With red, white and blue balloons bobbing cheerfully in the breeze, the band Moonalice played an upbeat Bread & Roses concert for the veterans at the VA Hospital in Menlo Park on Labor Day 2011. Blessed with beautiful sunny weather, this early afternoon special event was held on Monday, September 5 on a small stage in a grassy area to the right of the front door of the Community Living Center.
Our audience was a mix of veterans -- most from World War II who lived in the nursing unit close by and enjoyed the performance from a covered deck. They were assisted by other vets from the Vietnam era who came from a residential rehab program in a nearby building.
Photo: Moonalice performing a Bread & Roses show at Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco.
A band of seasoned musicians, Moonalice features Roger McNamee on rhythm guitar, bass and vocals; Ann McNamee on keyboards and vocals; Pete Sears on keyboards, guitar, vocals and bass; Barry Sless on lead, pedal steel and bass guitars; and John Molo on drums and vocals.
Pete Sears launched the set with "Down the Road", a crowd pleaser and apt metaphor for this traveling band that goes all over the country playing outdoor festivals and parks as a living embodiment of their belief that music is a communal experience that should be shared.
Robert Gupta's story is an inspiration to us all: not only does he play first chair violin for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is also their youngest performer, having joined the orchestra in 2007 at the age of 19. What is perhaps most remarkable about this young prodigy is that in addition to his professional music career, he also directs his own free concert series, The Street Symphony, which brings live classical music to the homeless and mentally ill on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. KQED's California Report recently did an audio story on Robert's social service outreach, which includes comments from the patients after his concert. You can listen to the report here: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201108250850/b
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Bread & Roses serves a number of residential mental health facilities at major hospitals including short-term units at San Francisco General, and California Pacific Medical Center, as well as longer-term treatment facilities such as Cordilleras in Redwood City and Canyon Manor in Novato.Among our most challenging audiences, we know that mental health patients, particularly those who are also homeless, can be hard to engage and at the same time, are often deeply appreciative of and positively affected by music's healing force.
Gupta's interest in music as therapy for the mentally ill was perhaps inspired in 2008 when he met and began tutoring Nathanial Ayers, the schizophrenic musical virtuoso who is the subject of the bestselling book, The Soloistby L.A. Times columnist, Steve Lopez. Many of you might be familiar with the film adaptation, which stars Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr. Of his time working with Ayers, Gupta remarked that he was struck by how music seemed to calm Ayers and act as a sort of medicine or therapy. It was at that time that Robert began The Street Symphony.
Budding jazz chanteuse Lucy Krakow is a featured “Whiz Kid” on this week’s Larkspur Corte Madera Patch. While at Redwood High School, Lucy was a volunteer performer for Bread & Roses who did concerts for three different facility audiences. An inventive jazz singer with her own distinctive style, Lucy is also a talented singer-songwriter as well as guitarist.
For her Bread & Roses shows, she brought her talents as a creative collaborator to the forefront by recruiting three musicians to perform with her. At Marin Services for Women (MSW) she performed original songs she co-wrote with Katie Hamilton who is now at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. At Aldersly in San Rafael, a residential community for seniors, she played jazz standards with saxophone player Jake Botts. At Our Common Ground, a rehab for teens in Redwood City, she performed in a charming and inspirational duet with her brother Roger.
OIGC Director, Terrance Kelly takes a turn at the microphone.
Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir -- their name says it all. Buddhists, Christians, Jews and others join their voices to sing traditional and contemporary Black Gospel music. Many races and ethnicities blend into one beautiful chorus. Residents of Crossroads Homeless Shelter in Oakland were engulfed by the powerful sound that filled their dining hall during a recent Bread & Roses concert there. Some laughed, some cried as songs of trials and faith touched their hearts. “Never Alone,” “All I Need,” and upon request “Amazing Grace” buoyed the spirits of folks facing a hard time in their lives.
Volunteer host Barb Withers who attended the show wrote, “There was a shared energy in the room and it just kept encircling everyone with love and strength. It was hard to believe how much the music filled the room, and as it did, more and more of the audience stood smiling, clapping and singing to the inspiring music.”
After the show, a young choir member said that she was especially happy to be working with Bread & Roses. She had been inspired by seeing shows while attending a high school for students with special needs. She was now able to give back to the organization that gave to her.
OIGC has been blessing Bread & Roses audiences since 1990, performing regularly in detention centers, rehab facilities and shelters.
Bay Vibes Songwriters Unplugged, the first CD from nearly two years of Sunday night concerts featuring the Bay Area's best singer-songwriters at Yoshi's in San Francisco, is now available for purchase on CD Baby. Co-sponsored by SF Bay Vibes and Sonic Zen Records, all proceeds benefit Bread & Roses' mission to bring live music to those who are isolated in Bay Area institutions.
Of the artists on this recording, a half-dozen are either current or former Bread & Roses performers who are mainly acoustic guitar and keyboard-based and sometimes have a variety of other accompaniment. Their not-to-be-missed songs include Megan Slankard's "Planets"; Jeff Campbell's "Southern"; Garrin Benfield's "Unbound"; Heather Combs "Time and Time Again"; Francesca Lee's "Maybe Today" and Valerie Orth's "Beyond This Song."
This recording represents the pinnacle performances of some of the hundreds of songwriters who have taken the stage in this weekly series. Founded in 2009 by Robin Applewood of SF Bay Vibes and Charlie Wilson of Sonic Zen Records, the two are a formidable duo in bringing performers and fans together in new combinations and in creating an evolving community to support songwriters and musicians playing original acoustic music.
My how time flies when you are having fun! Teatro ZinZanni is offering the Bread & Roses community a special ticket price for their current show: Maestro's Enchantment on Sunday, July 31st.
Joan Baez has been illuminating Teatro ZinZanni's Spiegeltent since June and she will be starring her last performance of Maestro's Enchantment that day.
Due to popular demand, Madame ZinZanni has added one more matinee show to the schedule for 11:30am on July 31st. As a special offer to our fabulous Bread & Roses community, you can reserve tickets at the special price of $76 for this last matinee show. Call Teatro ZinZanni's box office at 415-438-2668 and mention "Maestro's Roses" to purchase tickets with this special offer today!
Long-time Bread & Roses volunteer and supporter Ken Harrison reported that he recently saw Armistead Maupin's "Tales of The City" a new musical at ACT's Geary Theater. He recalls that two years ago he was asked to drive Mr. Maupin to a benefit awards ceremony at the Herbst Theater. As they drove, Ken mentioned Bread & Roses and its founder Mimi Fariña. Mr. Maupin remembered that he had mentioned Mimi in his first "Tales of the City" novel. (See chapter Their First Date on page 75 in the most recent paperback edition).
When Ken recently saw the musical version of the book, he happily noted that the line "Oh look! There's Mimi Fariña... she's Joan Baez's sister" from the book made it into the staged version of the story. Noting that the play is set in San Francisco in 1976, shortly after Mimi Fariña founded Bread & Roses, Ken said this prompted him to recall pleasant memories and it appeared this was true for the audience too.
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Having written songs recorded by Emmylou Harris and Joe Cocker, Marshall Chapman is very plugged in to the songwriting socket. Her styles range from Alternative Country to Rock 'n Roll, and her intelligent humor pervades all of her writing including her books. While in the Bay Area recently to promote her new book, They Came to Nashville on West Coast Live, she performed her first institutional concert for Bread & Roses.
On June 19, 2011 Marshall shared songs and stories with the men and women working on their sobriety at New Bridge Foundation in Berkeley. "Music and 12-step programs saved my life," she told them. Songs about her life before, during and after recovery (from substance abuse) were met with great enthusiasm and empathy. "Why Can't You Be Like Other Girls" told of how she didn't fit the mold growing up in South Carolina. "Goodbye Forever" chronicled her obsession and difficulty in kicking a bad relationship. And the happy ending song reminded everyone that "It's Never Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood."
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Grammy-award winning Joan Baez has been an essential musical force and free speech activist for over 50 years, and she has now made a very welcome return to Teatro ZinZanni as Madame ZinZanni in "Maestro's Enchantment." In her starring role, she reunites with The Maestro, played by master illusionist, Yevgeniy Voronin, when she returns to the Spiegeltent with her mysterious 18th century circus troupe.
Joan first joined Teatro ZinZanni ten years ago and continues to capture the hearts of all with her radiant energy and of course, that voice! She will be performing alongside a brilliant and beautiful cast in "Maestro's Enchantment" until July 31 at Pier 29 on the Embarcadero. Call the Box Office at 415-438-2668 or visit love.zinzanni.org for more information and tickets.
All fans of contemporary acoustic music -- join us this weekend at The 2011 Kate Wolf Festival at Wavy Gravy's Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, CA. Kate Wolf helped to repopularize folk music in Northern CA in the 70's and was a nationally known singer-songwriter/guitarist who died in 1986.