San Francisco Performances offers innovative PIVOT concerts online

Program kicks off with ukuele concert on April 1

San Francisco Performances opens another presentation in its free pandemic-era “Front Row” online concert series this week with PIVOT, a continuation of its programs dedicated to innovations in chamber music.

“The inaugural season of PIVOT in 2016 marked a commitment by SFP to present artists and programming that pushed the boundaries of chamber music. Over the past five years our PIVOT Festival has brought us close to a group of adventurous artists who continue to create surprising and inventive programs,” said San Francisco Performances President Melanie Smith.

On April 1, “Ukulele Lockdown” showcases George Hinchcliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain playing tunes made famous by Tom Waits, Kate Bush, David Bowie, ABBA and Georg Frideric Handel. The set list also includes “Thunderball,” John Berry and Don Black’s theme to the 1960s-era James Bond movie. The fun group — whose instrumentalists also are enthusiastic vocalists — was established in 1985, released a recording in 1988 and has successfully been amusing the world for decades on tour and TV. The current lineup has been playing together for over 20 years.

Pivot’s second 2021 concert on April 15 features eclectic jazz singer-composer Theo Blackmann in a recording made especially for San Francisco Performance called “Duet for One” with “music for voice, loops and other toys.” Blackmann, described as “from another planet,” has a wide repertoire ranging from pop standards to German art songs. Evoking joy and melancholy, sentimentality and “transcendence,” the new music purveyor performs from his New York City apartment in the Pivot show.

“We are proud to air its premiere,” said Smith.

Rounding out the program on April 29 is the JACK Quartet, a leading American ensemble dedicated to playing and promoting new string quartet music and the first group to appear in PIVOT in 2016. Known for closely collaborating with the composers they perform, violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards and cellist Jay Campbell play a program with Tyshawn Sorey’s “For Conrad Tao,” Elliott Carter’s String Quartet no. 3, “Duo,” Ruth Crawford Seeger’s String Quartet and Rodericus/Otto’s “Angelorum Psalat.” The concert, featuring guest pianist Conrad Tao, was created during the group’s residency at the Library of Congress.

Pivot is the fifth in a series of SF Performances shows launched since the pandemic. In April 2020, the presenter offered selections from its archive of full-length past performances. In June, its “Sanctuary Series” focused on new recordings from SFP artists. In September, erudite and funny music historian Robert Greenberg appeared with commentary in “The BobCasts” podcasts, and “Beethoven @ 250” included digital programs celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday featuring the Alexander String Quartet and a lecture by Greenberg.

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