Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Her Story at San Francisco Symphony

"Foment" from Her Story
Photo by Kristen Loken, courtesy of San Francisco Symphony

Well, this was a disappointment. Julia Wolfe's Her Story, the latest in her historical oratorio series, played at San Francisco Symphony last week, and...I thought it was not very good. Too few words, unvaried music, a staging that didn't do much for me. Anthracite Fields was so much better! Joshua Kosman was also disappointed. 

This was the third socially-conscious work I reviewed this year, and by far the weakest. The others were Gabriel Kahane's emergency shelter intake form and Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon. The latter is receiving a couple of performances in NYC, at Lincoln Center, in mid-July, if you're nearby and you're curious. I loved it and I'd suggest reading the book first. Keep an eye on Kahane's web site for future performances of emergency shelter intake form.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday Photo

Photo from the street of a driveway leading through a gate in a Mayan-pattern concrete block house toward a terrace that overlooks Los Angeles from the hills to the north of the city. Over the gate is more Mayan pattern stone and to the left you can just make out one wall of a very large house.

A peek into the terrace / parking level of Ennis House
Los Angeles, CA
April, 2023


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Dudamel Resigns from Paris Opera

Photograph of a grand public space at the Opera Garnier, Paris. A triple-height room,  with parquet wooden floors, enormous chandeliers, many painted panels on the ceiling.

Paris Opera
Interior of the Garnier
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
October, 2018

Here's a real surprise: Gustavo Dudamel is leaving the Paris Opera after only two seasons as its music director, effective in August. The appointment was its own surprise because he'd conducted hardly any opera at the time he was tapped for the job. (Anthony Tommasini wrote an article back then saying of course that was just fine! I thought he was being ridiculous. There is a link to the article in the article I linked to.)

All he's saying is that he wants to spend more time with his family, with whom he lives in Spain. Ahem. So for the next couple of years he'll be in LA a substantial part of the time anyway, then he'll be closer, anyway, with the new job in NY. We now know that one reason for the NY Phil position was, presumably, not for the shorter commute to Paris. 

Next question: who takes over Paris from him? Well, their former music director, Philippe Jordan, is leaving Vienna early, though (double ahem) he certainly wouldn't be my first choice. And Susanna Mälkki's term at the Helsinki Philharmonic is ending. Henrik Nanasi is a few years out from the Komische Oper now (and is a tremendous opera conductor). And there are tons of other good conductors out there.


Monday, May 22, 2023

Every Good Boy Does Fine

Photo of a white man with gray/white hair, dressed in dark pants and a dark jacket with an open button-down shirt sitting at a piano cross-legged, left arm draped across the piano, looking at the keyboard.

Jeremy Denk
Photo by Shervin Lainez
Courtesy of Jeremy Denk's web site

I read pianist Jeremy Denk's memoir, Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story in Music Lessons, recently. I can't remember why I picked it up; I know that I hadn't read any reviews. Whatever, I'm very glad that I did. Denk is an elegant writer with a distinctly wry voice, and he's written a wonderful book.

The book is a memoir about becoming a pianist, about how you learn both the technique of playing and how you become a musician. It's about his teachers and the choices he made and what he learned from each of them, starting with the very basics of playing boring piano exercises. This part of the story will be familiar, in some way, to everyone who has ever studied a musical instrument.

But not everyone becomes a good enough player and a good enough musician to become a professional musician, not to mention the particular combination of good decisions, personality, and luck that combine to put you in the right place at the right time, where people hear you and think that you have potential or that you have already arrived at a place where you have reached your potential. Denk had all of this, and sometimes you can tell why, while other times it's less clear. He is self-deprecating about his skills; like many people who've worked hard over many years, he is very self-critical. You find out at least as much about his weaknesses, as he perceives them, as about his strengths, which you sometimes have to infer. You often see him through the lens of his teachers and what they say to him. The book is appropriately modest; to find out just how good a player Denk is, you'll have to see him in concert or buy his recordings.

His teachers are quite a group, and as he approaches graduation from Oberlin, his undergraduate institution, he makes a last-minute decision not to go to USC, where he has been admitted and knows with whom he'd be studying, and to instead go to Indiana University to study with György Sebők, a wizardly Hungarian pianist and teacher.  Sebők isn't nearly as well-known as his compatriot, dear friend, and fellow Hungarian, the cellist Janos Starker, but he was clearly the right teacher at the right time for Denk. The book is dedicated to him, and it's clear how much Denk loved and admired him, and why. There are also some mentions of the pianist and teacher Evelyn Brancart, who seems wise in ways different from and complementary to Sebők. These mentions are tantalizing and always made me wish for more.

Every Good Boy Does Fine is also a slow, gradual coming-out story, which I found extremely touching and sweet. There were many moments of confusion for Denk and for various girlfriends along the way, because that's how it is; people come out at their own pace and in their own time. In this, the memoir put me in mind of Philip Kennicott's Counterpoint, another pianistic memoir, in which Kennicott, a good amateur pianist, wrestles with the piano, his grief over his very complicated mother's death, and learning to play the Goldberg Variations. If you like one, you'll like the other, too.

Museum Mondays

Photo of a gold floor-length dress, flaring out from the shoulders, in a heavily brocaded fabric, with a sort of vest in similar fabric. The mannequin has a ball-shaped gold hat with a cross on it.

Guo Pei Exhibit
Palace of the Legion of Honor
September, 2022


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Coming Attractions: Die Frau ohne Schatten

Photo of an opera: A man and a woman dressed in blue tunics and matching blue pants embrace in front of a colorful backdrop depicting a golden river running down a hill towards the front of the stage, with a bridge crossing it. The backdrop is almost cartoonlike.

Die Frau ohne Schatten
David Hockney production, presumably Act III
Photo: Robert Millard, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

If you're reading this blog, it's very, very likely that you know that as part of its centennial season, San Francisco Opera is presenting, for the first time in more than 30 years, Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Die Frau ohne Schatten. Frau is a monster and a monument, with a gigantic orchestra and a libretto that is, well, complicated and full of contentious issues.

A few weeks ago, Larry Wolff gave a presentation about Frau to the Wagner Society of Northern California about Frau. Wolff is a professor of history at NYU, and his speciality, as far as I can tell from his bio and the books he's written, is central European history from the 18th century to the early 20th century. His is also an opera lover, from an early enough age that his first opera was Aida at the old Met, and he has a professional level of knowledge about opera.

His presentation was based on his most recent book, The Shadow of the Empress: Fairy-Tale Opera and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy, which was published on May 2 by Stanford University Press. I ordered a copy from my local bookstore during his presentation and I'm reading it now. The title is a double entendre, referring to both Strauss and Hofmannsthal's Kaiserin and Empress Zita, the last Habsburg empress.

You can still see Wolff's Frau presentation!
He's an engaging speaker and I loved the presentation, which includes some touching family history. If you're interested in Frau, see the presentation, buy the book, see the opera - which you can do in person or by livestream on June 20, at 7 p.m. Pacific time.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Britten War Requiem at SFS

Photo of Davies Symphony Hall, SF; a multistory white building with huge plate glass windows, seen at dusk at a corner angle

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Here's what I had to say about Philippe Jordan in 2018, when I saw him conduct Tristan und Isolde at the Paris Opera;
Philippe Jordan, who will leave Paris for Vienna in 2020, conducted, and was variable. His pacing of that last scene in Act II was masterly; elsewhere, he could be wayward. Neither of the performances I saw caught musical fire in the way this opera can blaze; the orchestral sound was on the muddy side, though without more experience of the opera house, I can’t determine whether the acoustics of the Opéra Bastille, my seats, or his conducting had the greatest responsibility for this. His pacing was sometimes bizarre: for example, Isolde’s Transfiguration reached its greatest climax far too early, so that the final climax was anticlimactic. 
He was much better in Michel Jarrell's Bérénice:
Philippe Jordan’s meticulous conducting balanced a big orchestra beautifully with the voices and brought out every last fascinating color of the orchestration.

My interview with Brandon Jovanovich and Christian Van Horn makes him sound...fussy:

“Philippe is a real master of the score, in that whatever it says, we’re going to do,” said Van Horn, and Jovanovich agreed. “That’s right. If it says piano, everyone will be singing piano. If it says forte, you’re forte.” Van Horn went on: “If there’s a comma between two words, you’re not going to carry that note over.”

“That’s right. ‘Brandon, you’re singing an eighth note there, but it’s a sixteenth note.’ Every time, he would tell you: a sixteenth note. ‘Brandon, Brandon.’ Every time. That’ll change the outcome a lot.”

And something I've said, but I think never printed here: of the three conductors I've seen lead Les Troyens, it was Jordan who didn't make the work sound like the greatest opera ever composed. His conception was far smaller in scale than those of Donald Runnicles and Andrew Davis.

So I was, you could say, a little concerned about how Britten's gigantic War Requiem would go, particularly since the last SFS performances were with the magnificent Semyon Bychkov. I'm sorry to say that my concerns were not misplaced. Joshua Kosman's review says this:

Some of that eloquence registered strongly in Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, May 18, when the San Francisco Symphony tackled the piece for the first time in nearly a decade. Some of it, though, struggled to emerge from under the stiff and weighty musical approach of guest conductor Philippe Jordan.

And....yeah. It was stiff, and at the same time felt weirdly as though Jordan's conducting had no spine at all. His conducting lacked forward momentum; it was as if he was focused on rhythm and meter at the bar line level, with no sense of where each movement was headed. Entrances and the beginnings of most movements had no thrust or sense that something important was happening. The overall sensation was curiously inert and shapeless. And the music itself is anything but inert or shapeless. 

The orchestra, choruses, and soloists in the vast work were excellent. Tenor Ian Bostridge's singing is something of an acquired taste, one that I have mostly not acquired; I'd prefer a less wiry and nasal sound in this music. Brian Mulligan brought somber eloquence and beautiful tone to the baritone solos. Jennifer Holloway's big, gleaming soprano worked well in her solos. I admit that I would have liked more consonants from all of them. 

Updated: May 23, 2023, to add the links below.

  • Michael Strickland, SF Civic Center. SHADE: "Unfortunately, Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan led most of the big choral sections as if they were Carl Orff's pounding Carmina Burana rather than Britten's brilliant riff on Verdi's Requiem."
  • Nicholas Jones, SFCV
  • Jeff Dunn, Aisle Seat


Publicity and Its Discontents

If you're a smallish, but reasonably well-funded, opera company, why would you go to the trouble of printing a fancy eight-page, folding, color brochure for your four-opera season....and omit any mention of who the singers are? Yes, I am looking at you, Opera San José.

I mean, the question applies to any opera company, and it seems inexplicable. For one thing, the casting was included in the season announcement in March. (Although I have to say that it's weird that the title character of one of the operas has not yet been announced, and I'd bet that there are many, many lyric baritones with this particular role in their repertory.) For another, this is a company that largely features singers whose careers are centered in the Bay Area. The opera audience knows these folks, and honestly, the presence of certain singers IS enough to get me to a performance that's 50 miles away.

Another thing about this brochure is that the artwork for each of the four operas completely dominates the sections of the brochure dedicated to the opera. I'd prefer more information and less graphic design, as in, tell me who the singers are.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Friday Photo


Photo of a red and white self-driving taxi cab stuck in a pedestrian crosswalk, with Davies Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House in the backgroud, and SF City Hall on the right.

Self-Driving Vehicle Stuck at Grove and Polk, San Francisco
April, 2023

This Cruise taxicab got stuck in the pedestrian crosswalk and couldn't move. Those are Davies Symphony Hall and the Opera House in the far background, City Hall on the right.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Blogger Weirdness

Yesterday, I discovered that about 130 previously-published comments had somehow gotten re-classified as spam. I've been slowly republishing them, but if you get a notice that one of your past comments was just published....this is why. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

More on Smith -> BSO

Photo of a complicated set of Walt Disney Concert Hall's angles, depicting intersecting curved and  pointy planes and blue sky.

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Friends elsewhere raised some questions about Chad Smith's impending departure from the LA Phil.

One mentioned the "short tenure" of folks at the LA Phi, which isn't actually the case:
  • Deborah Borda, 17 years
  • Chad Smith, 21 years
  • Gail Samuel, more than 30 years
He also mentioned the turnover at the top, but again, the odd item there is the very short tenure of Simon Woods, who succeeded Borda when she returned to the NY Philharmonic.

Borda's recent tenure in NY led to the renovation of their concert hall, hiring her designated successor Gary Ginstling, and hiring Gustavo Dudamel to succeed Jaap van Zweden as music director. It's an amazing conclusion to an already-outstanding career.

When Borda left LA, both Smith and Samuel were considered to be strong, capable candidates to succeed her. The Board's decision to hire Woods....was a mistake and he was gone in 18 months.

Smith succeeded Woods, and Samuel's departure from LA for the top job at the BSO makes sense because she was not going to get the LA job and presumably she wanted a shot at being CEO of a major orchesestra.

Smith's departure has to be read in context: he is from the northeast and went to school in the Boston area, receiving degrees from Tufts (history) and the New England Conservatory (voice). The BSO has the largest endowment of any U.S. orchestra (nearly a half-billion dollars). Tanglewood is important as a concert venue and for its role in training conductors and composers. The LA job is a plum, and the BSO gig is even bigger.

Another friend asked about the BSO going the LA for its CEO for the second time. What LA has had, for many years, is a strong group of administrators, given Borda, Smith, and Samuel. The same friend was wondering whether there might have been culture clash between how LA works and how the BSO works, and that is a very good question. We will probably never know the answer, because the folks with that kind of information aren't very like to talk publicly about it. The most informative article that I've seen about Samuel at the BSO came from the Berkshire Eagle and is well worth reading. Whatever mistakes and missteps Samuel made, Smith is unlikely to repeat.


Wait, What? Chad Smith to the BSO.

Photo of a building whose exterior is constructed of many small sheets of shiny silver metal connected to make huge irregular planes at different angles.

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

A huge surprise today: Los Angeles Philharmonic chief executive Chad Smith is leaving in the fall for the Boston Symphony. Smith was the longtime artistic administrator of the LA Phil, then became CEO after the short tenure of Simon Woods, who succeeded Deborah Borda. 

Smith is filling a position most recently vacated, after only 18 months, by Gail Samuel, who had similarly been a successful executive at the LA Phil.

This leaves the LA Phil in the position of losing its CEO when they are starting the search for a new music director, pending Gustavo Dudamel's departure at the end of the 2025-26 season.

Knowing that few people are qualified to run a big, important orchestra that has a large budget: Is LA possibly going to hire Gail Samuel back, this time as CEO? Are we looking at....interim CEO Deborah Borda, because she is about to retire from the NY Phil?

Update: adding the BSO press release, after the cut.

Museum Mondays

Photo of a silver mannequin in an elaborately embroidered blue and silver dress, placed in a room with a wooden floor and ornate wooden cabinetry. an inlaid stone table, and blue and white pottery.

Guo Pei Exhibit
Palace of the Legion of Honor
September, 2022


Saturday, May 13, 2023

Rafael Payare at SFS

Rafael Payare
Photo by Benjamin Ealovega
Courtesy of San Francisco Symphony

Rafael Payare, who is the music director of the San Diego Symphony and of the Montreal Symphony, made his debut with San Francisco Symphony this week. He led the orchestra's first performances of William Grant Still's Darker America, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, with soloist Bruce Liu, and Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben.

I'd never heard the Still before; it's a moody excursion into the world of Black Americans, for a smallish orchestra. To give you an idea, Mark Almond (French horn), Mark Inouye, and one of the trombonists were seated next to each other in the row where, I think, the clarinets and bassoons usually live. I wasn't taking notes and won't say much beyond that it was well played as far as I can tell.

The Beethoven was a late addition to the program; originally, Hilary Hahn was scheduled to play the Brahms violin concerto. A friend who heard Payare in Brahms at the LA Phil was favorably impressed, so I was particularly looking forward to this, but Hahn was taken ill and withdrew. Bruce Liu is a young Chinese-French-Canadian pianist, born to Chinese parents in Paris who relocated, eventually, to Canada. He won the Chopin competition a couple of years back.

The performance we heard I'd put into the "very good" bucket. Liu has a delicate touch of great clarity; nothing was messy or bangy or out of place. I found him restrained, with elegant phrasing; Payare matched this, with a small orchestra, and superb balance between the orchestra and piano. It was a more Mozartean performance than Beethovenian. I felt like I was hearing Mozart's 30th piano concerto rather than a work pointing to the grand scale of Beethoven's 4th and 5th piano concertos. It was a great distance from the epic performance put on in October, 2021 by Yefim Bronfman and Esa-Pekka Salonen -- and that's fine. A work like this is open to a multitude of interpretations.

Liu's encore was the "Tom Lehrer" version of Für Elise, by which I mean, you should think of what Lehrer did with "Darling Clementine". I heard scattered giggles when it started, and thought "Okay, no pro at this level plays that with a straight face, so what is he going to do with it?"

The big (BIG) work on the program was Ein Heldenleben. At 45 minutes, or so, with quadruple wind and a big string section, it is very very large scale. Have I heard it before? Maybe, but not live and not recently. As with much of Richard Strauss's music, it could easily become vulgar or exaggerated; in Payare's hands, it was anything but. The orchestra sounded magnificent; balances were astonishingly good (you could pretty much always hear the strings, who too often get buried); Payare's interpretation played the big moments for what they were, without exaggeration and with a good sense of restraint.  Payare's sense of dynamics is also superb; he built the performance from ppp up to maybe double forte, never overloading the hall and, again, keeping the orchestra well balanced. The intimate moments, and there are plenty of those, were glorious. 

  • Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle
  • No SFCV review, probably because they published a review of Payare's program at the LA Phil.


Thomas Stacy

Photo taken at night. A circular fountain with upward gouts of water, in a circle,  lit up as if from within;

Lincoln Center Fountain at Night
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Here's something you don't read in a professional musician's biography, or obituary, very often:

He largely taught himself to play the oboe and English horn, using a book that showed the fingerings. He was 17 and still a junior in high school when the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., gave him a full scholarship.

Remarkable in multiple ways: taught himself to play and became good enough for a full scholarship to Eastman...after he'd only played for a few years. He started at 14. This is from the NY Times obit for Thomas Stacy, who played English horn in the NY Philharmonic for nearly 40 years. He died on April 30 2023.

Friday, May 12, 2023

SFS "War Requiem": Paterson Out, Mulligan In

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Received from San Francisco Symphony. We're not the EU, so presumably this isn't Brexit-related....:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Baritone Brian Mulligan replaces Iain Paterson in the San Francisco Symphony’s performances of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, May 18–20. Paterson has regretfully withdrawn from this program due to visa difficulties.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

There Goes Runnicles

Sir Donald Runnicles, former music director of San Francisco Opera, current music director of Deutsch Oper Berlin, has stepped down from his 22 years as principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony. He went out with a giant flourish: Wozzeck excerpts with Irene Roberts and Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Here are the reviews.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

San Francisco Opera Centennial Concert

War Memorial Oper House

Photo by Lisa Hirsch 

Here's most of the press release announcing the program for the June 16, 2023 Centennial Concert. Looks nice! At past gala concerts, there have occasionally been surprise guests. I seem to recall Dame Joan Sutherland and Leonie Rysanek making brief speeches at a 1990s gala.

San Francisco Opera’s Centennial Season culminates with a celebration of the Company’s first 100 years. A host of treasured San Francisco Opera artists will be featured with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in a program that honors the Company’s history through musical milestones and landmark productions.


Conductors: Eun Sun Kim, Sir Donald Runnicles, Patrick Summers

Sopranos: Karita Mattila, Ailyn Pérez, Patricia Racette, Nina Stemme, Heidi Stober, Adela Zaharia

Mezzo-sopranos: Susan Graham, Daniela Mack

Tenors: Lawrence Brownlee, Michael Fabiano, Brandon Jovanovich, Russell Thomas

Baritones: Lucas Meachem, Brian Mulligan

Bass-Baritone: Christian Van Horn


San Francisco Opera Orchestra

San Francisco Opera Chorus; Chorus Director John Keene

Shawna Lucey, Stage Director



(Subject to change)


Prelude from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Richard Wagner)

San Francisco Opera Orchestra

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


“Amour viens rendre à mon âme” from Orphée et Eurydice (Christoph Willibald Gluck)

Daniela Mack

Donald Runnicles, conductor


“Pur ti miro” from L’Incoronazione di Poppea (Claudio Monteverdi)

Heidi Stober and Susan Graham

Patrick Summers, conductor


“Odi il voto” from Ernani (Giuseppe Verdi)

Russell Thomas

San Francisco Opera Chorus

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


Pierrot’s Tanzlied from Die tote Stadt (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)

Lucas Meachem

Donald Runnicles, conductor


Embroidery Aria from Peter Grimes (Benjamin Britten)

Heidi Stober

Donald Runnicles, conductor


“Vicino a te” from Andrea Chénier (Umberto Giordano)

Michael Fabiano and Ailyn Pérez

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


“Va, pensiero” from Nabucco (Giuseppe Verdi)

San Francisco Opera Chorus

Patrick Summers, conductor


“Ch’ella mi creda” from La Fanciulla del West (Giacomo Puccini)

Brandon Jovanovich

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


Act I finale from Tosca (Giacomo Puccini)

Christian Van Horn

San Francisco Opera Chorus

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


Entrance of the Guests from Tannhäuser (Richard Wagner)

San Francisco Opera Chorus

Donald Runnicles, conductor


“Batter my heart” from Doctor Atomic (John Adams)

Brian Mulligan

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


“Co chvila” from Jenůfa (Leoš Janáček)

Karita Mattila

Donald Runnicles, conductor


“Losing my mind” from Follies (Stephen Sondheim)

Patricia Racette

Patrick Summers, conductor


“Ah, je veux vivre” from Roméo et Juliette (Charles Gounod)

Adela Zaharia

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


“Ombra mai fu” from Xerxes (George Frideric Handel)

Susan Graham

Patrick Summers, conductor


“Prosti, nebesnoye sozdanye” from Pique Dame (Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)

Brandon Jovanovich

Donald Runnicles, conductor


“Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

Heidi Stober and Christian Van Horn

Eun Sun Kim, conductor


“Cessa di più resistere” from Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Gioachino Rossini)

Lawrence Brownlee

San Francisco Opera Chorus

Patrick Summers, conductor


Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde (Richard Wagner)

Nina Stemme

Donald Runnicles, conductor


“Ave Signor” from Mefistofele (Arrigo Boito)

San Francisco Opera Chorus

Eun Sun Kim, Chorus


The concert is approximately three hours, including one intermission.

Cast Change Announcement, San Francisco Symphony Edition

Davies Symphony Hall, SF; a multistory white building with huge plate glass windows, seen at dusk at a corner angle

Davies Symphony Hall, SF
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Hilary Hahn is unwell and has withdrawn from this week's programs with Rafael Payare at San Francisco Symphony. She was to play the Brahms violin concerto.

Replacing her on the program is pianist Bruce Liu, who will be playing Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. Toi toi toi to Liu, and best wishes for a swift recovery to Hahn.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Don't Be This Small Non-Profit 3

In 2018 and 202, I posted about issues I had with trying to renew my membership in a small nonprofit organization (SNP) and then about what I saw as some issues in that organization.

Today I received this from SNP, and JFC. This organization hasn't followed basic principles of record keeping, considering that they are missing legally required documentation. I really have to wonder what will happen when they've been audited. I'll note, in passing, that Pro Publica's Nonprofit Explorer's last 990 for this organization is from 2011. It's possible that the IRS is behind in processing whatever they've submitted, but I wonder whether anyone on the board knows what a 990 is.

When we, your 2023 Board, took the reins this year, 3 of the 6 of us noticed an alarming amount of past mismanagement and financial discrepancies. The other 3 Board members have since resigned. The three of us remaining have been working hard to investigate and clean up our compliance and financial issues and had hoped it was all a case of innocent naivete on the part of past boards and not the intentional Theft by Transfer that our organization has been threatened with in recent months.

Unfortunately, this is not or at least not entirely the case. SNP has been the target of an intentional, attempted takeover event from inside the organization. We are not at liberty to say who at this point in the criminal investigation, but we can tell you that the core breach happened in the last half of April this year and the only people with access to our accounts were 2023 and 2022 board members. We are frustrated, angered, disappointed that someone(s) in our community who we elected to protect this organization has broken the trust we all put in them.

We know that member names were taken, along with email addresses, and any other contact information you supplied to SNP; phone, physical address, etc. Due to how our web host works, we do not have reason to believe that individual credit card numbers have been stolen, but our thief(s) have, since the breach, had the ability to charge/refund charges if you had payment on file with us. So if anything suspicious shows up, please let us know.

Separate from this breach, SNP is also missing a great deal of legally required documentation from the past 5-7 years. If anyone, past board member or otherwise, has any copies of old board meeting minutes and especially financial records, please send them to either [email address1] or [email address2].

While this breach of trust from some of our own is very serious, we and our legal counsel know SNP has the law on our side and we are working hard to bring about accountability and ensure the security of this organization and your information going forward. 

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Coming Attractions: Volti and Opera Parallel

This week, I watched or listened to discussions about upcoming performances at Volti and Opera Parallèle; both are available on demand, and I found each helpful in getting familiar with the works that will be performed.


Volti will be premiering composer Mark Winges's Words Cast Shadows, his setting of several poems by Jane Hirshfield. Bass Sidney Chen has a new podcast, Sounds from Silence, and the first episode is an interview with Winges, discussing how the composer chose the poems, his approach to writing choral music, and more. 

Here's information about Volti's upcoming performances:

Saturday, May 13, 2023
7:00 PM Pacific Time
St. Paul's Episcopal
1924 Trinity Ave, Walnut Creek

Attend in person or watch the live stream!
Tickets available through the St. Paul's concert series.

Sunday, May 14, 2023
4:00 PM Pacific Time
Kanbar Performing Arts Center
44 Page St, San Francisco

Tickets for May 14

Opera Parallèle

In early June, Opera Parallèle performs The Shining, by Paul Moravec (composer) and Mark Campbell (librettist). The opera is based on Stephen King's famous novel; this is a new production, co-produced with Hawai'i Opera Theatre and Portland Opera. Opera Parallèle's Daniel Harvey spoke with Moravec and Campbell by Zoom about the opera, which is closer to the novel than the equally famous Kubrick film and which sounds like it'll be great. You can watch the interview recording at OP's web site.

Performance information:

  • June 2, 2023 @ 7:30pm
  • June 3, 2023 @ 7:30pm
  • June 4, 2023 @ 2pm
Blue Shield of California Theater at YBCA – 700 Howard St, San Francisco

Running Time: 2 hours 20 mins with intermission – performed in English with supertitles.

Tickets: $40-$180, students $20.