And then there was the concert against carbon dioxide. Inspired by Al Gore’s (and now Arnold Schwarzenegger’s) environmental campaign and the film "An Inconvenient Truth," there it was: the "Cozy Concert for Climate Concerns" Saturday at San Francisco’s First Unitarian Universalist Church.
Opera conductor Sara Jobin and environmentalist Monisha Mustapha organized the impromptu musical celebration of the national campaign for "cutting carbon dioxide 80 percent by 2050."
Unusual as the concert was, its quick creation seems just as noteworthy. But Jobin had no choice in squeezing calls, programming and rehearsals into a handful of days. The concert had to coincide with the April 14 national "Climate Action," organized by Step It Up. The next event in the series is scheduled tentatively for July 7, on the occasion of the "7/7/07" Live Earth Initiative.
More leisurely preparation was responsible for composing the works, Jobin having "invited composers to submit entertaining and educational songs about global warming" in advance. There were five works on the program, but as the campaign continues, there will be more.
Before a small but demonstrative audience, the concert featured a couple of agit-prop pieces, but others were only vaguely connected with the theme.
Mustapha explained that just as Gore offered "an alternative to denial or despair" about consequences of global warming, like-minded people forming a community while sharing a musical experience is all to the good.
The concert’s most enjoyable work had a somewhat tenuous connection with the environment, sustainable only if hurricane Katrina’s devastation and the pitiful federal response can be linked to global warming.
Brian Holmes’ "Fashion God Aria" takes its text from e-mails and testimony before Congress by former FEMA director Michael Brown. A vigorous, rollicking piece, reminiscent of Victorian music hall times, the song got a terrific performance from baritone Dale Murphy, backed by Holmes on French horn, Jobin on piano, child prodigy Nathan Chan on cello and — yes — audience participation. Fighting global warming musically can be fun.
The more nonindulgent pieces came from Bill MacSems ("A Global Warming Quandary") and Janis Dunson Wilson ("There Will Always Be Kids"), performed by mezzo Alexis Lane Jensen and Jobin.
Berkeley composer Clark Suprynowicz offered pieces from "Global Warming: Duets" performed by soprano saxophonist Georgianna Krieger, with an overwhelming piano accompaniment by Lara Bolton.
Said the composer: "You may be sitting through a concert in the near future enduring text best delivered on the editorial page. Or music that is torturously trying to convey the absorption of sunlight by the troposphere. Much better — to my mind — that we write pieces out of love of beauty and imagination, order and community, and see if we can then get people to come together out of concern."