Cal Performances announces its fall (streaming) lineup
By Lou Fancher
Cal Performances at UC Berkeley has rebooted its live fall performances as a 15-event streaming series. Performance at Home offers ten selections from the calendar’s previously scheduled full-length music and theatrical productions, four new shows, and a New Year’s Eve Musical Celebration ushering in 2021.
The weekly video premieres begin Oct. 1 and continue to January 14 of next year. Main stage performances are enriched with free Beyond the Stage content, featuring conversations with artists and creative participants. A digital “watch party” on most opening nights includes a live chat with audience access. Many of the performances will remain available online for one to three months following the premieres, adding rigor to a Digital Classroom that makes bonus educational content available to K-12 teachers and students.
“The almost universal pause in live performance across the country — indeed, in much of the world — has been devastating for the artistic community,” Executive and Artistic Director Jeremy Geffen says in an email. “This new endeavor provides performing artists with critical financial support as well as the opportunity to once again experience the joy of performing for audiences in professionally produced settings. Today’s artists are truly showing us—on a daily basis—what it means to remain resilient, creative, and hopeful.”
Artists are by no means the primary beneficiaries of Cal Performances’ online presentations. Live-streamed on home screens, the season’s rich offerings mean anyone can host in their living rooms the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Jazz composer Darcy James Argue, trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg, the Tetzlaff Quartet and even the hundreds of paper puppets in Manual Cinema’s rendition of A Christmas Carol.
Highlights also include four “Illuminations” performances. The mini-festival within the Fall series explores two programmatic themes: Music and the Mind and Fact or Fiction. Linking artists and scientist to investigate the therapeutic potential of music, Music and the Mind includes the Tetzlaff Quartet (Oct. 8), performing two Beethoven string quartets composed when the composer was profoundly deaf; and 19-year-old keyboardist Matthew Whitaker, blind since age two, performing on piano and Hammond B-3 organ and accompanied by three fine musicians in his quartet (Nov. 5).
Fact or Fiction centers on questions of historical accuracy, true or false narratives, and the popularity of conspiracy theories in American culture and life. Jazz composer Darcy James Argue and his Grammy-nominated, 18-piece big band, Secret Society, deliver an intriguing, multimedia production titled Real Enemies (Oct. 21); a Cal Performances co- commission has Chicago-based theater troupe Manual Cinema tangling with Mary Shelley’s fictional “monster-creature” and the actual events of the author’s life in Frankenstein (Oct. 29).
While the Yo-Yo Ma program on Nov. 27 and the repertoire included when soprano Julia Bullock returns Jan. 14 are TBA — and with details of the New Year’s celebration still to come — planning for other favorite Cal Performance artists is more certain. Jordi Savall performs with La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations in a program showcasing selections from Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals (Nov. 19); Composer, flutist, and vocalist Nathalie Joachim collaborates with Chicago’s Spektral Quartet in Fanm d’Ayiti (Women of Haiti), a suite spotlighting the songs and stories of Haiti’s most compelling female artists. Interwoven in the songs sung in kreyòl (Haitian Creole), are recordings of Joachim’s grandmother, a Haitian girls choir and interviews with activist women performers who fought for social justice in the Black republic.