Jan 11, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—On February 2 & 3, Edwin Outwater conducts the San Francisco Symphony premiere of Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form, a song cycle exploring the perpetuation of systemic inequity and homelessness. The performances feature mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran along with vocalists Gabriel Kahane, Kristen Toedtman, and Holcombe Waller in their role as the Chorus of Inconvenient Statistics, all in their SF Symphony Orchestral Series debuts. The final movement of the work also features a chorus featuring members of two local community organizations—Community Music Center and Skywatchers.
Commissioned by the Oregon Symphony and premiered in 2018, Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form is an unflinching narration of the fear, humiliation, and insurmountable obstacles associated with being unhoused in America. But Kahane is clear that the piece isn’t strictly about homelessness. “It’s a piece about inequality and homelessness is a symptom of inequality,” Kahane said in an interview with the San Francisco Symphony. “And if you’re not going to talk about inequality, then you’re not having an honest conversation about homelessness.”
emergency shelter intake form takes its title and the basis of its libretto, written by Kahane, from a questionnaire presented to those seeking a shelter bed. The questionnaire is personified by a mezzo-soprano soloist (Alicia Hall Moran for these performances), whose text oscillates between cold, bureaucratic questions, and more lyrical accounts of the myriad challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness. In stark juxtaposition, a Greek chorus—the Chorus of Inconvenient Statistics—locates these personal vignettes within a broader political and economic context, crossing seamlessly across classical and pop genres in a work that addresses an often uncomfortable topic with candor, sensitivity, and humor.
As part of Kahane's vision for the piece, the final movement of emergency shelter intake form features a community chorus made up of members of San Francisco’s Community Music Center (CMC) and Tenderloin-based organization Skywatchers. “I think a lot these days about community, and using music to build it, rather than having ‘community engagement’ be an afterthought that’s disconnected from the work itself.” Kahane said. “So, to figure out how to participate in building that community, whether it’s between members of the orchestra, members of the chorus, or different pockets of the audience, that’s a really thrilling prospect.”
Read more about Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form in a San Francisco Symphony program book feature.
The program opens with George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F featuring soloist Conrad Tao in his SF Symphony Orchestral Series Debut. The Piano Concerto in F is a follow-up to Gershwin’s well-known Rhapsody in Blue, weaving jazz with classical form in a work that suggests America’s endless capacity for invention and change.
Before the concert and during intermission, representatives from Compass Family Services, HomeRise, and San Francisco SafeHouse—three San Francisco-based partner organizations that provide supportive and transitional housing to communities throughout the Bay Area—will be set up in the Davies Symphony Hall lobbies to talk with audience members, provide information, and share ways to support their programs.
Gabriel Kahane is a musician and storyteller whose work cuts to the heart. As a singer-songwriter, his most recent release is Magnificent Bird (Nonesuch Records), a meditation on grief and gratitude, written during the chaotic month leading up to the 2020 election. Highlights of the 2020–23 season include premiere performances of a folk opera, The Right to Be Forgotten, with the Oregon and Cincinnati symphonies, a recital at London’s Southbank Centre, and appearances with the Danish String Quartet. He makes his San Francisco Symphony debut with these performances. Mr. Kahane’s album and stage spectacle, The Ambassador, was produced at the BAM Next Wave Festival in 2014 under the direction of Tony-winner John Tiffany. That work was followed by Book of Travelers—a chronicle of the composer’s 2016 post-election railway journey—which was staged at BAM in 2017 and released as an album by Nonesuch in 2018. His creative collaborators range from Phoebe Bridgers, Paul Simon, Sylvan Esso, Chris Thile, and Sufjan Stevens, to Caroline Shaw, Anthony McGill, Pekka Kuusisto, and the Attacca Quartet. His prose has appeared in The New Yorker online and in The New York Times; a wide-ranging newsletter “Words and Music,” can be accessed at gabrielkahane.substack.com. The recipient of a 2021 Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Mr. Kahane recently relocated to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his family and has just begun his second term as Creative Chair of the Oregon Symphony.
Alicia Hall Moran is a multi-dimensional artist performing and composing between the genres of opera, art, theater, and jazz. She made her Broadway debut in the Tony-winning revival The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, starring as Bess on a 20-city American tour. Her artist residencies include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, MASSMoCA, and National Sawdust. She has been commissioned by ArtPublic/Miami Art Basel, Museum of Modern Art, The Kitchen, Histories Remixed/Art Institute Chicago, and Prototype Festival/Beth Morrison Projects, and released critically-acclaimed works such as HEAVY BLUE, the motown project, The Five Fans, Breaking Ice: The Battle of the Carmens, and Black Wall Street. In partnership with husband and collaborator Jason Moran, she was awarded a 2017 Art of Change fellowship by the Ford Foundation, and has generated work for the Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennial, Walker Art Center, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, and most recently, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, and Elb Philharmonie in Hamburg, among many others. Ms. Moran’s vocal performances travel fluidly from jazz clubs to orchestras. She makes her San Francisco Symphony debut with these performances.
Edwin Outwater regularly works with the world’s top orchestras, institutions, and artists to reinvent the concert experience. His ability to cross genres has led to collaborations with Metallica, Wynton Marsalis, Renée Fleming, and Yo-Yo Ma. He is music director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and music director laureate of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. Last season Mr. Outwater made his BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall. Other international appearances include engagements with the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Kyoto Symphony, Nagoya Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, Malmö Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa, and Hong Kong Sinfonietta. In Canada he led the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the symphonies of Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Victoria. Since 2021 Mr. Outwater has been the main conductor for Stewart Copeland’s Police Deranged for Orchestra concerts. In October 2022 he premiered his newest production, Symphony of Terror, with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and co-host and collaborator Peaches Christ. This December he will present the London premiere of A Christmas Gaiety at the Royal Albert Hall with Peaches Christ and BBC Concert Orchestra. Mr. Outwater holds a long association with San Francisco Symphony since making his debut in November 2001. The 2021–22 season saw performances in the SoundBox Series, concert appearances with Boyz II Men, and the world premiere of the Judy Garland Centennial concert Get Happy! He was formerly San Francisco Symphony Resident Conductor, Director of Summer Concerts, and Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. A native of Santa Monica, Mr. Outwater graduated cum laude in English literature from Harvard, where he was music director of the Bach Society Orchestra and the a cappella group Harvard Din and Tonics. He received his degree in conducting from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he studied with Heiichiro Ohyama and Paul Polivnick; he also studied music theory and composition with John Stewart, Joel Feigin, and Leonard Stein.
Composer and pianist Conrad Tao has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s finest orchestras. His first large-scale orchestral work, Everything Must Go, received its world premiere with the New York Philharmonic and its European premiere with the Antwerp Symphony. He received a 2019 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for his work on More Forever. In the 2022–23 season, Mr. Tao returns to the New York Philharmonic and curates a program for the Artist Spotlight series and debuts with the National Symphony. After the premiere of his Violin Concerto with the Atlanta Symphony, he performs as a soloist with that orchestra. He reunites with the Naples Philharmonic and opens the season with the Tampere Philharmonic. As a pianist, Mr. Tao has recorded three solo albums for Warner Classics. In 2021, in collaboration with the brass quartet The Westerlies, he released Bricolage, a set of improvisations and experiments recorded in a small cabin in rural New Hampshire. Born in Urbana, Illinois, Mr. Tao received an Avery Fisher Career Grant and was named a Gilmore Young Artist. He made his San Francisco Symphony debut in February 2008 and is a Shenson Young Artist.
Kristen Toedtman has performed as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Britt Festival Orchestra, Corona del Mar Festival Orchestra, Baltimore Concert Artists, and Musica Angelica orchestras, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and other venues around the country. She makes her San Francisco Symphony debut with these performances. With her partner, Chris Pumphrey, she sings songs of healing and praise for the wonders of creation to create space for listeners to meditate, heal, and explore their inner worlds. She has led singers in homeless shelters, health clinics, and on Skid Row. As director of the Community Chorus of Peabody, she brought the choir through the pandemic, emerging to join the Baltimore Symphony in a new realization of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as a part of the Global Ode to Joy project. She has two self-released records available on all online platforms as well as on her website.
Holcombe Waller is a unique voice in music theater. He is a Creative Capital artist, a four-time recipient of the MAP Fund grant, and a Joan Shipley Fellow of the Oregon Arts Commission Arts. Mr. Waller is known for his evening-length, theater-based interdisciplinary music performances, which have been presented and commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Under the Radar Festival at the New York Public Theater, On the Boards Seattle, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Centre Pompidou Paris, and many other presenters and festivals internationally. In addition to his interdisciplinary work, he has self-released five albums on his own label, Napoleon Records. In 2018 he performed Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Right at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco as a part of Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s Transform Festival. makes his San Francisco Symphony debut with these performances.
COMMUNITY CHORUS ARTISTIC PARTNERS FOR EMERGENCY SHELTER INTAKE FORM
Community Music Center (CMC) makes high-quality music accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, regardless of financial means. CMC offers the largest tuition assistance program of its kind in the country, serving more than 3,000 students each year with music lessons, classes, and other programs. CMC believes in the power of music to connect people, celebrate cultures, and transform lives, with students and faculty who are engaged and fulfilled in making music together, and audiences who are energized by their experiences. Students can study jazz, blues, Latin, pop, folk, rock, and classical music from master teachers. CMC also presents free and low-cost concerts, workshops, and master classes for the public. CMC singers in emergency shelter intake form come from the Older Adult Choir Program, New Voices Bay Area TIGQ Chorus, Anything Goes Chorus, Coro de Cámara, private lesson voice students, faculty, and staff.
Founded in 2011, Skywatchers brings artists into durational collaboration with residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. We believe that relationship is the first site of social change, that large-scale transformation begins with intimate, interpersonal interaction, engendering change for all involved—artists, participants, and audiences. Centering resident lives and experiences, the multi-disciplinary, mixed-ability ensemble creates art works that amplify neighborhood stories, interrogating the poverty industrial complex, illuminating narratives too often invisible in our collective cultural production, and positioning community voices in the civic discourse through the arts. The Skywatchers Ensemble of Tenderloin residents and artists co-create multi-disciplinary art works that range from formal and site-specific performance to intervention, ritual, visual art, and multi-media works as part of a long-term community-embedded social practice. In addition to our core ensemble, our programs include workshops in SROs, a youth partnership with Larkin Street Youth Services, and a health equity collaboration with Faithful Fools and UCSF, as well as partnerships with over a dozen Tenderloin non-profits and community groups.
Compass Family Services believes that every child deserves a safe and stable home. For more than 100 years, Compass has served San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations. Today, Compass serves more than 6,500 parents and children with a full spectrum of programs and supportive services, providing comprehensive care and a personalized approach. Its goal-driven programs address housing, childcare, mental health, early childhood education, and educational and employment assistance for parents. Today, more than 95% of families who complete Compass programs achieve lasting housing stability.
As San Francisco’s largest provider of permanent supportive housing, HomeRise helps thousands of people experiencing homelessness find a permanent home and build a better life. Anchored in the belief that a home has the power to stabilize a person’s life, HomeRise provides homes for nearly 2,300 residents each year across 19 buildings. HomeRise recognizes that a home is just the beginning; with the stability of a home, people can improve their health, heal from trauma, cook for their family, find a job, begin paying rent, feel a sense of dignity, and contribute to the community—that’s how a home helps you rise.
San Francisco SafeHouse provides transitional housing and safe spaces for unhoused womxn survivors of sex-trafficking and sexual exploitation. Seeking to provide a nurturing and empowering community through the use of trauma-informed care models and individualized survivor-centered treatment plans, SafeHouse offers a full array of support services to enable residents to reclaim their lives and move toward the goal of living a happy, healthy, and independent life. SafeHouse believes that survivors know better than anyone what they need in order to move forward and meet their goals, and program participants have an active hand in shaping the organization’s programming.
CALENDAR EDITORS, PLEASE NOTE:
Tickets for concerts at Davies Symphony can be purchased via sfsymphony.org or by calling the San Francisco Symphony Box Office at 415.864.6000. Free and subsidized tickets are available to community groups interested in attending these performances. For more information, email [email protected].
Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.
Health & Safety Information
Davies Symphony Hall is currently operating at full audience capacity. Based on the advice of the San Francisco Symphony’s Health and Safety Task Force, a face covering and vaccination against COVID-19 are strongly recommended but no longer required for entry into Davies Symphony Hall. These policies are subject to change. Visit sfsymphony.org/safety for the San Francisco Symphony’s complete up-to-date health and safety protocols.
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Alicia Hall Moran