The tradition of the music festival emerged from the great choral festivals of the 19th century, and although the most prominent festivals nowadays do not involve choral music, the best festivals are not just an excuse to perform outdoors, program lighter repertoire, or don white tuxedos. Festivals serve as a medium to do out of the ordinary work and to bring together artists usually unavailable to collaborate.
Two great festivals occur in Berkeley this June. The first is the bi-annual Berkeley Early Music Festival and Exhibition running from June 3-10 presented by Cal Performances, Early Music America, and the San Francisco Early Music Society. Especially interesting is the exhibition where vendors and makers of early instruments show their wares.
The festival also sports a lively early music fringe festival featuring more concerts than the main festival itself. Many of these events are free, and a BART pass to Berkeley during the festival period can allow one to stroll from church to church to drop in on an endless succession of concerts.
Cal Performances must be pushed to its limits to also sponsor Ojai North from June 12-14th featuring the centerpiece concerts from the Ojai new music festival, in collaboration with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. The festival kicks off with a free performance on June 11th of John Luther Adams’s “Inuksuit.” The remaining concerts are much less ambitious, featuring “contemporary classical music” by Berg, Janacek, Ives, Shostakovich, Debussy, and the like all who died before I was born.