block

Toni Mester
Friday May 12, 2017 - 12:30:00 PM
House Tower

The Planning Commission continues a public hearing on the R-1A zoning Wednesday May 17 at the North Berkeley Senior Center at Hearst and MLK at 7 pm.

On the surface the discussion is a numbers game: heights, setbacks, and building separation. But the deeper question is: who owns and controls West Berkeley?

The last time that West Berkeley was on the chopping block was the election of November 2012 when the Bates Council majority put the pumped-up master use permits on the ballot as Measure T, an invitation for the entire city to bully us. It didn’t work, but that’s another story.

This time around, local residents have been slow to grasp the crux of the matter: the survival of a diverse working class neighborhood. In the last few years, land prices have skyrocketed to over $600,000 for a parcel, even ones with derelict houses. In fact, the more decrepit the buildings the better, because developers want to demolish and replace them with two new houses, each 1500-2000 square feet, to be sold as condos. The rundown properties at 908 and 912 Cedar between 7th and 8th Streets are good examples of the trend. They sold for $608,000 and $678,000, respectively, and in both cases, the crumbling old houses will be torn down and replaced with spiffy new two- story homes on each lot, to be sold for over $1 million apiece.

It’s a lucrative business built on sloppy piecemeal zoning that allows the division of relatively small lots into stand alone single-family homes with one parking space each and minimal greenery or open-space. There’s nothing wrong with replacing derelict houses with new ones; the problem is that the zoning was not designed for the two-condo division. Without appropriate development standards, the big houses have crowded out potential for their own landscape and usable open space and intruded into the privacy and sunlight of the adjacent properties by violating the inner lot.

This is not the compact urban infill housing championed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to minimize suburban sprawl. This is bringing the suburbs into the urban core. The condo divisions were not planned; some real estate investors saw the gaping holes in the code and seized the opportunity. 2213 Ninth Street was one of the first, two equally huge grey houses that are back-to-back, now numbered as 2209-2211 Ninth Street, across from the Rosa Parks schoolyard. The owners told me that the renters are graduate students. The development is over-sized and institutional looking, devoid of landscape and charm. -more-


Is it time for a Berkeley Free Speech Festival?

Becky O'Malley
Friday May 12, 2017 - 05:14:00 PM

With all the hoohah going on in DC this week, the hoohah over Berkeley losing its brand as the free speech capital of the universe is no longer on the local front pages. But it’s alive and well in the hinterlands, viz an AP story which ran this week, at least in Santa Fe: Free speech could be threatened at colleges. Here’s the lede:

“In campus clashes from California to Vermont, many defenders of the First Amendment say they see signs that free speech, once a bedrock value in academia, is losing ground as a priority at U.S. colleges.”

Most such pieces, like this one, don’t make a clear distinction between academic institutions and the towns where they’re located, so the two radical right rallies in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Civic Center Park have now been merged in the public consciousness with the commotion over cancelled campus speaking gigs for alt-right uglies Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter at the Berkeley branch of the University of California.

As far as can be determined, as we’ve discussed before in this space, the first fracas, which accompanied Milo’s UC non-appearance, was shifted to the city’s turf by the UC police, where it was carried out between two non-student non-resident gangs of independent youngish white thugs , mostly male. Neither Berkeleyans nor the university—or even free speech—ended up central to the conflict.

The second round, with Trumpistas as the organizers, left the university out altogether, staging the now-requisite brawl in a city park between, again, two gangs from out of town. “Speech” was plentiful but largely incidental to fighting or at least glowering.

Round three purported to be about UC’s attempt to postpone Coulter’s speech, and the brawl was avoided, thanks to a few strategic arrests. The city of Berkeley’s attempt to be a gracious substitute host for an afternoon of, shall we say, “animated discussions” (a kind of Salon des Refusés­) was surprisingly successful, but costly in police overtime.

All three of these events were billed as being about the right to speak freely. The same AP story also reported on another kind of free speech encounter between a university and a right-wing witch: ”On Wednesday, students at the historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Florida tried to shout down a commencement address by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.” This incident has been reported with alarm as signaling the death of free speech at universities, but really it’s not at all new. Another dimension in the free speech analysis which some are developing is a sort of implied right to be listened to, which has not previously been part of the deal.

My Cal class of ’61 picketed our graduation in caps and gowns because the commencement speaker, Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown, father of Governor Jerry, had failed to halt the execution of prison author Caryl Chessman. By that time I was living elsewhere, and I didn’t want to cross a picket line, so I didn’t even come back to Berkeley for the ceremony.

A quarter of a century later, most of my daughter’s graduating class at Barnard/Columbia sat respectfully through the speech of civil rights scholar Marian Wright Edelman but then walked out to show their support for university divestment from South Africa. There’s no reason any graduates at any of these events, including the one in Florida, should not have been allowed to express their political opinions as they did.

Where some get squeamish is when booing threatens to completely drown out the invited speaker. Some academics disdain what they call the “hecklers’ veto”, but anyone who’s ever watched the British Parliament on late night cable knows that this is a long-established Anglo-American tradition.

The usually careful Michael Krasny reported on his KQED Forum interview with beleagured conservative Andrew Sullivan that DeVos’ speech had been cancelled, but his staff quickly corrected him on air. Sullivan claimed that UCB had cancelled Milo and Ann C. because of what they were planning to say, but the actual excuse was threatened rioting. (In Sullivan’s defense, he did call Donald Trump “a hideous buffoon” so he can’t be all bad.)

All of these questions merit further discussion.

I’ve met a couple of times with a small group of past and current Berkeley residents of left inclination who don’t want to give the far right the opportunity to steal the mantle of the defenders of free speech. We come from a variety of activist backgrounds, including at least one veteran of the original FSM, but what we have in common is that we don’t want our city to be bullied by the likes of creepy Milo, who enjoys doing the kind of thing reported locally as making scary threats.

Milo’s current threat is to come back sometime, maybe now postponed until fall, for what he says he hopes will be a “huge multi-day event called ‘Milo’s Free Speech Week.’” How about, instead, starting the Berkeley Free Speech Festival, open to all comers? Not just both sides, but all sides of controversial topics could be invited to participate. Andrew Sullivan could be an MC—he has a gorgeous plummy accent, and Danny Glover might be co-host.

It could be a major tourist draw. Participants (even Milo) should perform for free—after all, talk is cheap. It could be held in a suitably securable location—I can think of several, both on-campus and off. Ticket sales and memorabilia should be enough to cover expenses. (Tee shirt: “I saw Coulter unbuttoned and survived!”) -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

No new issue this week

Becky O'Malley
Friday May 19, 2017 - 08:25:00 AM

Today there will NOT be a new issue, because the editor has gone to see her first granddaughter graduate from college! As time and IPad permit, I’ll be adding some contributions to the current issue as they are submitted. See you next week. -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: These Are Brain Disorders

Jack Bragen
Friday May 12, 2017 - 03:04:00 PM

Many people have the mistaken belief that if someone suffers from a psychiatric condition, it is somehow their fault. The individual is believed to have a character problem, is automatically believed to be psychologically messed-up, and is believed to be of below normal intelligence. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: Preparing for Trump’s Coup

Bob Burnett
Friday May 19, 2017 - 08:38:00 AM

In the fifties, in Los Angeles schools, students routinely participated in civil defense drills. We were taught "appropriate" actions to take in the event of a Russian nuclear attack, such as "duck and cover." Sixty years later, many Americans are bracing for Donald Trump's attack on the foundations of our democracy. How will we respond when Trump uses some traumatic event as an excuse to claim dictatorial power? -more-


Jack Bragen
Friday May 19, 2017 - 08:27:00 AM

I once had a therapist who couldn't stomach the fact that I am an author. He was overtly sarcastic and obnoxious, and was in the wrong business. He questioned me about my shirt, since it was a nice looking shirt. -more-

Arts & Events

Handel’s Oratorio La Resurrezione by American Bach Soloists

James Roy MacBean
Tuesday May 23, 2017 - 06:51:00 AM

At the tender age of twenty-one, George Frideric Handel left Hamburg on a trip to Italy, where he intended to acquaint himself with Italian musical styles. Handel visited Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice, but he spent most of his Italian stay in Rome. Though operas were banned by papal decree, Italian cantatas offered composers ample opportunities for vocal writing. Indeed, many cantatas were operas in all but name, and they often were given with elaborate scenic effects. On Easter Sunday, 1708, Handel’s oratorio La Resurrezione was performed in Palazzo Bonelli, and a second performance occurred the next day. -more-

Veronika Eberle Plays Schumann’s Long Forgotten Violin Concerto

James Roy MacBean
Tuesday May 23, 2017 - 06:47:00 AM

Robert Schumann had enjoyed great success as a composer, but by 1853 he was chronically depressed, attempted suicide, and was subsequently placed in a mental asylum, where he died three years later at age 46. Nonetheless, in 1853 Schumann composed a violin concerto that premiered in a reading rehearsal in January 1854 with the great violinist Joseph Joachim and his orchestra. Joachim was not particularly pleased with Schumann’s Violin Concerto, and he never performed it publicly. When Schumann died, Joachim, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms all seem to have concurred that the Violin Concerto was not up to Schumann’s earlier standards, so Joachim donated the score to the Prussian State Library in Berlin on condition that it must not be played until 100 years after Schumann’s death. -more-