Noe Valley Voice May 2001

Short Takes

An Excellent Concert for Free


Calling all music lovers! How about a Mother's Day stroll to the Noe Valley Ministry for the 11th annual "Pursuit of Excellence" concert, Sunday, May 13? A joint venture of the San Francisco Community Music Center (SFCMC) and the Noe Valley Ministry Chamber Music Series, this event is absolutely free. It will be held in the Noe Valley Ministry's upstairs concert hall from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

"We want to show the public that Community Music Center has very eclectic programming, and that we welcome exploring the different musical languages from the community population," says Betty Anne Siu Junn Wong.

Wong directs the center's Pursuit of Excellence program, started its chamber music program, and has been on the faculty for 25 years. "This concert is very popular and recognizes the most advanced students who are determined to excel. It also honors some of the graduating high school seniors who will be playing with us for the last time," she adds.

The concert lineup includes the center's youth jazz band, the Yellow Klezmorim, a klezmer band, and Poringue, a flamenco-Latin ensemble. A variety of instrumentalists and singers will also appear, including a mother and daughter piano team, a sister and brother piano duo, a chamber music ensemble, and guest musicians from the faculty of SFCMC and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

This event also marks the first time the students will play the newly purchased Steinway grand piano at the Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd Street. If you need more information, call 587-3956, or e-mail

--Laura McHale Holland

Fair Oaks Fair Day May 12


The residents group Fair Oaks Neighbors will be holding its most eagerly await-ed event of the year--the 26th annual Fair Oaks Street Fair and Rummage Sale--on Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Five blocks, running along Fair Oaks from 21st to 26th streets (one block east of Dolores), will be filled with garage sales offering clothes, furniture, books, and toys, as well as food booths featuring great street-fair grub, such as hotdogs, hamburgers, empañadas, and sno-cones.

Neighbors donate $10 each toward putting on the cost of the fair, and any proceeds left over go to Jamestown Community Center, an after-school youth program operating at Cesar Chavez Elementary and Horace Mann Middle School. Last year the fair raised over $1,000 for Jamestown. Jamestown also will join in the fun by having a kids' booth on the 100 block of Fair Oaks Street.

"It's guaranteed to be a bright, sunny day no matter what the weather," says Rich Gross, one of the street fair's coordinators. "There'll be fun, good food, and lots of bargains."

For more information about the fair, call Pam Coxson at 648-4977.

--Kathy Dalle-Molle

Neighborhood Walking Tours


Do you know which of the tastefully restored homes in Noe Valley are 1890s Queen Annes and which are turn-of-the-century Edwardians? How about which portion of Axford House, a local landmark, was constructed in 1877, or what neighborhood laundromat was once the site of a stable?

To find out the answers to these questions and learn more about what gives Noe Valley its engaging charm, join neighborhood resident Sharon Moore at the corner of 25th and Noe streets at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 19. She will take you on a tour that is one of a score of neighborhood walks provided by San Francisco City Guides during the month of May. The walks in and around Noe Valley are:

Mission Murals--Saturdays, May 5, 12, 19 & 26, 11 a.m. Take a guided tour of the colorful people's art of the Mission District. Meet at Precita and Harrison streets, behind Flynn Elementary School.

Mission Dolores Neighborhood--Sundays, May 6 and 20, at noon, and Wednesday, May 16, 10 a.m. Learn about the Spanish Mission that formed the neighborhood, the people who gave their names to city streets, and the lake that once covered much of the landscape. Meet at the gold-painted fire hydrant at the corner of Church and 20th streets.

Duboce Triangle--Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m. Explore the history and architecture of this once bustling center of the city's Scandinavian community. Meet at St. Francis Church, 152 Church Street.

Murals in the Multiethnic Mission--Sundays, May 13 and 27, noon. See a four-story mural at the Women's Building, an eight-story one at Bethany Center, and rows of 1880s Victorian homes. Meet at 3543 18th Street between Guerrero and Valencia.

Noe Valley: Traditions and Transitions--Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. Experience Noe Valley's unique ambiance--from gingerbread-trimmed Victorians to bustling coffeehouses (see further description above). Meet at the corner of Noe and 25th streets.

Excelsior Stroll--Saturday, May 26, 10 a.m. Hear the history of this former Mexican rancho, later populated by Ligurian and Tuscan truck farmers. Meet at the Excelsior Library, 4400 Mission Street at Cotter.

San Francisco City Guides began in 1976, when San Francisco historian Gladys Hansen trained three volunteers to give tours of City Hall to visiting dignitaries. It is now a nonprofit project of the Tides Center and sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library, which has 200 trained volunteers conducting more than 40 different walking tours throughout the year. (But the special neighborhood walks take place only in May and October.)

No reservations are necessary, and all walks are free--though donations are accepted with thanks. Walks last from an hour and a half to two hours. So grab your walking shoes (and an umbrella if rain is likely) and meet your guide at the designated time and place. Your guide will be wearing an identification badge.

For further information about these and other walks, call City Guides at 415-557-4266, or visit the web site www.walk

--Laura McHale Holland

Muni Launches Castro Shuttle


If you've boarded a Metro train during rush hour at the Castro Street Station in the past month, you've (hopefully) noticed that the trains aren't as crowded as they once were.

No, this isn't another story on layoffs. It's about the Castro Shuttle, a new Muni subway train which began operating last month between the Castro and Embarcadero stations during peak rush hours of 7:15 to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The service, which is provided by three two-car trains that loop between the Castro and Embarcadero stations and make all the stops along the way, is designed to reduce overcrowding and make Metro service more convenient for both the riders who are using the service in the subway and for those who are riding further on the five-line Metro system.

"I am thrilled that Muni is providing this service to riders," says Supervisor Mark Leno, who was on hand for the shuttle's kickoff celebration on April 6. "This service responds directly to a large portion of riders who have had difficulty for years boarding Metro trains that are always too crowded to and from the Castro."

Even though the shuttle has been in operation only a short time, Muni General Manager Michael Burns is pleased with the results thus far. "Preliminary indications are that the shuttle has been a huge success in helping alleviate overcrowding in our Metro stations and on trains during peak periods," he notes.

As for the verdict among riders, Dana Adams, a Castro Street resident and daily commuter to the Financial District, says, "This new shuttle has been really great for me. Twice this week, I've actually been able to get a seat on the way to work-- something that rarely happens for me."

For more information, riders should call Muni's phone line at 415-673-6864 or visit the web site at

--Jill Winkelstein

Storyteller Simms in Town


Residing on 29th Street in Noe Valley since early April is internationally acclaimed storyteller Laura Simms. She's in town for the world premiere of her new show, Reconciled in the Book of Secrets (or How to Find Romania), at A Traveling Jewish Theater, 470 Florida Street, just below Theater Artaud, between 17th and Mariposa streets.

This autobiographical show, written and performed by Simms, was commissioned by Traveling Jewish Theater founding member Naomi Newman, who also directs. In the piece, Simms salts tragic family secrets with hilarious memories, and weaves them both with ancient Jewish lore to create a spellbinding tale--one that connects her with long-dead ancestors and reveals enduring truths.

A native of New York, Simms is also the author of three bestselling books for children and has recorded 10 CDs. She received the 2000 Charlotte's Web Award for her book Rotten Teeth, and was nominated for a 2000 Indie Award for Best Children's Recording for her Four Legged Tales. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Lincoln Center Institute for Arts in Education and the University of Wisconsin, and currently teaches at the Naropa Institute, the Theater College of Oslo, and with New York University.

In addition, for eight days each summer, Simms conducts a storytelling residency in Philo, California, where participants explore the skills and awareness needed to be a storyteller in the modern world. The emphasis is on each student developing an authentic voice and presence, to bring the narrative alive through give-and-take with the audience.

Reconciled in the Book of Secrets runs through May 6, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 for adults, $19.50 for seniors, and $11.25 for students. They are available by phone at 415-499-1809 or through a web link at

For information about the Laura Simms Storytelling Residency, visit or e-mail

--Laura McHale Holland

Moms March for Gun Safety


Did you know that, according to the S.F. Department of Public Health, more children in San Francisco die from gunshot wounds than from any other cause?

If this stirs the activist in you, you can join forces with the San Francisco chapter of the Million Mom March (MMM) on Mother's Day, May 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at a rally and education fair in Sacramento. It is one of several such events planned at capitals across the country, including Washington, D.C. Ten thousand people from California's 27 MMM chapters are expected to converge on the west steps of the State Capitol this year.

The Million Mom March is a national grassroots organization dedicated to preventing gun death and injury and supporting victims and survivors of gun trauma. Membership is not limited to mothers and includes people from all walks of life. The San Francisco chapter is based in Noe Valley.

On Mother's Day last year, more than 800,000 people participated in the organization's first march. This year's march on Sacramento is co-sponsored by several statewide organizations, including the Police Chiefs Association, the State Parent-Teachers' Association, Handgun Control Inc., and the Legal Community Against Violence. These groups are all garnering support for two proposals now before the California legislature that would establish a statewide handgun safety licensing system.

To make transportation easy, Amtrak's "Million Mom Express" is slated to depart from San Francisco's Ferry Building at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in Sacramento at 10:55 a.m. Return trains will leave Sacramento beginning at 3 p.m. The roundtrip fare for one ticket is $30, but if you buy two tickets, the second one is half-price, and a third ticket is thrown in for free.

For more information or to sign up to ride the rails to the rally, call the MMM's San Francisco chapter at 415-430-1269, ext. 0764. You can also send e-mail to or check out

--Laura McHale Holland

Benefit at Chenery House


Have you ever glimpsed the mansion hidden behind a nondescript brown building on Chenery Street between 30th and Randall? It's called the Chenery House, and it's known as one of the largest estates in San Francisco.

Well, on Sunday, May 6, you can get a closer look. You can visit this unique mansion and landscaped grounds during a benefit party for On Lok's 30th Street Senior Services. The party starts at 2 and ends at 5 p.m., and all proceeds will be used to help replace the senior center's roof.

In addition to a tour of the mansion's renowned art and sculpture collection, guests will enjoy a gourmet buffet complemented by fine wines, an exhibition of senior art work, and entertainment by the 30th Street Senior Services' folk dancers.

"It's a fun, elegant setting, and a great way to support a cause that's critical for the seniors in the neighborhood," says David Baker, the senior center's development director.

Since 1979, 30th Street Senior Services has been the place where elderly people in Noe Valley, Diamond Heights, Glen Park, St. Mary's Park, the Mission, and the Outer Mission have been able to find the extra care and support they need to remain healthy and independent. Services include daily lunches, bilingual help, meal deliveries to homebound seniors, and a wide variety of classes and activities in the On Lok complex at 225 30th Street between Dolores and Chenery.

Tickets for this worthy cause are $75 per person. For more information and for reservations (which are recommended, but not required), please call 415-292-8732.

--Laura McHale Holland

Harmonize with the World


A juicy opportunity awaits singers and would-be singers who want to experience the magic of singing in a choir. In March, folk musician Freyda Epstein started a local branch of the World Harmony Chorus, a group founded in 1999 by fellow recording artist and radio talk show host (KUSP, Santa Cruz) Daniel Steinberg.

Epstein's branch rehearses independent-ly in Noe Valley--at the Noe Valley Ministry--but will join forces with Steinberg's Mountain View and Berkeley groups for public performances. Though the chorus is expected to grow rapidly, membership is still small, so each rehearsal includes vocal coaching in an intimate setting, along with repertoire development.

Like Steinberg, Epstein is a seasoned performer of world and ethnic music, and a skilled voice and violin teacher. She has over 15 years of experience teaching at such places as the Omega Institute, the Augusta Heritage Workshop, Pinewoods, and Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

Since her eight-year tenure in the folk group Trapezoid, Epstein has been considered one of the finest voices in American folk music. Her album Midnight at Cabell Hall, done with her group Freyda and Acoustic Attitude, was named best folk album of the year by the Independent Record Distributors Association in 1993. Her latest album, Globalullabies, is a collection of international lullabies.

Asked why she chose to start a branch of this particular chorus, Epstein replied, "I've known Daniel since the late '70s, and when I moved to the Bay Area recently, we thought it would be fun to do something collaboratively. And having three choruses to draw from for performances ensures that there is no pressure on people who don't want to perform. It also ensures that we have a good group of singers for each performance."

Epstein was also drawn to the mission of the World Harmony Chorus, which is to build community through song. In keeping with this vision, the chorus has just accepted an invitation to take part in an upcoming world choral festival in Cuba. That means singers who join the group while slots for the festival are still available can be flying to Cuba this November.

The World Harmony Chorus is open to singers of all ages and levels, and the music ranges from simple, easy-to-learn songs to pieces that are quite challenging. Songs come from the world over, and some are in indigenous languages. The chorus meets on Wednesday nights from 6:15 to 8 p.m. at the Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street. The fee is $10 per class, but it is open regardless of ability to pay, so work/study and sliding-scale arrangements are welcomed.

If you want to join the group, call Freyda Epstein at 510-547-8980. Drop-ins are not recommended because the chorus will not meet on some dates when Epstein is performing out of town.

--Laura McHale Holland

Jamestown Jam 2001


The Jamestown Community Center plans a sizzling night of Latin rhythm, dancing, and all-around fun at Jamestown Jam 2001, on Friday, May 4. You can join a multigenerational group of Jamestown supporters as they kick up their heels at Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway in San Francisco. All proceeds from this fifth annual fundraiser will help fund educational, athletic, and art programs serving local youths from 8 to 18.

The East Los Angeles Chicano groove band Quetzal and the Mission District's own salsa band Mazacote will provide the beat to help usher in the Cinco de Mayo weekend with flair. If you don't have rhythm, never fear. John Papageorge, a favorite dance-aerobics teacher at the Presidio YMCA and 24-Hour Fitness, will team with Suzanne Agasi to kick off the evening with salsa lessons at 9 p.m. Then you can dance until you drop, or until 2 a.m., whichever comes first.

Headquartered at 3382 26th Street, and dedicated to serving young people from the Mission District, Jamestown Community Center runs programs at Cesar Chavez Elementary School and Horace Mann Academic Middle School, the latter being the alma mater of many a Noe Valley child. Jamestown provides transportation to its sites for children attending nearby schools, such as Edison Charter Academy in Noe Valley. For more than 30 years, the Jamestown staff has worked with parents, volunteers, and neighbors to offer after-school arts, science, and math classes, one-on-one tutoring, sports teams, and health services--all free of charge.

Roberto, a 15-year-old Jamestowner, says, "Jamestown is like family to me. It gives me a place to go after school, where I can learn, play sports, and hang out with my friends in a fun atmosphere."

Cristina Hernandez, mother of two Jamestown youths, adds, "Jamestown is a safe haven for my children. What I like best about it is that not only are my kids learning and enjoying, but as a parent, I'm encouraged to participate and get involved. It's a very tight-knit community."

Jamestown co-director Claudia Jasin notes that the May 4 fundraiser has a dual purpose. "One objective is, of course, to raise funds, but we also want to create a fun evening where people can get to know Jamestown and what we do. Our ticket prices are not as high as other benefits because we want to make it accessible for as many people as possible," she says.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. You can get tickets online at, or by phone at 510-601-TWEB. For more information, call 415-647-4709.

--Laura McHale Holland