Cy and David's Picks: Rocking Ned Flanders, Rapping the Music of the Spheres, and Lost and Found Opera

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Okilly Dokilly, a band inspired by Ned Flanders of the Simpsons, plays Slims April 28 (Photo: Courtesy of Okilly Dokilly)

KQED’s Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.

We couldn't fit in all the shows we wanted to this week -- a reminder of how culturally lucky we are in the Bay Area. Here are two big ones: The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir is hosting an interfaith gospel conference, with a free performance on Saturday, April 29, at the Oakland Convention Center. Details here. And the Berkeley Symphony is closing its season with a rare performance of Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 13 ("Babi Yar"), with Christian Reif conducting. Details here. Now for the show.
April 28: Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill always finds creative ways to mix entertainment with spirituality. They've invited Kev Choice and his ensemble along with Lateef the Truth Speaker, Zion I, Foxtails Brigade, students from the Oakland School for the Arts and others for an evening titled Music of the Spheres. That's an ancient concept describing how the planets and the stars create a grand galactic music as they orbit. It's a tough standard, but these terrific local bands should be up for it, and the cause is just. The event is a fundraiser for the fight against child trafficking. Details here.

April 27- May 14: My Name is Rachel Corrie may be a litmus test on your feelings about Israel. It's a play about the young American activist, a native of Olympia, Washington, killed in Gaza in 2003. She was run over by an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer, as she protested Israeli efforts to demolish a house that the IDF said was hiding a tunnel for smuggling weapons. A documentary about Corrie shown at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival eight years ago drew strong protests from supporters of Israel, and we may see that again, with lots of comments already online on a story by J Weekly. The 2005 one-woman play, based on Corrie's diaries and letters, is by actor/director Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, with actress Charlotte Hemmings as Corrie. Details for its run at the Magic Theatre are here.

A scene from Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's production of the Temple-of-Glory by Rameau and Voltaire (l-r: Aaron Sheehan as Trajan, Gabrielle Philiponet as Plautine, Meggi Sweeny Smith as Venus and Andrew Trego as Mars)
A scene from Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's production of 'The Temple of Glory' by Rameau and Voltaire (L–R: Aaron Sheehan as Trajan, Gabrielle Philiponet as Plautine, Meggi Sweeny Smith as Venus and Andrew Trego as Mars). (Photo: Courtesy of Phiharmonia Baroque Orchestra)

April 28-30: We’re in the realm, now, of scholarly obsession with a great musical payoff, we hope. Philharmonia  Baroque Orchestra Music Director Nicolas McGegan has always wanted to mount a full production of Jean Philippe Rameau's opera-ballet The Temple of Glory, with a libretto by Voltaire, one of the great political satirists of the age. It was first performed at Versailles for King Louis XV in 1745, but it hasn’t been done since then (except for a music-only ballet suite) because nobody could find a complete copy. It turns out UC Berkeley's Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library has what may be the only existing edition with music, lyrics and stage directions. So now McGegan is leading three performances of the piece with the help of Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall this weekend. There's a nice topicality to the libretto, says McGegan, a commentary by Voltaire for kings and, perhaps, presidents. “A great king, worthy of glory, is not a conqueror or a tyrant, but one who makes his people happy.” Details here.


May 4-14: I visited Alonzo King at his Lines Ballet studio on San Francisco's Seventh Street the other day to watch a rehearsal for his new work, Figures of Speech. It’s about vanishing languages; hundreds disappear each year. And the score features poems and chants in vanishing native languages like Ohlone, Maidu and Cheyenne, plus Ladino and Basque and others. The dances are based on work by the Bowery poet Bob Holman. King loves to collaborate, and he told me how making these dances has him thinking how words have vibrational energy. "I think that language itself is a form of dance," he said. "The way people talk, the way we’re putting emphasis. There are voices that are erotic, there are voices that are cerebral, all of those are templates and colors." This should be dazzling. Details for the show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are here.

April 28: The Simpsons are more than a long-running animated TV series. Matt Groening's satirical sitcom is a cultural juggernaut, spinning off a movie, a line of action figures, and even a stage drama, Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, about a post-apocalyptic America. Now, there's a metal band inspired by the Simpsons character Ned Flanders called Okilly Dokilly. Band members all sport bushy mustaches and sideburns, and the songs, like "White Wine Spritzer" (above), feature Neddicisms from the show. This started as a joke, but it's sprouted wings and taken off -- and the band is darn good. See them before Matt Groening or Fox sues the heck out of them at Slim's on April 28th; details here.

We added a pair of killer shoutouts this week:

April 30: Sunday is International Jazz Day, and San Jose is putting on a great free show. Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun pays tribute to drummer Elvin Jones; the San José State Jazz Orchestra backs the vocalist Tiffany Austin; Howard Wiley & Extra Nappy play, and there's more Sunday afternoon at San Jose’s Hammer Theatre Center. Details here.

A seventeenth-century depiction of the battle of Kurukshetra. Artist unknown
A seventeenth-century depiction of the battle of Kurukshetra. Artist unknown. (Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

April 26–May 21:Theater director Peter Brooks is a vigorous 92 year-old, and he's in been in San Francisco the past week helping with a revival of one of his greatest productions, Battlefield, based on the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata. This should be an epic evening of theater. Details are here.