Noe Valley Voice April 2008

Short Takes

Benefit to Lift the Ministry

Two kid-friendly bands--the folky, jazzy Orange Sherbet and the pop-rock Playdate--are playing a double-header concert to benefit the Noe Valley Ministry on Saturday, April 5. The event, which will also offer food, drinks, a raffle, is called "Be Lifted Up: The Elevator Fundraiser."

"The building is in need of some serious love," says Jill Pierce, who sings and plays guitar with Tamsen Fynn and Steve Pierce in Orange Sherbet. For the past decade, Pierce has rented space to teach music at the Ministry, which is both a Presbyterian church and a community center housing a nursery school, 12-step programs, and dozens of classes and support groups. Pierce says she was so taken by the Ministry's dedication to the arts, the needy, and the community, she became a member of the church. Now, she's decided to help the Ministry raise funds for an elevator so people can more easily get to the second floor.

Ministry pastor Keenan Kelsey says the 122-year-old building has many needs--foundation, lighting, plumbing--but the elevator is the top priority. "Part of our total commitment to the neighborhood and anybody who uses this building is to make it accessible," says Kelsey. "We wouldn't do anything without doing that." She estimates the elevator will cost $100,000, which is currently beyond the budget of the small church.

Pierce and Kelsey hope the benefit will not only be a fun-filled evening but will also broadcast the Ministry's message of "open arms." "All are welcome, and that's what this building is about," Kelsey says.

The evening kicks off with Orange Sherbet at 4:30 p.m., playing an hour of hits from its four CDs: Campfire Sing-Along, Jackson's Lullaby, Ridin', and Big Brother, Big Sister. Be prepared for the band's interactive show to end up with children on stage and beach balls bouncing through the audience.

From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., concert-goers can enjoy finger food and refreshments and win raffle prizes including a seven-week summer music workshop for kids.

At 7:30 p.m., Playdate, a popular local band composed of "Noe Valley parents who rock for their kids," will hold an Old School Rock Concert and raffle. Pierce says she has shared the stage with Playdate before, and when the two bands last appeared together, they ended up onstage at the same time singing Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" with the whole audience.

If you're coming just for the Playdate half of the show, be sure to arrive between 6:30 and 7:30, to enjoy your share of food and prizes. The evening ends at 9 p.m.

Tickets for each concert cost $20 to $50 per family, or $15 to $30 per person, both on a sliding scale. The Noe Valley Ministry is located at 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd Street. For information call the church at 282-2317.

Mass for Peace at St. Paul's

The San Francisco Choral Society and the California Chamber Symphony will play out the tragedy of war in a performance of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace , on Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6, at St. Paul's Church.

Jenkins based his work on the Christian mass, using music to illustrate the glorification, heroism, and tragedy of war. High-pitched flutes, crashing drums, and lonely trumpets accompany sound affects and choral voices singing words from the Bible, the Koran, and Islamic and Hindu sources,and from writers as diverse as Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and a survivor of Hiroshima. Commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum for England's millennium celebrations, the piece was initially dedicated to victims of the crisis in Kosovo. The Armed Man is the most popular choral work performed in the United Kingdom today.

The local performance is part of the Choral Society's "Season for Peace" series, and Artistic Director Robert Geary will direct the singers. Featured soloists are soprano Lara Bruckmann, alto Jennie Nadig, tenor Michael Mendelsohn, baritone Paul Murray, and 12-year-old treble Matty Specht. Eugene Chukhlov will conduct the Chamber Symphony.

Says chorus member Annie Stuart, "The Armed Man mass has some incredibly memorable melodies, as well as some of the most beautiful harmonies in any piece we've ever performed." She also points out that St. Paul's is an ideal setting for the piece, with its stained-glass windows from Munich and its altar made of marble from Carrara, Italy.

The April 5 performance begins at 8 p.m., and the April 6 performance at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $28, depending on seating and age.

St. Paul's is at 221 Valley Street at Church Street. Parking is available in the church parking lot on 29th Street for $5 per car. Call the City Box Office at 392-4400 or visit for tickets.

Something Sweet

"The Sugar's at the Bottom of the Cup: Recalling One Woman's San Francisco" is the name of a talk sponsored by the San Francisco History Association at St. Philip's Church on Tuesday, April 29.

That one woman is Elda Del Bino Willitts, who left Lucca, Italy, with her family when she was 7 years old to join her father and brother in San Francisco in 1916. Willitts and her family settled in North Beach at a time when gas lamps lit the streets and Cow Hollow had cows. Her mother never learned English, but she adapted her family to American life, making Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with ravioli filling, for example.

Poverty, family tragedy, the Great Depression, and war took their toll on Willitts, but she sustained herself by always remembering "the sugar's at the bottom of the cup"--better times are yet to come.

In 2004, Willitts and journalist Patricia Lynn Henley co-wrote Willitts' memoir, titled, naturally, The Sugar's at the Bottom of the Cup. Willitts died a year later at the age of 95. But Henley will speak on her behalf at the History Association meeting. She'll tell how she wove Willitts' recollections into a story and what she learned while writing it.

The San Francisco History Association was founded in 1982 when a group of history buffs got together to share tips on collecting historical artifacts. The group, which meets monthly, is dedicated to preserving, remembering, and restoring San Francisco's history.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. and refreshments will be served until the meeting starts at 8 p.m. Admission costs $5 for non-members.

For information, call the SFHA at 750-9986 or visit its website at St. Philip's is located at 725 Diamond Street near 24th Street.

Classical and Contemporary Concerts

Noe Valley Chamber Music will host two Sunday afternoon concerts this month, starting with a performance by "Bell, Hassman, and Moss" on April 6. Clarinetist Carey Bell, pianist Bryndon Hassman, and soprano Ann Moss have selected Franz Schubert's Shepherd on the Rock, Johannes Brahms' Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E-flat major, and Francis Poulenc's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, a 1962 work first performed by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein.

Bell is the principal clarinetist with the San Francisco Symphony and previously played in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Hassman, a longtime accompanist and music coach with the San Francisco Opera, has worked on numerous productions, from Richard Strauss' Capriccio to The Death of Klinghoffer by 20th-century composer John Adams. (He also coached actor Robin Williams for his performance of an aria in Mrs. Doubtfire.) Boston native Ann Moss is a frequent performer and co-creator of contemporary pieces, collaborating with such well-known composers as Jake Heggie, John Harbison, Aaron Jay Kernis, Eric Sawyer, and Vartan Aghababian.

On April 27, the Adorno Ensemble, featuring strings, clarinet, piano, and percussion, will perform modern chamber music from around the world: Franghiz Ali-Zadeh's Apsheron Quintet, Kurt Erickson's Faith, Osvaldo Golijov's K'vakarat, and Zhou Long's Ding.

The ensemble is international itself. Pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi and violist Yoko Okayasu hail from Japan. Violinist Graeme Jennings comes from Australia. Members have started innovative projects outside their performances. Violinist Cynthia Mei has created programs that develop music appreciation through visual art, and cellist Michael Graham created a highly successful outreach and education program during a two-year residency in Pennsylvania. Clarinetist Ginger Kroft Barnetson teaches at Santa Clara University and plays with orchestras from Fresno to Monterey. Jennings, percussionist Christopher Froh, and Bill Everett, who will play the double bass, have a strong interest in modern music, and have performed worldwide.

Both concerts begin at 4 p.m. and cost $18 for general admission. All concerts in the Chamber Music Series, now in its 15th season, are held at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd Street. For tickets or more information, including the rest of the 2008 concert lineup, call 648-5236 or go to

A Sinfully Funny Show

Noe Valley resident James Judd will present his award-winning solo show Seven Sins at Theatre Rhinoceros Studio starting Friday, April 4. Begun as a local group performance, the 75-minute comedy has toured the Canadian Fringe Festival and will travel to New York and the Edinburgh Festival later this year.

The show, subtitled "my life of envy, greed, gluttony, pride, lust, sloth, and wrath," chronicles Judd's adventures growing up in Saratoga, Calif. In the greed category, he tells how he sought to win a fifth-grade book report competition with a report on Steve Weed's My Search for Patty Hearst. Next, he convinced his mom to pay him for re-enacting episodes of the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Stories from later years recount jobs that were easy, hard, or insane, all of them described with fast-paced humor and without unitards, Judd points out.

A graduate of the University of San Francisco, Judd has performed in the San Francisco Comedy Competition and on Star Search and An Evening at the Improv. He also was a member of the Groundlings improvisational theater in Los Angeles. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle once called him "David Sedaris on a pot of coffee."

Tickets for Seven Sins cost $10, though Judd offers them free to anyone with the ability to cast the first stone. ("Note," he says, "ability to cast the first stone requires proof. Also note, rocks are not permitted in the theater.")

Shows will run on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. through April. Theatre Rhinoceros is located at 2926 16th Street near the 16th Street BART Station. Call 861-5079 or go to for more information.

Fair Bargains on a Fair Street

Fair Oaks Street will host its annual five-block street fair, flea market, and spring festival on Saturday, May 10. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a hundred families will throw open their garages and lay out their wares on the Fair Oaks Street sidewalks from 21st to 26th streets.

Fair Oaks Street resident Barbara May has lived in the neighborhood since 1978 but says the fair--always occurring on the day before Mother's Day--preceded her arrival. It now attracts thousands of shoppers, she says.

The street has an equal share of oldtimers and newcomers, which makes for a nice range of bargains, she notes. Now and then, a family offers up its antique silver or treasured Christmas tree ornaments. "The vibes are still on them," says May of these memory-laden antiques.

She says some residents with Silicon Valley tastes put out barely used high-end blenders and appliances, while others may display homemade crafts like aprons and crocheted blankets. Kids have fun getting their faces painted and running the lemonade stand.

"You see someone walking by carrying a tire and someone else walking by carrying a ceramic elephant, and they all have the same expression on their face: I got a great deal," May says. "People's definition of treasure really varies."

The event is also a great community-building opportunity, she adds. One time, May introduced the mother of a 2-month-old child to a woman who was expecting a baby. "They'll baby-sit for each other down the line!"

Composting and Hardscaping

Garden for the Environment will offer three free gardening workshops in April at its half-acre organic demonstration garden on Seventh Avenue at Lawton Street.

The first class, "Urban Composting," will be held on Saturday, April 5. The hands-on workshop will teach backyard and worm composting and show how to convert kitchen scraps and yard trimmings into mulch.

On April 12, there's a workshop on "Hardscaping: How to Conserve Water in Your Landscape," led by Building REsources, a junkyard focused on recycling and education. Attendees will learn techniques that reduce the ecological footprint of a lawn, plus ways to build beautiful and funky garden pathways, beds, and containers using recycled materials.

On April 19, gardeners can learn the basics of resource-efficient gardening at a workshop called "Sustainable Landscape Design." Workshop leaders will discuss drought-tolerant plants and lawn alternatives, and go over plant colors and layouts for theme gardens.

The compost and water conservation workshops are funded by grants from the city. Be aware they fill up fast.

All classes run from 10 a.m. to noon at the garden itself. Call 731-5627 or e-mail to find out more or reserve a spot.

This month's Short Takes were written by Heather World.