Avant-garde composer Lisa Bielawa has a thing about turning airfields and other open spaces into to massive musical scenes.
She’s the creator of “Crissy Broadcast,” a huge free event featuring around 800 professional, amateur and student musicians happening Saturday and Sunday at San Francisco’s Crissy Field.
She describes the work, already presented in May at Tempelhof Airfield in Berlin, as a “spatialized symphony.” She says, “It’s an exercise in playfulness, a highly organized exchange of joyful energy articulated across vast distances.”
Bielawa — a San Franciscan composer who has made a name for herself in Europe and New York (as Philip Glass’ vocalist and in other roles) — recently returned home to head the San Francisco Girls Chorus, her alma mater.
The chorus is among the many participants in the project, which has been in rehearsal for weeks with a core of musicians and singers.
Community spirit is key to the piece. Passers-by are heartily invited to join in, and should be able to do so with little difficulty. Singers only need to know the words “la la la.”
In addition to being excited to promote what she calls a magical shared experience in public space, Bielawa is thrilled about her specific San Francisco location. She says, “Crissy Field is much-beloved site that is rich in history.”
Luckily, the resolution of the federal shutdown came just in time to accommodate the upcoming performances. Although Crissy Field is administered by the private Presidio Trust, nearby parking lots and restrooms — part of the Golden Gate National Park system — only recently reopened.
Despite inclement weather, Bielawa says the Berlin edition in May was highly successful. Even though it rained, people stayed, and remained positive and flexible. To protect their instruments from the elements, string players switched to singing.
Great crowd energy persisted. Upon exiting, performers either moved in clusters or spread out in long chains Musicians with larger instruments played on motorized luggage carriers that traveled between the slower-moving groups.
While there are no concrete plans for additional performances beyond Berlin and San Francisco, Bielawa isn’t ruling out the possibility, either. She says, “We would love to build partnerships with other civic and music organizers to bring airfield broadcasts to other cities.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Crissy Field, Marina, S.F.
When: 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday