PHILHARMONIA It would always be a cause for celebration to have one of the world’s great orchestras playing in Berkeley. But there are two extra reasons to mark the Philharmonia’s three concerts at Cal Performances this weekend. First, it’s a chance to see the great Esa-Pekka Salonen leading an orchestra before he takes on the music director role across the Bay at the San Francisco Symphony. More unusually, the Philharmonia on Sunday will be performing the world premiere of Jimmy López’s oratorio Dreamers. López – who received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2012 – and librettist Nilo Cruz interviewed undocumented students on the campus to provide the material for the work (the university has about 500 Dreamers). “This piece is born out of an inner necessity to create empathy in people who have not had the experience of really interacting with undocumented people and hearing their stories in person,” López said. (There’s an excellent interview with López on Berkeley News.) Dreamers will be performed on Sunday afternoon, together with the complete score of Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” On Friday, the orchestra’s program includes Sibelius, Bartok and one of Salonen’s own works. And Saturday’s concert is a blockbuster: Schoeberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Bruckner’s Seventh. Friday, March 15, 8 p.m., Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 17, 3 p.m., Zellerbach Hall.
NEFESH MOUNTAIN The progressive string band Nefesh Mountain (left) blends bluegrass and old-time musical stylings with cultural influences from their own Jewish heritage. Nefesh Mountain – led by husband and wife team Eric Lindberg and Doni Zasloff – perform at The Back Room on Sunday night. Sunday, March 17, 8:30 p.m., The Back Room, 1984 Bonita Ave.
BLACK BROTHERS Brothers Michael and Shay Black, who perform at the Freight & Salvage on Sunday (by the way, it’s St. Patrick’s Day), play an exciting mix of Dublin street songs, music hall songs, and historical ballads, as well as songs from the Irish, English, and Scottish traditions and the occasional contemporary number. Here’s what the Freight has to say: “Singing in close harmony, playing guitar, banjo, and keyboards, telling funny stories, and even dancing now and again, Michael and Shay draw people in with their energy, wit, and superb musicianship. They have a special fondness for songs that inspire the audience to sing along with the chorus, like ‘Down Our Street’ and ‘The Great Storm Is Over.'” Sunday, March 17, 7 p.m., Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St.
RUGBY HOMECOMING Cal rugby has plenty to cheer about over the years, and on Saturday the team plans to do plenty of celebrating, honoring the 25th reunion of the 1994 national champions, the 20th reunion of the 1999 national champions, and the 15th reunion of the 2004 national champions (are you noticing a pattern?). This year’s team will play a curtain raiser against Humboldt State at 11 a.m. and the featured match against Utah at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 16, Witter Field.
CUBAN RUMBA JAM La Peña has been holding its Sunday Lounge Rumba for 12 years (it’s held every first and third Sunday of the month). If you haven’t been, here’s your chance. Come enjoy the Afro-Cuban folkloric drums, dances, and songs of rumba. La Peña explains: “Rumba is the word used for a group of related, community-oriented, music and dance styles in Cuba. Rumba developed in rural Cuba, with strong influences from African drumming and Spanish poetry and singing.” Sunday, March 17, 3-5 p.m., La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave.
Don’t miss these other events covered on Berkeleyside: