Sheik sings with the symphony 

Duncan Sheik is admittedly a bit hesitant about his world premiere performance with the San Francisco Symphony next week.

“I’m very excited, but incredibly nervous,” says the New Jersey-born Grammy and Tony Award-winner (for “Spring Awakening”) of the concert, in which he’ll play and sing a song suite from his latest musical “Whisper House” backed by the full orchestra — nearly 100 musicians.

He’s performed with classical musicians before, mostly in a chamber setting, he said during a recent phone interview — “not to this degree of grandiosity.”

Under commission by the symphony, Sheik and longtime collaborator Simon Hale arranged the 25-minute composition, taking existing orchestrations from “Whisper House” (which premiered in January at San Diego’s Old Globe theater), and adding strings and woodwinds.

Joining him in the performance will be Gerry Leonard on guitar and Holly Brook on piano and vocals.

The program, conducted by Edwin Outwater, also includes other works for stage: Polenc’s Suite from “Les Biches” (Sheik says both pieces have a “ghost” theme) and Gounod’s ballet music from the opera “Faust.”

Songs from “Whisper House,” co-written by Kyle Jarrow, also are on a Sheik studio album released in January, which critics have described as a “concept,” rather than “cast,” album.

Sheik sees his stint with the symphony as outreach between the classical music world and the independent rock world, noting that he and pop artists such as Sufjan Stevens, for example, write music with prominent orchestral elements.

He also sees himself as part of a “middle ground” that could bring younger audiences to concert halls, where longtime listeners may be tired of standard repertory that’s become cliché, and, at the same time, aren’t thrilled with the atonal aspect of much contemporary classical music.

Sheik, whose pop music success began with the radio hit “Barely Breathing” in the mid-1990s, sees his various musical pursuits — rock, classical, theater — as complementary rather than contradictory.

Describing his schedule — “planes, trains and automobiles on a mini-tour” sandwiched between travels to workshop new theater pieces — he says, “I love and loathe them both.”

Meanwhile, Sheik hopes his visit to The City will be fruitful beyond the symphony performance.

The composer, who, with “Spring Awakening” collaborator Steven Sater presented “Nero” at the Magic Theatre in 2006, plans to talk to other local companies — American Conservatory Theater and TheatreWorks — in hopes of bringing another new musical to town.

A fan of the Bay Area, he says he never officially resided here — despite the fact that his Wikipedia entry claims he lived in Daly City at the start of his musical career.


Duncan Sheik with the San Francisco Symphony

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and April 10; 6:30 p.m. April 9

Tickets: $15 to $135

Contact: (415) 864-6000;

About The Author

Leslie Katz

Pin It

Speaking of Entertainment

Latest in Other Arts

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation