Next month will begin with a rather unique approach to a Faculty Artist Series recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). The faculty member is composer David Garner, who is also an alumnus (class of ’79). Garner has been teaching Composition, Theory, and Literature since his graduation from SFCM; and he has been acting as Chairman of the Department of Musicianship and Music Theory for sixteen years.
He will use the recital to preview his first full-length opera, Mary Pleasant at Land’s End. Pleasant was the daughter of slaves whose earliest efforts were as a shepherd for the Underground Railroad. She subsequently moved West and settled in San Francisco. She was one of the city’s earliest leaders, playing an essential role in the founding of both the city and the state of California. She is now know as “the Mother of Civil Rights in California.”
Garner’s librettist for this opera is Mark Hernandez. The score is rich with soaring vocalism to capture the spirit of Pleasant and the other major figures in Hernandez’ narrative. Garner also draws upon rhythmic motifs that have their origins the Haitian Vodou traditions.
Over the course of about 45 minutes, Garner will present a series of excerpts from his opera with semi-staging by Jimmy Featherstone Marcheso. Participating vocalists will be mezzo Crystal Philippi, soprano Julie Adams, tenor Michael Jankosky, and bass-baritone Philip Skinner. Kevin Korth will accompany from the piano. Hernandez will serve as narrator to provide the necessary context for the excerpts that will be performed.
This preview will constitute the second half of Garner’s recital. The first half of the program will present three pieces of vocal chamber music. Jump, I Will Catch You is a cycle written for and performed by Philippi based on the works of the Berkeley poet Judith Masur. Instrumental accompaniment will be provided by cornet (Kevin McLaughlin), harp (Emily Laurance), and bass (Stephen Tramontozzi). In addition, the Ensemble for These Times, for which Garner is resident composer, will perform the cycle Mein blaues Klavier (my blue piano), settings of texts by Else Lasker-Schueler. The performers will be soprano Nanette McGuinness, pianist Dale Tsang, and cellist Laura Gaynon. The opening selection will be Vilna Poems, sung by soprano Lisa Delan, who will be joined by cellist Matt Haimovitz.
This recital will begin at 8 p.m. on Monday, April 4. It will take place in the SFCM Concert Hall. SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Admission will be free, and no tickets will be required.