Category Archives: Arts

Raising voices for 50 years with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra

Berkeley Community Chorus in rehearsal. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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The competition for Berkeley’s most Berkeley organization is stiff, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an institution that embodies the city’s best impulses more fully than the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra. Radically egalitarian, creatively ambitious, and committed to offering free performances, the BCCO brings together some 220 singers, many of whom have little or no musical training.

The choir concludes its milestone 50th season next weekend with performances of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” at Hertz Hall at 8 p.m. on June 3, and 4 p.m. on June 4. A massive undertaking that involves a chamber orchestra and a full orchestra, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, an organ, three conductors, and three vocal soloists (baritone Efrain Solis, tenor Brian Thorsett, and soprano Carrie Hennessey), this production of staging the canonical work is the culmination of more than two years of planning. … Continue reading »

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Quirky Berkeley: Melissa Mork’s sheetmetal origami

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Melissa Mork is the fourth generation of the Mork family to work in the sheet-metal business started by her great grandfather, Walter Mork, a patriarch of Berkeley’s early 20th-century Finnish community. She grew up around the shop. Her father taught her about sheet metal, theory and skills.  And then she took it away from HVAC and functional fabrication into art. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘A Monster with a Thousand Heads’, ‘The Idol’

A Monster
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Chances are that if you’re an adult living within the borders of the United States, you’ve probably scared your children and/or your foreign friends with terrifying tales of the iniquities of the American healthcare ‘system’. Billing errors, denial of service, drugs mysteriously excluded from your insurance company’s formulary, illogical co-pays… there are oh so many things that can and do go wrong in our wonderful laissez faire world of non-universal medical care.

Color me surprised, then, to learn that getting care can be a struggle in other industrialized nations, too. A Monster with a Thousand Heads (Un monstruo de mil cabezas, opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 27) details the extreme measures one Mexican woman takes to circumvent bureaucracy and get urgent treatment for a critically ill family member.

First, a little background: Mexico has provided its citizens with universal healthcare since 2012. Private health insurance, however, remains an option for those who prefer it and can afford it. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Trail_Crest by Christopher Woodcock 2015
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A CELEBRATION OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS Writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called our national parks “The best idea we ever had.” The opening reception for the David Brower Center’s new juried group exhibition, Common Ground: A Celebration of our National Parks, is tonight, Friday May 20, and the exhibition runs through Sept. 8. On the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, the multimedia exhibition observes art’s crucial role in preserving our parks, as well as the notion that parks are America’s best idea, through the lens of 20 Bay Area artists. They are: Alexis Arnold, Jenny E. Balisle, Tony Bellaver, George-Ann Bowers, Mariet Braakman, Hopi Breton, Kimberley D’Adamo-Green, Marshall Elliott, Tanja Geis, J.M. Golding, Jeff Greenwald, Andras Ladai, Malcolm Lubliner, Kara Maria, Kim Miskowicz, Karen Preuss, Ansley West Rivers,Caroline Seckinger, Paul Taylor and Christopher Woodcock. The jury is composed of recognized West Coast curators Stephanie Hanor (Mills College Art Museum), Katrina Traywick (Traywick Contemporary), Sean Uyehara (Headlands Center for the Arts) and the Brower Center’s Executive Director, Laurie Rich. The Brower Center has also curated a series of public programs in conjunction with the exhibit. For full details and opening times, visit the David Brower Center. (Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of Common Ground.) … Continue reading »

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Getting busy with pianist/composer Satoko Fujii

Pianist/composer Satoko Fujii performs at the Berkeley Arts Festival performance space Friday on a double bill with Larry Ochs, and plays a solo recital Saturday at Maybeck Studio in honor of Paul Bley
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When Satoko Fujii describes herself as lazy, take it with a grain of salt. Better yet, make it a shaker-full. Since recording her first CD in 1996, the Japanese pianist/composer has left even her most prolific peers in the dust, releasing a veritable torrent of albums documenting a dizzying array of ensembles around the world. And it’s not like she’s sacrificing quality for quantity, as Fujii is widely considered one of the most consistently vivid writers in jazz.

She returns to Berkeley this weekend for two very different concerts that are part of her year-long celebration marking the 20th anniversary of Libra, the label she runs with her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (aka Kappa Maki). On Friday, Fujii plays the Berkeley Arts Festival performance space in a double bill co-sponsored by the Center for New Music San Francisco. She opens with Maki and special guest drummer Gino Robair, followed by Berkeley saxophonist Larry Ochs, bassist Jason Hoopes and drummer Jordan Glenn (with all the musicians coming together for a brief third set). And on Saturday she plays a free improv solo piano recital at Maybeck Studio, offering a tribute to the late pianist/composer Paul Bley, a mentor who joined her on the first Libra album in 1996, Something About Water. … Continue reading »

One to watch: Berkeley model, fashion producer Tiana Lee

Tiana Lee
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Model and fashion producer Tiana Lee doesn’t believe in sitting around waiting for change to happen, she believes it is each person’s duty to create the change they want to see.

This past weekend, the Berkeley native took a step towards change with her fashion show, ‘Controversy.’ Lee used the show as an opportunity to address many social issues that people encounter on a daily basis. Topics represented through the fashion on display included animal cruelty, race inequality and support for the LGBT community.

Lee said the fashion shows she produces are a first step — she hopes she can continue to use fashion to make a positive difference in the world in future. When asked why she does it, Lee simply responds, “Why not?”

Lee’s introduction to fashion came by way of family. Her mother, Regina Frazier, was once a model; her aunt, Sheila Frazier, is a stylist; and her cousin, Cherilyn Gibson, is a photographer. These influential women gave her the initial push to get started. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘In the Palm of Your Hand,’ ‘High-Rise’

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A huge star in Mexico, Arturo de Cordova never made much of an impression elsewhere. Though he spent the mid-1940s in Hollywood (more often than not cast as a Frenchman!), de Cordova couldn’t match the Tinsel Town success of fellow ex-pats Pedro Armendáriz and Dolores del Rio, and soon returned home. Ironically, he’s probably best known today by American cinéastes for his performance as an unhinged husband in Luis Luis Buñuel’s brilliant shot-in-Mexico parable El (1953).

Pacific Film Archive’s ongoing series ‘Mexican Film Noir’ provides a rare opportunity to appreciate some of this fine actor’s less familiar work, much of which was never released in the United States. Screening at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, director Roberto Gavaldón’s En la palma de tu mano (In the Palm of Your Hand, 1951) features the star in top form as a fortune-telling grifter who gets himself in too deep with a wealthy widow. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Ask the rusting steel skeleton playing the sax

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Driving up or down Marin, you will have seen the rusting steel skeleton playing a saxophone, adorned perhaps with flowers, TIG welding rods, an American flag and beads. You may have noticed many steel fish as well.

They are the work of Mike Yoji Nagamoto, who has lived here for more than 30 years. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Central Works production of Jekyll & Hyde. Photo: J. Norrena
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JEKYLL AND HYDE Robert Louis Stevenson is clearly in the air in Berkeley. Audiences at the Berkeley Rep are enjoying Mary Zimmerman’s adaption of Treasure Island, which runs through June 19. This weekend, Central Works debuts Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde, a new play written by Gary Graves and directed by Jan Zvaifler. Graves’ play has Stevenson wake from a “terrifying fever dream.” He has the idea for a new novel — the macabre Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — but his wife Jenny tries to persuade him to drop the horrifying tale. You can see what happens next during the run at the Berkeley City Club. Performances Friday, May 13 (a pay-what-you-can preview) and Saturday, May 14 at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 15 at 5 p.m. Central Works at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave.  … Continue reading »

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Dances with wolves: Los Lobos and Evie Ladin in Berkeley

The Evie Ladin Band with Keith Terry and Erik Pearson plays Freight & Salvage on May 19.
Photo: Gudmundor Vigfusson.
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It’s one thing for a musician to dig down into the roots of a tradition and another thing entirely to create a personal voice out those influences. Several bands playing Berkeley in the coming days offer exceptionally vivid examples of the way a love of traditional forms can serve as a launching pad rather than a straight jacket.

Well into its fifth decade as LA’s greatest active rock band, Los Lobos plays its first Berkeley show in more than a decade at the UC Theatre on Friday (the East Bay ensemble Los Cenzontles play the opening set). Featuring essentially the same cast of players who came together in East LA in the mid-1970s (David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez, Cesar Rosas, and Conrad Lozano), the band received a new jolt of energy with the fall 2011 arrival of Mexican-born drummer Enrique “Bugs” González.

Last year the group released its 24th album, Gates of Gold (429 Records), and these restless stylistic prowlers seem to be in no danger of repeating themselves. Blues and funk, R&B and cumbia, soul and rollicking rock ‘n’ roll all jostle forward on different tracks, while the tunes are as concise and well-constructed as ever. They’ll play some of the new songs at the UC, but with such a vast catalog, they’ll be drawing from numerous albums. … Continue reading »

Ones to watch: Berkeley filmmakers address gentrification in horror sci-fi film ‘2037’

Filmmakers Merav Walket(left) and Kossisko Konan(right)
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Two Berkeley artists have teamed up to offer their take on Bay Area gentrification and displacement. And they are doing so through a horror sci-fi film called 2037. The movie takes place in the not-so-distant future, and shows what life in the Bay Area could be like after it’s fully gentrified and many of its residents have been displaced.

Kossisko Konan and Merav Walklet says 2037 aims to show the negative outcomes that can accompany the drastic changes wrought by gentrification. The post-gentrified world the film portrays may be a closer reality than people think: according to a study conducted by UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, 53% of all low-income households in the Bay Area live in neighborhoods that are at risk of being gentrified, and researchers expect that number to grow as the years go by. Which means we can probably expect to see more long-time Berkeley and Oakland residents forced to relocate through rising housing costs to suburban areas like Pittsburg and Antioch.

Konan and Walklet were born and raised in Berkeley, and have seen the effects of gentrification first-hand. They’ve seen long-time neighbors forced to move because of rent inflations. They’ve had friends displaced because the owners of their apartments or houses have decided to sell the property to developers. They’ve witnessed the closing of local small businesses because they can’t afford the rising rents. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players’ ‘Hamlet’ in Berkeley is ingenious

Cathleen Riddley as Horatio, El Beh as Hamlet in Shotgun Players' production of Hamlet at the Ashby Stage. Photo: Pak Han http://www.pakhan.com/
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Shotgun Players prides itself on being “the little theater company that does big plays,” so producing its own extraordinary version of Hamlet seems absolutely appropriate. To begin its 25th season, Artistic Director Patrick Dooley assembled seven talented and gutsy players, who five minutes before the start of each performance pick names from a hat (actually Yorick’s skull) to determine which role each will play that evening. Although they’ve all rehearsed each part, to perform a major one, or two or three smaller parts, with so little prep time is incredibly difficult. It’s hard to imagine that Shotgun could pull this off, but the result at the evening I attended, was extremely successful. It’s different than other productions of Hamlet I’ve seen, but in a good way.

Notable Shotgun regulars Kevin Clarke, Nick Medina, Megan Trout and Beth Wilmurt, and guest artists El Beh, Cathleen Riddley and David Sinaiko, have spent many months in workshops, rehearsals and dueling practice to ready themselves for the 13 roles they play. If you do the math, there are 5,040 possible combinations of actors and roles. Many fans have attended more than one production. One stalwart has seen nine versions of Shotgun’s Hamlet since it opened. I understand why seeing multiple performance is tempting. The dynamics of each evening are distinctive, because of the changes in cast. … Continue reading »

The Jess murals at former Pauline Kael house are saved

A mural by Jess Collins inside the 2419 Oregon st. house Photo: Jess Collins Trust
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Murals painted by the artist Jess in film critic Pauline Kael’s former home on Oregon Street in Berkeley have been saved.

A 29-year-old tech worker who comes from a family of artists purchased the 1905 brown-shingled home for $1.45 million and signed a covenant promising not to paint over or disturb the murals for 10 years.

“I got very inspired by the artwork,” said Reuben Gibson at a reception at the house on May 6. “It speaks to me. I love mysticism, the romantic myth. I love Lord of the Rings. I like the artwork. It’s one of the reasons I bought the house.” … Continue reading »

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