Tuesday, April 5, 2011

San Francisco, CA February 23-28

Mercifully, the flight back to the mainland was much smoother than the flight from the mainland three weeks earlier. We landed right on time and my shakuhachi colleague Karl Young was patiently waiting at Oakland Airport for me. After dropping off my bags at his beautiful apartment in Laurel Heights, we had a delicious meal at Burma Superstar on Clement St. The tea leaf salad was out of this world!
This visit to San Francisco was a professional one, and the second location for creative activities conducted as part of my sabbatical. On Friday, February 25th I gave a concert featuring my work for Japanese instruments at St. John’s Evangelist Church, located at 110 Julian Ave. in the Mission District. Here is the blurb that appeared in various press releases throughout San Francisco in the weeks leading up to the concert:
Forest Whispers... The Music of Marty Regan

American composer Marty Regan presents a dynamic concert of contemporary compositions for traditional Japanese instruments in various combinations along with Western orchestral instruments. Deeply indebted to traditional Japanese musical aesthetics, yet firmly grounded in his identity as a Western-trained American composer, his works are hybrid musical soundscapes that blur the distinction between the clich├ęd trope of “East” and “West" and reflect the age in which we live–one based not necessarily on globalization, but on mutual partnership founded on global cultural exchange. URL: martyregan.com
Shakuhachi: Marty Regan
Koto: Shoko Hikage
Shamisen: Yoko Reikano Kimura
Piano: Thomas Conroy
Violin: Douglas Kwon
Violoncello: Matthew Linaman
When: Friday, February 25th, 7:30PM
Admission: $20 (suggested donation for building fund)
Location: St. John's the Evangelist
110 Julian Avenue, San Francisco 94103
Transportation:16th St./Mission BART station
MUNI 14L, 14, 22, 33, 49 (Mission St. & 16th St.)
Contact: (415) 861-1436

I enlisted the help of Shoko Hikage, a Bay area-based koto performer with whom I’ve had email contact for a few years but met for the first time during this trip to San Francisco. I’ve worked with shamisen performer Yoko Reikano Kimura before, most recently at my Texas A&M concert in November 2010. I flew her out from Fort Wayne, Indiana to perform and put her up in at the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown. 
Bay area koto performer Shoko Hikage
The string players were students of Thomas Conroy’s from San Francisco Conservatory, and were two of the finest student musicians I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.
Douglas Kwon (l) and Matthew Linaman (r)

On Thursday, February 24th I met Yoko at the Kabuki Hotel and we had lunch in Japan Town. Afterwards we made our way to the venue via taxi and I spent the next 6-7 hours rehearsing for the concert the following day. Yoko played four pieces so she was there most of the day as well, but caught a ride home with Shoko when Thomas and the string players showed up at 6:30PM to rehearse In Remembrance... (2006).

Rehearsing In Remembrance... (2006)
On Friday, February 25th, after a busy morning of work at my computer followed by errands such as picking up my suit at the dry cleaners and going to the bank, I made my way to the San Francisco Conservatory and had another rehearsal with cellist Matthew Linaman on Forest Whispers... (2008). At 3:00PM I gave a presentation in David Conte’s Composition Forum to a class of young aspiring composers. I talked about how I became interested in Japanese instruments and how – in my early works – I attempted to imbue my music with a distinctively Japanese aesthetic. I discussed how my training in ethnomusicology has made more aware of my positionality, and hence when I compose for non-Western instruments or borrow compositional practices or aesthetics from other cultures that I try to avoid being a “cultural imperialist” and consciously consider ways that one can appropriate with integrity, using various musical elements in such a way that evinces respect – perhaps even awe – for the musical culture than one is borrowing from. More recent works (2004~) reflect a more conscious integration of my national and cultural identity into works that I would refer to as “hybrid soundscapes.” To end the lecture, Matt and I gave a performance of Forest Whispers... There were a number of quite stimulating questions and observations and it was pleasure to finally have the opportunity to share my work with David Conte, a composer who I’ve had the privilege of knowing for over 20 years. I can hardly believe I’ve reached the age where I can say that I’ve known someone for that amount of time!
St. John’s the Evangelist was a beautifully resonant space, and thanks to my colleague Thomas Conroy – musical director at St. John’s – the concert went off without a hitch. There were 30-35 people in attendance, which is surprisingly not bad considering how difficult it is to get an audience in a city brewing with cultural offerings every night of the week like San Francisco. Thomas Conroy arranged a light dinner for us and prepared a wonderful reception with wine and snacks afterwards. I had an opportunity to meet Mark Izu and Brenda Aoki Wong, and Yoko’s husband’s cousin, who lives in San Francisco, came to hear her play. Johnathon Bakan, critic for the San Francisco Examiner, attended and wrote up an extraordinarily detailed review about the concert. 
With the concert behind us, Yoko and I enjoyed sightseeing the following day. Knowing how unpredictable the weather can be in San Francisco, we were thrilled to have been blessed with beautiful weather. I bought a one-day city pass for us and we rode the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, then the ferry to Sausalito to get out and see the bay, had lunch and popped in and out of a few shops in Sausalito, and then caught a ferry back 90 minutes later. 
Alcatraz Island
We then walked to Ghiradelli Square and had an absolutely horrible (too sweet, too thick!) chocolate beverage. The cable car lines were too long, so we took a bus to Chinatown, checked out a few shops and enjoyed the smells emanating into the streets, and then caught the MUNI F tram to the Castro. Shoko Hikage and her husband run a perfectly located Japanese restaurant in the Castro called Amasia: Hide’s Sushi Bar in SF, and it was here that we were treated to a stupendous feast of home-cooked Japanese food. I would be hard pressed to name a place in the U.S.A. where I’ve had better tasting Japanese food. 
Yoko and I enjoying dinner at Amasia: Hide's Sushi Bar
On Sunday, February 27th, Karl and I drove up to Marin Country and we met another shakuhachi colleague, Elliot Kallen and his wife Kara for brunch at the Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley. Afterwards we stopped at one of the most picturesque sights in the Bay area and took some quick photographs before Karl dropped me off at the San Francisco Conservatory for an afternoon concert featuring the works of David Conte. 

This trip to San Francisco – my favorite city in the world – was a whirlwind one in retrospect. However, it was great to catch up with reconnect with old friends, make some new friends, and perhaps plant seeds for future collaborations. 

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