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by Laura McHale Holland
Around a California Piano
Many of us have played piano. Some have even played well. But how many have ever romanced a piano? On Saturday, June 23, eight musician friends will show us how it's done. They'll be returning to the Noe Valley Ministry with Around a California Piano 5, a unique mix of live piano music that ranges from jazz to show tunes, Klezmer to classical, rock to New Age. Their heady show at the Ministry last year helped raise funds for the Ministry's newly purchased piano.
The maestros taking turns at the resonant Steinway grand will be Randy Craig, Paul de Benedictis, Leslie Harlib, Hokum W. Jeebs, Joseph Liebling, Louis Magor, Dough McKechnie, and Dr. Jim Purcell. They all have a penchant for using any excuse to gather at each other's homes to share their eclectic musical styles.
"We chose the Ministry not only because it has a history of fabulous performances, but also because the music of the piano is gracefully presented there. The space itself, with the warmth of the wood, makes for a wonderful listening experience," says McKechnie.
Craig was in the original Pickle Family Circus Band. De Benedictis, a composer, performer, and programmer, helped create and promote one of the best computer music systems in the country. Harlib is a consummate song stylist and historian, well known at the Fairmont's Cirque Room. Jeebs has unsurpassed knowledge of vaudeville and ragtime music. Liebling is the director emeritus of the Oakland Symphony Chorus. Magor created the "Sing Along Messiah" when he was director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. McKechnie, an award-winning composer, has performed with such institutions as the Oakland Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, and Morrison Planetarium. Purcell's improvisational jazz compositions have impressed the likes of Oscar Peterson, Paul Winter, and Dizzy Gillespie.
"This is our fifth piano show, where we duplicate to the extent possible a living-room atmosphere. We greet people and chat when they enter the house beginning at 7:30, and one of us is always playing. The show starts about 8 p.m., but everyone will already feel included. It's a wonderful, warm event, that we hope will become a tradition to look forward to," says McKechnie.
Tickets are $10 at the Ministry's door, 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd. For more information, call the church at 282-2317.
Job Fair for Youth
If you're under the age of 25 and a little short on pocket change, the free Youth Employment Services Job Fair coming up on June 7, may be just the thing for you. It's taking place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.
"This event is aimed at providing opportunities for at-risk youth and young adults ages 16 to 24. We have invited nonprofits, community organizations, retail stores, as well as training programs and educational institutions to attend, and we hope to attract over 100 job seekers," says the center's job developer, Tanya Alsberg.
You'll be able to meet local merchants and community representatives as well as recruiters from corporations such as Gap and Pepsi -- all of whom are interested in giving a hand to promising new workers.
The Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center is at 515 Cortland Avenue, at Moultrie Street. For more information, call Alsberg at 206-2140, ext. 146.
Nursery School Quilt Raffle
If you visit Cover to Cover before June 15, you'll find more than books on display. You'll see a one-of-a-kind quilt that was created as a raffle prize by the 24 families of the Noe Valley Cooperative Nursery School. If you think of quilts as repeating geometric patterns in pleasing but tame squares tacked together, think again.
The nursery school is known for involving people (some of whom can barely sew on a button) in stretching a traditional craft to dazzlingly imaginative heights. The quilt raffle is an annual project and a major fundraiser for this 32-year-old institution. Each year a new theme is selected, and each family creates a square or appliqué related to the theme. This year's theme is Children in the City. Other themes have included Homes Around the World, Fairy Tales, Children's Games, Shoes, and even Tea (think Boston Tea Party meets the Mad Hatter).
"This quilt and all the others we have made over the past 25 years really reflect the cooperative spirit of the school. All the parents work together to create a thing of enormous beauty, and then we essentially give it away," says Nina Youkelson, the school's director.
Raffle tickets will be on sale until June 15. They are $10 for a book of 12, or $1 each. You can get them at Cover to Cover, 3812 24th Street, or at the nursery school, 1021 Sanchez Street, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. For more information, call the school at 647-2278.
An Open Book Club
Two years ago, our local bookstore Cover to Cover hosted an evening about how to form a book group. From that meeting emerged a group of five women and two men who meet monthly to share their reflections on selected books. Now they seek a few more members. So if you love to read, this is a great opportunity to share your enthusiasm.
"We don't have a set format," says group member Kimberly August. "We usually spend some time catching up and eating snacks. Then we discuss our thoughts on the book."
The group meets on the second Wednesday of the month from 7 to 9 p.m. And it's a democratic bunch. A list is drawn up containing one book chosen by each member. Every month, a book from the list is discussed. When all selections have been read, the process repeats. Books the group has read include The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and Waiting by Ha Jin.
Meetings are usually held in members' Noe Valley homes. But on June 13, the group will convene at Cover to Cover (3812 24th Street, near Church Street) to discuss Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham. If you're interested, you can drop in on the 13th, call Carol Guerrero at 285-9786, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find a complete list of books the group has already read at www.gradient.org/bookclub/.
Amnesty for Overdue Books
Okay, all of you absentminded, sticky-fingered, procrastinating bibliophiles who slink past the local library on Jersey Street -- collars up and shades covering your sheepish eyes -- search your dusty bookshelves, garages, closets, and musty stacks of stuff, because the San Francisco Public Library is offering you a reprieve.
If you return your overdue books and library materials to any branch or to the Main Library between June 1 and 15, you will pay no penalty or fine. Of course, if you've been using that copy of Shakespeare's sonnets to elevate a pot of African violets on the sill of your open window, this amnesty does not apply. Materials must be in good condition, after all.
And there's more. In an effort to foster increased use of the public library, as well as promote the return of materials, this amnesty has a theme, "Share the Thrill, Return the Books!" This means that when you return your items, you'll be given a brief questionnaire asking when the materials were due, why they were not returned on time, and where you live.
At the end of the amnesty, the S.F. Library will award prizes in three categories: most overdue item returned; most interesting, poignant, and creative stories about why the materials could not be returned on time; and the greatest distance traveled to return the materials. Then the library will publish the most interesting stories. One of them could be yours.
For more information, call 557-4277. The Noe Valley Sally Brunn Library is located at 451 Jersey Street.
Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
The 25th annual San Francisco International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is lighting up local theaters from June 14 through 24, and Frameline, the organization that has fueled this event since its inception, is celebrating in style.
"It's going to be a spectacular event," promises Frameline's Rana Freedman. "We'll have huge gala parties, the largest number of films ever, which is 352, and new venues including the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena and Herbst Theater. We're also adding a groundbreaking queer media conference, 'Persistent Vision,' which will bring in filmmakers from around the world for panel discussions, roundtables, and workshops."
Films are screened for diversity as well as quality. They range from short, experimental videos to full-length feature films, and touch on a wide range of issues--both related and unrelated to sexuality. Highlights include a lesbian mystery thriller, a documentary about homophobia in the Latino community, a comedy about a man searching for a father he's never met, and a true story about gay Argentinean bank-robbing lovers. Several of the filmmakers being showcased live near Noe Valley in the Castro. And many of the films will be shown at the landmark Castro Theater (Castro and Market), a short ride on the 24-Divisa-dero bus line from downtown Noe Valley.
For a complete listing of films, their screening times and venues, as well as information about opening-night parties, Persistent Vision, and the final festivities on Gay Pride Day (June 24), visit www .frameline.org or call 370-0673.
Crooked Jades Bluegrass
The Crooked Jades, a young and energetic old-time music quintet based in Noe Valley, invites you to the Noe Valley Ministry on June 9 to celebrate the release of the band's CD The Crooked Rake: Volume I. Released a few months ago, it is the first of what will be a two-volume set produced by MCA recording artist Richard Buckner, who is known for his ability to blur the lines between rock, country, bluegrass, and old-time music.
"We've got something else to celebrate, too," says bandleader Jeff Kazor. "We've just signed on with Copper Creek, a respected old-time music and bluegrass label that will help us get a lot more reviews. We're very happy that we're getting this kind of support."
Established during a 1994 kitchen jam, the group consists of Kazor on guitar; Lisa Berman on dobro, Hawaiian slide, and clawhammer banjo; Tom Lucas on fiddle and fretless minstrel banjo; Steph-anie Prausnitz on Southern old-time fiddle; and Eric Guest playing bass. Kazor, Ber-man, and Prausnitz all live in Noe Valley.
The Crooked Jades developed a loyal following and played to packed houses on Sunday nights at Radio Valencia (a café in the Mission) for years. Their material ranges from soulful ballads and string-band dance music to original pieces inspired by traditional music. The group is showcased regularly at bluegrass festivals and other venues throughout the west, such as the Strawberry Music Festival, the Father's Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, and the Wintergrass Bluegrass Festival in Tacoma, Wash.
Also performing will be Pig Iron, an acoustic group from Portland, Ore., inspired by fiddle- and banjo-centered music from the early 20th century. An Appalachian-style clog dancer will beat out a rollicking rhythm on the floor to some of the tunes. This should get all the sneakers, sandals, boots, slides, and mules in the audience tapping along.
This show is part of the Noe Valley Music Series. For more information, contact 454-5238 or visit www.noevalleymusicseries.com. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 at the door.
Homeschoolers' Art Show
For the 12th consecutive year, the Noe Valley Ministry will clear the walls of its Sanchez Street gallery for a different stripe of artist -- those who are compelling, whimsical, and not associated with any particular school. They create art for the joy of it, and it shows both in their eyes and on their canvasses. So, dear neighbors, mark your calendars for the reception of the San Francisco Homeschoolers Art Show on June 10, from 2 to 4 p.m.
"Children's art is connected to the life force. It's not processed through the brain the same way that other art is," says Patsy Thompson, a mother of three homeschooled children ages 12, 16, and 19. "It's not all sweet and wonderful, but it's real, and you really feel the essence of who that artist is, which is why I like it."
The artists, who range in age from 3 to 18, will be on hand at the reception to answer questions about their work, which includes drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, and other craft creations. The freestanding artwork will be on display during the reception only, but the work hung on the walls will remain for the duration of the show -- June 3 through July 13.
Gallery Sanchez is in the upstairs sanctuary of the Ministry and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Thompson can be reached at 647-1331.
Rebecca Riots June 29
How would you like to try some "fresh radical folk"? That's what fans familiar with Rebecca Riots have dubbed this acoustic folk trio's mix of arresting harmonies, articulate guitar work, and lyrics with a political edge.
You can see the group in concert at the Noe Valley Ministry on Friday, June 29, at 8 p.m. Also appearing will be another acoustic group, the Vagabond Lovers.
"We are a politically active, social justiceoriented group of teachers who have been playing music together for about a decade. On vacations and weekends we hit the road, and it's been one of our greatest joys to be able to do the two jobs we love -- teaching and music -- and run them parallel," says band member Lisa Zeiler.
Zeiler plays guitar and mandolin, Eve Decker is on guitar, and Andrea Prichett rounds out the group with harmonica. All three contribute to the vocal harmonies. Rebecca Riots has released four CDs, the latest being Gardener, released on the Appleseed Recordings label in April 2000.
Based in Berkeley, Rebecca Riots has many followers in the city, but doesn't often have an opportunity to play here. "We enjoy playing in San Francisco, and we especially appreciate the listening-room aspect of playing at the Ministry. It's nice to not have to be at a bar," notes Zeiler.
Tickets are $10. For information, call 377-8588, or visit www.rebeccariots.com.