San Francisco Renaissance Voices (SFRV) has established a reputation for exploring and performing compositions from the Renaissance and related periods that depart from the traditional (or, if your prefer, academic) European canon. Next month they will begin their tenth season, and that reputation is as adventurous as ever. The title for the 2013–14 season is Kol Israel: The Voice of Judaism in Early Music. The season has been prepared with ethnomusicological consulting provided by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, currently completing a Master of Music degree at San Francisco State University in the area of early music and Jewish choral repertoire. Zellman is a regular member of SFRV, last seen performing in The Play of Daniel this past June, as well as providing a highly informative pre-concert talk.
The dates for the San Francisco performances will be as follows:
September 28, 8 p.m.: This concert will take place the day after the Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah, the inspiration for part of the title of the performance, Music of the Final Judgment & Rejoicing in the Torah. This is the final holiday in what are known as the High Holy Days at the beginning of the Jewish year. The first part of the program’s title refers to the fact that this is the time when the name of every Jew is entered in one of three books as wicked, righteous, or not yet classified. (Presumably Dante Alighieri knew about this aspect of Judaism.) At the conclusion of the High Holy Days, the scroll of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, is rewound; so the weekly practice of reading those five books from beginning to end can take place as part of the religious practices of the new year. Traditionally, Simchat Torah is an ecstatic celebration, which includes dancing with the scrolls and ceremonial readings from the very end of Deuteronomy and the very beginning of Genesis. The music for this program will include rarely-heard cantatas and motets for the season from both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There will also be performances by Diana Rowan on a Celtic harp, and Zellman will give a pre-concert talk 45 minutes before the performance.
October 31, 7:30 p.m.: This will be the annual Halloween Fundraiser, which will also include celebrations of the following All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Admission will be free; but free-will offerings are encouraged. As in the past, the audience will be invited to sing along with SFRV members, this year in a performance of Gabriel Fauré’s setting of the text for the Requiem Mass.
December 21, 7:30 p.m.: This is the annual Family Christmas Concert, which is also a free performance. Once again it will be a traditional Service of Lessons and Carols following the plan that originated in 1918 at King’s College in Cambridge, England. Selections will include holiday pieces performed by SFRV soloists and guest artists, as well as a sing-along for traditional carols. As in the past, the concert will be followed by a festive holiday reception.
January 4, 7 p.m.: This will be the fourth annual Boar’s Head Festival, celebrating the Feast of Epiphany, which actually takes place on Twelfth Night (January 6). The evening begins with a silent auction for fundraising, accompanied by appetizers and both mead and wine for libations. Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I, will then invite the audience into her court for the SFRV performance conducted by Assistant Music Director Katherine McKee. There will also be dance, as well as a mysterious, magical guest or two. The program will conclude with the procession of the boar’s head, which will lead the audience to a traditional feast of wassail, king’s cake, and meat and vegetable pies.
February 1, 7:30 p.m.: Jarring Sounds, the duo of lutenist Adam Cockerham and mezzo Danielle Reutter-Harrah, will return for their second annual (in what we hope will be a continuing tradition) Prelude for Valentine’s Day concert of music appropriate for the holiday from the Renaissance to the present day.
March 22, 7:30 p.m.: The Jewish holiday of Purim will be celebrated with the United States premiere of the oratorio Esther by the eighteenth-century composer Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti. While, as may be suspected, Lidarti was not Jewish (he was born in Vienna of Italian descent), his libretto was written in Hebrew by Rabbi Jacob Saraval for the Jewish community of Amsterdam. This oratorio was composed in 1774, but its score was only discovered in 1998. The performance will be semi-staged with a chamber orchestra performing on period instruments; and a translation of the libretto will be provided. In the spirit of the celebration of Purim, the audience is invited to come in costume with the usual noisemakers (which need not be historically informed in their construction). Zellman will again give a pre-concert talk beginning at 6:45 p.m.
May 24, 7:30 p.m.: The title for the final concert of the season will be Dedication of the Synagogue & Other Jewish Celebrations. The first part of the title refers to music composed by Volunio Gallichi and Francesco Drei in 1786 for the dedication of a new synagogue in Siena, There will also be a performance of Canticum hebraicum, composed by Louis Saladin in 1670 for chorus and orchestra for the occasion of a circumcision ceremony in southern France. Other celebrations to be recognized on the program will be weddings and Shabbat. All texts will be sung in Hebrew, and full translations will be provided. The festivities will also include performances by the San Francisco Renaissance Dancers, and Zellman will set the context with a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m.
Finally, the San Francisco Renaissance Dancers will be featured in a program entitled Tof uMachol (drum and dance). This will take place in February. However, the venue has yet to be determined; so further details will be provided at a later date.
Those San Francisco events that have been scheduled will take place at the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church (1329 Seventh Avenue), just south of Golden Gate Park and near the Muni N Line stop at the corner of Irving Street and Seventh Avenue. The 2013–14 Season Web page at the SFRV Web site has links to Brown Paper Tickets for all ticket requests. The astute reader will have noticed several references to fundraising in this article. SFRV depends on donations to present these highly informative and engaging programs. In addition to organizing special events to encourage donations, they have also set up a Web page to facilitate making such donations at the convenience of the members of their audiences.