Was there life before Bach? Plenty, as evidenced by the 17th-century German cantatas so popular in the Lutheran church.
Next week, musicians performing in Palo Alto will aim to give audience members a taste of that time. Two early-music groups — the Wildcat Viols, who hail from the Bay Area, and the Ohio-based Catacoustic Consort — will give a concert of German cantatas from the pre-Bach 1600s.
Soprano Youngmi Kim and baritone Mischa Bouvier are the featured singers. Composers will include Christoph Bernhard, Franz Tunder and Matthias Weckmann. The concert is being given under the auspices of the San Francisco Early Music Society.
The Palo Alto performance begins at 8 p.m. on Sept. 9 at the First Lutheran Church, 600 Homer Ave.; tickets are $35 general, $30 for seniors, $28 for society members and $12 for students. The program will be repeated Sept. 10 in Berkeley and Sept. 11 in San Francisco.
For more information, go to sfems.org or call 510-528-1725.
Playing for pianos
Now under construction, the 844-seat Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University won't be complete without a few good pianos. Several members of Stanford's piano faculty are pitching in with a benefit concert.
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 8 p.m., the pianists will perform — with vocal assistance from soprano Nicolle Foland — a faculty showcase that will also serve as a benefit performance for new pianos at the Bing hall. The concert will be in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on campus.
The program includes: Dvorak's "Gypsy Songs," with Foland singing and pianist Laura Dahl playing; Schubert's Allegretto in C minor and Klavierstuck in E-flat minor, with pianist Thomas Schultz; Chopin's Ballade in G minor, Op. 23, with pianist Frederick Weldy; and selections from Prokofiev's "Cinderella" arranged for two pianos by Mikhail Pletnev, with pianists Kumaran Arul and George Barth. Admission is $25.
The music department is also planning another benefit concert on Sept. 17, also at 8 p.m. in Dinkelspiel Auditorium, featuring the St. Lawrence String Quartet and pianist Jon Nakamatsu. Tickets are $34-$85 ($10 for Stanford students). For more about both concerts, go to music.stanford.edu or call 650-725-ARTS.
Stanford has the St. Lawrence String Quartet as artists in residence. The Red Rock cafe has Dogcatcher. It's a matter of personal taste, really. You can listen to chamber music, or you can listen to what the members of the Dogcatcher band call "kinda dirty, jazzy folk music."
Those who prefer the latter are in luck this weekend. Dogcatcher, a four-guy band based in Mountain View, will play at the Red Rock cafe, which is also in Mountain View, this Saturday, Sept. 3, at 8 p.m. (For its part, the Red Rock website describes the Dogcatcher sound as "indie-jazz-soul-rock-poetry." So go with an open mind.)
Dogcatcher started as a rhythm section backing up other bands in San Diego. Now singer/pianist/guitarist Andrew Heine, bass player Jared Milos, drummer Ramon Esquivel, and guitarist/singer/percussionist Ryan Kingsmith have their own gigs. They put out the album "KILR" earlier this year.
Red Rock is at 201 Castro St. in downtown Mountain View. For more information, go to redrockcoffee.org or call 650-967-4473.
Why are thousands of glass bottles in King Plaza in front of Palo Alto City Hall? You can ask the artist herself next week.
Berkeley artist Mildred Howard created the new temporary public-art installation "Clear Story," a bottle house that stands 10 feet tall, composed of glass and wood. On Saturday, Sept. 10, she's scheduled to give a free public talk about the piece at 3 p.m. at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.
Howard has been quoted as saying that her many sculptures are often inspired by the traditional bottle houses of West Africa and the American South. Here, Palo Alto's distinctive Eichlers reportedly played a role as well.
Audience members may get a chance to ask Howard about her inspirations at a post-talk reception, scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. with refreshments.
"Clear Story" is expected to remain in King Plaza through August 2012. More information is at cityofpaloalto.org/artcenter.
Tiffany Shlain opens a trailer for her new documentary film, "Connected," by confessing that while she was catching up with an old friend, she got restless.
This was a friend she had flown across the country to see, and yet Shlain kept getting distracted by the desire to check her email. Finally, she faked needing a trip to the bathroom so she could sneak a look at her phone.
The anecdote may hit too close to home for many in Silicon Valley. Others may not think there's anything wrong with it. Either way, Shlain is fascinated with the topic of connection in the 21st century — visual and virtual — and how it relates to such contemporary issues as the environment, technology and population growth.
Next Thursday, Sept. 8, "Connected" will have a screening at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, presented by the JCC and the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley. ("Connected" will also be opening in some Bay Area theaters on Sept. 16. It was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival.)
The screening is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall at 3921 Fabian Way. Admission is $15 general, $10 for JCC members (who must call in advance), and $5 for students. Call 408-280-5530 or go to paloaltojcc.org.
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