What if the Giants opened up AT&T Park for a day of games against the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees, absolutely free? This Sunday, September 26, Cal Performances presents the artistic equivalent of that heavenly baseball event when opening its season with the inaugural Fall Free for All, a full day of free performances on the Berkeley campus featuring some of the best acts from around the Bay Area.
Cal Performances will open the doors to all three of their performance spaces -- Zellerbach, Hertz and Wheeler Halls -- and set up a stage in Sproul Plaza to give the Cal community a chance to hear, see, and in some cases be a part of the groups that will perform during their upcoming season. Matias Tarnolopolsky, who is starting his second season as Director of Cal Performances, says, "We are throwing open our doors to all who live in the Bay Area. It's our gesture to the community, a way of welcoming everybody and introducing our new season."
Most of the performers involved are based in the Bay Area, so filling the bill was an easy task, but the roster is definitely world-class: Kronos Quartet, Mark Morris Dance Group, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Melody of China, members of the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Ensemble, Word for Word, and many more. There's definitely something for everyone on the day's programs.
In many ways, it's about time. The trend these days is to find new ways to bring events to the people, instead of expecting the people to come to the events, in the old "church of the holy symphony" model. Events like this may not entirely meet the audience on their own turf, but they at least meet them halfway, which for most performing arts organizations is a huge step. And with price still a barrier to many -- even if it's more psychological than actual -- a free event like this does more than just make high culture available to the underserved; it entices the curious, who may be inclined but hesitant to make the commitment. Everyone benefits, on both sides of the box office. And while many of these groups already give free performances each season, bringing them all together in an event like this makes for an extraordinary day of entertainment.
The Fall Free for All was one of the first things Tarnopolsky planned when he came to Cal Performances from Chicago last year. He had had success with similar events with the Chicago Symphony and felt that Berkeley would be an ideal environment for them as well, not only as way to get the community familiar with what Cal Performances has to offer, but to get them involved with the performers as well. In addition to more traditional performances, several of the groups will be interactive; Mark Morris Dance Group will showcase one of the works on their fall program, "Looky," discuss it with the audience, and give audience members the chance to experience the work from the stage, moving with members of the company. Singer/musician/conductor Melanie DeMore's "Pounding for Peace" is a community sing involving civil rights songs and spirituals, combined with a "teach-in" of Gullah stick pounding. Almost all of the performers will be previewing works that will be on their programs in the season proper, adding another enticement to come back for more.
Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir
While you're wandering between concert halls, Lower Sproul Plaza will function as a central gathering place, with chances to meet the performers, hear some of Cal's own student groups, grab something to eat or drink, or "meet the instruments" up close in an instrument petting zoo (a term that a lot of groups shied away from when they first began the practice, but which almost everyone now embraces -- and why not? It's not only accurate it's downright audience-friendly). There will be 14 groups in all, in 45-minute performances from 11am to 6pm. All in all, it sounds like a grand day out.
Cal Performances presents the Fall Free for All Sunday, September 26, 2010 on the Cal Berkeley campus. For more information and the complete line-up of performances visit calperfs.berkely.edu.