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June 20, 2017

Farewell to Wednesday Nights in Davies Hall

For as long as S.F. Symphony patrons can remember, the weekly subscription concerts have included a Wednesday night series. It was “Series A” way back in the War Memorial Opera House days, before Davies Hall became a reality three decades ago.

Then, at the announcement of the 2017-2018 season a few months back, there was something strange: no Wednesday concerts. None. In fact, last week was the last one. SFS reminded subscribers of the fact with an email containing this explanation:

San Francisco Symphony will no longer be presenting Wednesday evening subscription concerts. This decision was made because it has become increasingly difficult to attract patrons to Wednesday night performances, especially compared to other days of the week.

The good news is that there is availability in our Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday subscription packages, all of which showcase an array of world-class musicians and repertoire. We are absolutely dedicated to working with you to find an alternative package to replace your Wednesday subscription.


Many subscribers are trying to find that alternative by going through the season calendar. Not everybody is satisfied that ending Wednesday events, rather than, say alternating them with Thursday or even Friday start to the series, was the right decision. For the aggrieved, SFS is offering a 25 percent discount on new packages, when using the promo code SWITCH25, says SFS Director of Patron Services Janice Glenn.

A veteran Symphony patron writes to

We are very disappointed but not surprised to see our series cut. We lost our fabulous seats on the second tier (as sudden “newcomers,” with no credit for our 30-plus year patronage, we get what is left once the “real” Thursday subscribers are seated) and now deal with a major change in our personal schedule.

The end was a long time in coming: over the recent years, the number of Wednesday concerts was reduced steadily, and now finally cut off totally. Why? That is easy to see: the second tier was full in 1985; in 2017, there were several concerts when we felt there were more people on stage than on second tier.

But I don't see how SFS saves much money by cutting the Wednesdays off the season (since everyone is on payroll as is) so I suspect the move is a desperation effort for creating “buzz,” filling the house -- with the loyal Wednesday patrons now fitting the Symphony whichever way in their schedules.


“Piaf by Outwater” Among S.F. Symphony’s Summer Offerings

San Francisco Symphony performs two outdoor summer concerts in July, both free and open to the public. SFS Director of Summer Concerts Edwin Outwater leads performances at the Stern Grove Festival July 9, at 2 p.m. and  on the grassy plaza at Pier 27 on July 23, at 12 p.m.

The concert at Stern Grove presents a program including selections from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, featuring soprano Jana McIntyre and baritone Hadleigh Adams, as well as works by Bizet, Ravel, and a medley of songs from the late French chanteuse Edith Piaf, arranged by Outwater.

The July 23 concert at Pier 27 features Debussy’s Clair de Lune and selections from Holst’s The Planets, as well as playful pieces by iconic American composers including Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland. The concert also features soprano Julie Adams singing Dvorák’s “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka.

The concert takes place in front of the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27, located on the Embarcadero at the foot of Lombard Street. KDFC’s Rick Malone hosts the event and there will be a selection of local food trucks on site. Audience members are also encouraged to bring blankets and picnics for the concert. Valet bike parking will be available. 


Joshua Bell’s The Classical Collection

Joshua Bell, who completed a series of performances with the San Francisco Symphony on Sunday, is issuing a 14-CD set on the Sony Classical International label, it was announced yesterday. Joshua Bell -- The Classical Collection features Bell, the announcement says, “in cornerstones of the violin concerto repertoire, chamber music, and concert pieces” he has recorded over the past 20 years with his 1713 Huberman Stradivarius.

Among the performances: Bell’s 2008 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (where Bell has served since 2011 as music director), the 2014 Bach release (also with the Academy) and two of Bell’s most popular albums, Romance of the Violin and Voice of the Violin, with the music of Monteverdi, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Bellini, Dvorák, Debussy, and Orff.

Other highlights include British composer Nicholas Maw’s Grammy® Award-winning Violin Concerto, a work written for Bell and featuring the London Philharmonic conducted by Sir Roger Norrington; The Red Violin Concerto, based on themes from John Corigliano’s score to the film, with the Philharmonia Orchestra London and Esa-Pekka Salonen; and Bell’s recordings of concertos by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Gershwin, Ravel, and Sibelius, accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic and Michael Tilson Thomas, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the Salzburg Camerata with Sir Roger Norrington.


Presidio Theater to Become Multipurpose Performance Space

Always searching for medium-sized performance venues at an affordable fee, chamber-music organizations may, if all goes well, rejoice in an important addition to the Herbst-Yerba Buena Center-sized theaters in the foreseeable future.

The Margaret E. Haas Fund in partnership with the Presidio Trust has announced plans to rehabilitate the old Presidio Theater building, located in the heart of the national park site on the Presidio’s Main Post.

Vacant since 1995, the building will be renovated into “a high quality and affordable multipurpose space,” with approximately 650 seats for live theater, film, dance, music, lectures, educational programming, and special events. The two-year rehabilitation will commence this summer and is expected to be completed mid-2019.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to create a modern and accessible performing space for artists in San Francisco and the Bay Area,” said Haas, who is board chair of the fund. “There is a dearth of high quality theaters for live performances, and many of the available spaces are not accessible to smaller performing arts organizations. The Presidio Theater will offer a place for these groups to showcase their work to a wide range of audiences.”

Located near the historic Presidio Officers’ Club and the expansive, green Main Parade Ground, the Presidio Theater is among the last buildings on the Main Post to be rehabilitated. Originally built in 1939 as a movie theatre for the officers and enlisted men at the post, it hosted both Jack Benny and Bob Hope, who brought full casts to perform and record their hugely popular radio shows in the theater during World War II. The theater was renovated by the Army in 1962, but ceased operations as a movie theater in 1994.

When completed, the promised state-of-the-art theater will reflect its original 1939 Spanish Colonial Revival design, with a functionally expanded stage, new accessible seating, and code-compliant restrooms. A new pavilion that opens onto a new courtyard will be created in the open area to the west of the existing theater. The project architect is Hornberger + Worstell and the historic preservation consultant is Knapp Architects, both of San Francisco.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at