Poetry and Chamber Music Mix in a Story about San Francisco

The Kronos Quartet works with the Living Earth Show and members of Youth Speaks in a rehearsal of 'Echoes'
The Kronos Quartet works with the Living Earth Show and members of Youth Speaks in a rehearsal of 'Echoes' (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

San Francisco Performances is such a wonderful organization, but their schedule is sometimes staid, with classical recitals dominating the calendar. So it's a surprise and a pleasure to see the results when they commission a new piece from composer Danny Clay with poetry by members of Youth Speaks, music by the Kronos Quartet and the Living Earth Show, all directed by Sean San Jose of the theater company Campo Santo. The subject of Echoes, a spoken word chamber opera, is the accelerating pace of gentrification in the Civic Center and the Western Addition of San Francisco.

“If you go like to Booker T. Washington, which was a really amazing community center," poet Ashley Smiley told me at a rehearsal last month, "it was just ripped from the roots and replaced by an apartment building. And that kind of thing was just sad. But also something where we have the opportunity to say, ‘Do you see?’ It’s a violent change.” My Do List co-host John Vanderslice also praised the Kronos Quartet for its many commissions and world premieres. There's just one performance of Echoes at the Herbst Theater on Oct. 7; details here.

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