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This 'n' That
By Laura McHale Holland
Local composer and arts educator Candy Forest says she's shuffling off to Buffalo, N.Y., to celebrate an early Earth Day with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on March 30. Some history buffs may recall that the City of San Francisco, along with other Northern California municipalities and, ahem, the United Nations, proclaimed the first-ever Earth Day 33 years ago on March 21--the vernal equinox--not on April 22, the day we now conduct Earth Day teach-ins throughout the U.S. The U.N. still celebrates Earth Day on March 21, ringing spring in with the dulcet tones of its peace bell. That means our Diamond Street shuffler could actually be celebrating Mother Earth nine days late.
But what does it matter, really? Ms. Forest is one of those rare people who encourages responsible stewardship of the earth every day. Using a lively mix of musical genres, her work celebrates sea otters, reptiles, elephants, giraffes--all creatures inhabiting the planet. And that's why the Buffalo Philharmonic is presenting the world premiere of "All in This Together," an hour-long concert of earth-loving music composed by Forest and her frequent collaborator Nancy Schimmel.
Many Noe Valleyans remember Forest as the founder and director of the award-winning Singing Rainbow Youth Ensemble. For 14 years, the group of youngsters, who ranged from pigtailed, scuff-shoed grammar-schoolers to high school babes and dudes, rehearsed at least once a week at the Noe Valley Ministry.
"It all seems a bit surreal," Forest says. "This concert is comprised of music that the kids and I used to perform every year at the Ministry. It's going to be quite amazing to hear it played by an 85-piece orchestra and sung by a 110-voice children's chorus! Mary Stahl, who is a terrific jazz singer, will be singing all my old parts. I just get to sit in the audience and enjoy it."
Jay Matthews, who plays French horn with the Buffalo Philharmonic, expanded Forest's existing arrangements to orchestrate the work. "He's been trying to talk me into this for about five years, because when orchestras program for families, there is a limited amount of appropriate material. Once you get past [Prokofiev's] Peter and the Wolf and [Holst's] The Planets, there really isn't anything contemporary being done that appeals to children."
To fill this need, Forest and Matthews formed a partnership called SymphonyKids. "All in This Together" is their first production package. To commemorate the occasion, Forest and Schimmel are producing a compilation CD of the Singing Rainbow's greatest hits, titled Sun Sun Shine, Songs for Curious Children.
"We intend to market SymphonyKids all over the country. I'm in talks with the Community Music Center right now about doing the West Coast premiere of "All in This Together" for Earth Day 2004," Forest says.
Tune in next year to find out if that'll be March 21 or April 22.
One date no one disputes is Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. But there are many ways to broach the subject of love. An article by Melissa Schorr in San Francisco magazine's February issue plucked nine single (unattached) San Franciscans to be showcased as "perfect 10s." Two of them live in Noe Valley. One honoree was architect and 21st Street resident Anne Fougeron.
"You know, one can't take this too seriously. It was done in pure fun. All my friends find it highly amusing. It's been a great source of entertainment for everybody," Fougeron says with a laugh.
Although the magazine piece was tongue-in-cheek, the nod in her direction did generate romantic interest. "I wasn't really expecting that, to tell you the truth," she adds.
The other perfect 10 was UCSF neurologist and Dolores Street resident Dr. Michael Geschwind.
"I'm far from a perfect 10--even my mother wouldn't give me that high a score," he quips from his cell phone on a break between patients. "It was more of a humorous honor than anything else. I've gotten a lot of jokes from my colleagues about it, a lot of teasing."
The magazine approached UCSF's press office for potential candidates. Staffers in that office were familiar with Geschwind's sense of humor and suggested him. "They initially called up my boss to ask if he thought I would be interested," says Geschwind. "He said, 'Forget Mike. What about me?' But my boss is married and has children, and he's a little bit older. They told him, 'Nah, you have to be younger and single.'"
Geschwind thinks the wording of the article made him seem rather arrogant. "My friends read it and thought it made me look 'not like a nice person.' The advantage of that is that it kept the number of people contacting me down to a minimum."
Nevertheless, amorous women have sent him e-mails, letters, and phone calls both at home and at work. When asked if any were good prospects, he said, "The most likely woman was somebody who was very nice, but she was a little bit old. She was 92. If she were just a little bit younger and I were just a little bit older, who knows?"
Perhaps 39-year-old Geschwind should meet Betty Garvey, a dynamo who turns a mere 75 on March 7. Garvey, a former 24th Street resident, directed the seniors' program at St. Philip's Church from 1973 until 1982. That's when she started working full-time as director of the Diamond Senior Center, which she founded in 1980.
The center serves seniors from across the city, but most members hail from the Castro and Noe Valley. On Jan. 31, with a touch of pomp and circumstance, the Diamond Senior Center was renamed the Betty Garvey Diamond Senior Center. Among those who packed the dedication ceremony, in addition to all of the center's regulars, were San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, State Board of Equalization member Carole Migden, District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and Nick Lederer, executive director of Golden Gate Senior Services. President Pro Tem of the California State Senate John Burton could not attend, but his letter of congratulations was read aloud.
"She's in a wheelchair now, but still going strong and working every day," says Garvey's daughter Claudia Curran, who volunteers at the senior center. "She's an inspiration for all of us. She's had cancer for over one-and-a-half years, and through all her chemo treatments she was back at work within a day or two, and she'd work at least five hours. The only time she took time off was four weeks right after radiation."
The Betty Garvey Diamond Senior Center is on Diamond Street near 18th Street. It provides a lunch program, plus a wide range of activities including book clubs, walking groups, cultural events, and world travel opportunities.
One upcoming cultural event involves two locals. Padma Moyer, who has practiced psychotherapy from her 24th Street office for 16 years, and 10-year neighborhood resident Hal Savage have landed the roles of Edna and Harry in the Class Act Theatre Company's production of Edward Albee's play A Delicate Balance. They and about 10 other former students of Bay Area acting coach Jean Shelton formed the company two years ago.
"This is our fourth production," says Savage. "I think we've become a family during this one, because rehearsals have been long, and the play is long. We've also come to appreciate Albee's lyrical language."
Like Savage, Moyer finds that being part of a close-knit theater company is complex and rich. She also finds that her day job informs her acting. "In doing therapy, I deal with people's most profound desires, blocks, longings, and yearnings. So does good playwriting or good literature. It all addresses the deepest aspects of what it is to be alive," she says.
In Albee's Pulitzer Prizewinning play, written in 1966, Edna and Harry make a visit to their best friends, a middle-aged couple sharing their home with an alcoholic sister and a daughter whose fourth marriage has failed. It is their visit that upsets the "delicate balance."
A Delicate Balance opens March 7 and runs through March 29 at the Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason Street between Geary and Post. The box office number is 364-3037.
Now for an update on Alan Deutschman, who was featured in our October 2000 issue when his first book, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, was published by Broadway Books. Deutschman defected to Cole Valley in July, but he says he wrote his second nonfiction book, A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma, while residing in his former digs on Dolores Street. It is due to be published by Broadway Books on April 8. Here's the scoop on how this book came into being:
"I had been writing about Silicon Valley for years, and I noticed that people I knew from there were buying fabulous weekend houses in the wine country. I realized their villas were vacant during the weekdays. I saw my chance to become a permanent housesitter living in these wonderful houses with their lap pools and tennis courts, hot tubs and gardens. I had this idea that I could be the Kato Kaelin of the wine country," Deutschman jokes. (Think O.J. trial.)
He started splitting time between Noe Valley and the wine country and found a fierce controversy brewing--a clash between two valleys: Napa and Sonoma.
"Napa represented elitism, wealth, and status. It had the best restaurants, but you couldn't get a reservation. It was reputed to have the best wine, but you couldn't buy a bottle because it wasn't sold in the stores. Sonoma had been a refuge for individualistic people who wanted to live the good life on the cheap. You had a lot of writers and artists who had converted old barns and made them into their studios. There was a strong sense of neighborhood and community that attracted me the same way Noe Valley did. There were poets and Buddhists and cheese makers and small organic farmers--a lot of smart, creative people who found that the type of people from Napa were trying to take over Sonoma," he says.
The controversy heats up when a developer tries to construct a luxury hotel on a virgin hillside behind the town of Sonoma. Does the developer succeed? You'll have to read the book to find out. For more about Deutschman's work, go to www.alandeutschman.com.
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