Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Community Music School String Quartet (1926)

Community Music Center string quartet 1926. In the courtyard of CMC. Left to right, Jeanette, Alfred, Preston, Emmet. (source: San Francisco Historic Photograph Collection)

The 1926 might have marked a high point in the early life of the San Francisco Community Music Center (then called the Community Music School). One of their notable successes was their string quartet.  The San Francisco Examiner's esteemed music critic Redfern Mason wrote an May 16, 1926 article that brings to life this photograph from the Library's Historical Photograph Collection.
On Saturday afternoon of Music Week I heard four young people--children, most of them--play a Mozart string quartet.  A week earlier I had listened to them at Santa Monica, when they played for the California Federation of Musical Clubs. They were Jeanette Davis, Preston Hartman, Alfred Bousquet and Emmet Peterson, and they played with such aplomb and put so much joy and beauty into their work that it was a privilege to be there to hear them.
It was no parading of geniuses; there was not a Wunderkind among them. What we saw and heard was much more encouraging to ordinary mortality than that. We sat in our places and, one after the other, little lads and lasses came and played the piano and fiddle--played with manifest pleasure, as if something had come into their lives which lent the moments gladness and took the dullness out of the daily round.
Mason gives names to the members of the string quartet - Jeanette Davis playing first violin, Preston Hartman playing second violin, Alfred Bousquet playing viola, and Emmet Peterson playing 'cello.

The youngest person in the photograph was Jeanette B. Davis.


source: The Violinist (May 1918)

According to earlier newspaper coverage, Jeanette Davis began playing violin at age 5. After studying for only 5 months she was featured at a concert of the Greater San Francisco Conservatory of Music directed by Sigmund Anker. (Anker was Yehudi Menuhin's first teacher). At age 6 she performed at 1920 concert fundraiser for a Jewish temple to be built in the Western Addition. Later that year she performed at a Christmas program at the YMCA on Golden Gate Avenue.

source: San Francisco Examiner (February 6, 1924)

She was featured in a 1924 article in the San Francisco Examiner where she described meeting and playing for virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz who told her that she would be "one of the great ones."  The article noted that she was the first violinist in her orchestra at John Swett Junior High School.  She also told the reporter that in addition to playing violin she liked raw carrots and outdoor sports.

She later graduated from Galileo High School in 1931.


Source: The Telescope, Galileo High School (Spring 1931).

That same year she was feted by the San Francisco Symphony for an essay she wrote about music for the San Francisco Young People's Symphony.

Jeanette Davis is pictured at the far right. source: San Francisco Chronicle (January 31, 1931).

Little is known of Jeanette Davis's later music making.  The 1924 article tells us that her mother was Emma Davis.  A search in the Ancestry database revealed that her maiden name was Emma O. Hedberg. The 1930 census shows her working as a hairdresser and living in Daly City with Jeanette.  During the mid-1930s she had a hair-dressing salon in the Outer Richmond.  The same City Directory shows Jeanette living with her and working as a stenographer.  By 1940, a sexagenarian Emma Davis was working as a housekeeper on Nob Hill with Jeanette living nearby.  Mother and daughter lived together or as neighbors through the end of the 1950s.

Ancestry.com provides the following information about Jeanette Betty Davis recorded by the Social Security Administration:

Birth Date: 25 Jan 1915
Birth Place: San Francisco
[San Francisco, California
Death Date: 23 Apr 2004
Father: Joseph Davis
Mother: Emma O Hedberg


The birth year provided is probably not be accurate (The 1930 Census listed her as 16 years old).  If it is, then Jeanette was three and half years old at her concert debut.  The Social Security Administration gave her name variously as Jean and Jeanette.  In 1965 she was listed as Jeanette Betty Vanoss, in 1982 she was listed as Jeanette Betty Kabakoff and at her death in 2004 her name was recorded as Jeanette B. Van Oss.

After 1931, Jeanette Davis largely disappeared from visible concert life.  There is only an announcement for a November 25, 1941 concert of the Chamber Orchestra of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. At this program Marcia Van Dyke (a future member of the San Francisco Symphony and a minor Hollywood star) and a Jeanette Davis played the solo parts the Bach Concerto for Two Violins.

Yet she must have kept up her violin playing.  In the 1948-1949 Polk's Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory has an entry for Jeanette Davis and shows her working as a musician.  In the 1961 and 1962 directories her profession is recorded as "music teacher."  Around the time her last name changed to Van Oss in 1965 her name stopped appearing in the San Francisco directories.

Jeanette B. Davis never lived up to Jascha Heifitz's prediction. It seems that she had a rather difficult life and lived much of her life close to her widowed mother.  But there is evidence that although she did not achieve a name for herself in music, music remained a part of her life and that she profited from it at times.  And hopefully music was a "manifest pleasure" for her as it was when she was a young musician.

In the next entry we will see what became of the other Community Music School String Quartet members.


"Anker String Orchestra Concert," Pacific Coast Musical Review vol. 34, no. 1 (April 6, 1918), 4.

"Community Chest Music Work: Music Talk to Chest Kiddies," San Francisco Chronicle (January 3, 1926).

Ennis, Helen Lewis, "Great Future Expected for 11-Year Old Local Violinist," San Francisco Examiner (February 6, 1924).

"Essay Prize Winners Take Bow at Final Concert by Symphony," San Francisco Chronicle (January 31, 1931).

Mason, Redfern, "The Community Music School Brings Beauty Into Young Life and Helps the Old," San Francisco Examiner May 16, 1926.

"Plans for Jewish Temple To Be Built Here," San Francisco Chronicle (March 18, 1920).

The Telescope (Galileo High School, Spring 1931).

"Thanksgiving Concert To Be Given In San Francisco," Berkeley Daily Gazette (November 19, 1941).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Most Requested Art, Music and Recreation Center books in November 2017


Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe (Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017).

We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union (Dey St.,  2017).

Unqualified: Love and Relationship Advice From a Celebrity Who Just Wants to Help by Anna Faris with Rachel Bertsche (Dutton, 2017)

Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated by Shea Serrano with illustrations by Arturo Torres (Abrams Image, 2017).

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (Spiegel & Grau, 2016).

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice: The Stories of Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim by Judith Mackrell (Thames & Hudson Inc., 2017).

Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield (Phaidon, 2017).

Macramé: The Craft of Creative Knotting for Your Home by Fanny Zedenius (Quadrille Publishing, 2017).

A Stash of One's Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn, an anthology edited by Clara Parkes (Abrams Press, 2017).

Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman (Dey St., 2017).

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams with Jeannine Amber (Dey St., 2017).

On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (Simon & Schuster, 2016).


By far, the current block-buster from our collection is Walter Isaacson's new work on Leonardo da Vinci.  While the wait list for this title is currently looks daunting, we have many additional copies on order.

The only holdover from our next most recent list of most requested books of January 2017 is Trevor Noah's Born A Crime.  There are also three books by actresses and comediennes, We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union, Unqualified by Anna Faris and Rabbit by Patricia Williams.

In lists from previous years we have seen memoirs by women singer-songwriters like Patti Smith, Carrie Brownstein, Viv Albertine, Carly Simon, Grace Jones, Chrissie Hynde, and Kim Gordon.  This month, Joni Mitchell is featured in the biography Reckless Daughter by David Yaffe.

The city of New York is highlighted in two titles -- Roz Chast's Going into Town and Meet Me in the Bathroom.  And luxurious living gets a little attention with The Unfinished Palazzo and Generation Wealth.

Crafting books draw steady interest and this month there is a title on Macramé and on knitting -- A Stash of One's Own.  On Trails is an outlier in terms of its subject matter, but it sounds like a fascinating meditation on hiking and nature.

All the titles except Unqualified are available as eBooks.  Many are also available as audio book.  Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Vintage Vinyl on the 4th Floor

We are very pleased to introduce a new collection of vinyl recordings to the San Francisco Public Library.  The Library has four "Vinyl Destinations" -- the AV Center on the 1st floor of the Main Library, the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Branch, the Marina Branch, and the Park Branch.

Up to 1989, with the temporary closure of the Main Library following the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Main Library collected nothing but vinyl recordings.  There are still more than 2,500 records from that collection housed on the 4th floor of the Main Library in the Art, Music and Recreation Center.

While the resurgence of interest in vinyl recordings is exciting, the marketplace for new vinyl seems to only extend to popular music styles like pop, rock, rhythm and blues and rap.  The vintage vinyl collection offers genres of music that we cannot represent well in our new collection like classical music, musical theater, world and folk music, and spoken word recordings.

So after perusing the shiny new vinyl collection on the 1st floor, consider taking an elevator ride to the 4th floor to browse through our eclectic collection of vintage vinyl.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Regional Airplay and National Charts in 1966

The front page of the July 2, 1966 issue of Billboard magazine featured an article entitled "Detroit & L.A. Sales 'Happening Places'."  This article detailed the various the contributions of various regional markets to the national hit charts -- Detroit came on top owing to the song "Cool Jerk" by Capitols, though it's hard to imagine that the Motown label didn't play a role in its prominence.


San Francisco placed third with 7 chart lists.  The article makes special note of the San Jose-based Syndicate of Sound's song "Little Girl" "moving up the charts."

Indeed the song is shown in the 11th position on the weekly charts with a red star given to "sides registering proportionate upward progress" for the week.  (By the way, harkening back to an older era, Frank Sinatra topped that week's chart with "Strangers In The Night."  Representing the new era, The Beatles charted at no. 2 with "Paperback Writer.")

According to Joel Whitburn Presents Top 10 Singles Charts, "Little Girl" peaked at #8 during the week of July 9, 1966, squeezed between "Cool Jerk" by the Capitols at #7 and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones at #9.  It repeated at #8 the following week of July 16 and then faded away.


According to the Billboard Book of One Hit Wonders, the Syndicate of Sound recorded "Little Girl" on January 9, 1966 at Golden Gate Recorders in San Francisco at 665 Harrison Street.  Leo de Gar Kulka opened Golden State Recorders in 1964 after moving north from Los Angeles and soon began recording many of the bands of the "San Francisco Sound."  In If These Halls Could Talk, Heather Johnson describes it as "one of the few music recording studios in town with a recording room comparable in size to established L.A. and New York facilities."


The KFRC Weekly Music Charts 1966-1970 show "Little Girl" charting earlier in the Bay Area.  On May 25, 1966 it was ranked #11, June 1, 1966 at #9 and on June 8, 1966 at #14 on the station's "Big 30."  After that it did appear in the Top 30 again.  It achieved its peak of popularity in the Bay Area a month before its national success. 

This is an interesting time because radio stations were programmed locally and their record charts still reflected local tastes.  That same week "Don't Bring Me Down" by The Animals reached #3 on KFRC, but it never reached Billboard's Top Ten.

 The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders has a brief chapter describing the band's history and the creation of their hit song.  The lead singer recalled: "I had no idea how I would interpret it vocally.  It didn't really work putting melody on top ... so we agreed I'd do it, without a melody, but with attitude."

A black and white video from that time captures that attitude.


The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders by Wayne Jancik (Billboard Books, 1998).

Hall, Claude, "Detroit & L.A. Sales 'Happening Places'." Billboard (July 2, 1966), 1; 26.

If These Halls Could Talk: A Historical Tour Through San Francisco Recording Studios by Heather Johnson (Thomson Course Technology, 2006).

Joel Whitburn Presents Top 10 Singles Charts: Chart Data Compiled from Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores and Hot 100 charts, 1955-2000 (Record Research, 2001).

KFRC Weekly Music Charts. 1966-1970 by Frank W. Hoffmann (Paw Paw Press, 2015).

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

50 Poison Pieces: a chess puzzle book for beginners
A book talk with nationally ranked chess player Lauren Goodkind
             Event detail

Nationally ranked chess player, author, and instructor, Lauren Goodkind, will discuss her new book 50 Poison Pieces: solve 50 puzzles where the unprotected piece is toxic and talk about her life in chess. Lauren will facilitate chess puzzles from her book and chess boards will be set up for free play and Q&A after the discussion. Books will be available for purchase at this event.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Learning Studio (5th Floor) - Main Library



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Words, My Music - Sunday, August 27

The Art, Music and Recreation Center is please to present My Words, My Music, a family concert presented by Composing Together in the Koret Auditorium at 2 PM, Sunday, August 27.  Composing Together is an organization that has been bringing applied learning music composition into Bay Area middle and high school classrooms for nearly a decade.

My Words, My Music is a fun concert for all ages with a string trio of professional composers accompanying readings of favorite new and old children’s books and original poetry by Composing Together’s Poet in Residence. The grand finale will be a words-and-music "composition” created with the audience members.

This program is supported by a Faculty Enrichment Grant from the San Francisco Community Center.  All programs at the San Francisco Public Library are free and open to the public.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Queen of the French New Wave

When we talk about one of the most enduring cinema movements, we think of the French New Wave. And when we think of the New Wave, we think of its five main directors – Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard, Rivette, and Rohmer – and of course the queen of the French New Wave, Jeanne Moreau, who passed away on July 31, 2017, at the age of 89.

Although she acted only in a handful of films directed by the New Wave Five, it was her film Les Amants by Louise Malle which critics credit with making the the French New Wave possible. Just as her role in Les Amants is a premonition of things to come with regards to the new sensibility about French women of the post-World War II, her performance in the Jules and Jim turned her into the iconic image of the wave.


In 2011, Académie Française introduced a new word into the French language, Attachiante, which refers to a woman one can't live with but also can't live without, as personified by the character Catherine, played by Jeanne Moreau, in François Truffaut's Jules et Jim. She carried the sensibility and essence of the wave beyond, to the roles in movies directed by other contemporary French directors, giving her audience countless memorable performances.


 
We have in our collection at San Francisco Public Library several books DVDs that deal with her life and performance. We recommends some of the following:

Books -

La Moreau : a biography of Jeanne Moreau / Marianne Gray
New York : Donald I. Fine Books
791.4302 M813g 1996

French cinema / by Roy Armes
New York : Oxford University Press, 1985
792.5944 Ar54f

The French cinema book / edited by Michael Temple and Michael Witt
London : BFI Pub.,
2004 791.4309 F887

French cinema since 1950 : personal histories / Emma Wilson
Lanham, Md. : Rowman and Littlefield, c1999
791.4309 W692f

Films –

The bride wore black / directed by Françoise Truffaut
DVD F BRID

La notte / directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
ITALIAN DVD F NOTT

Going places / directed by Bertrand Blier
FRENCH DVD F VALS

Jules et Jim / mise en scène, FrançoisTruffaut
FRENCH DVD F JULE

Les amants / directed by Louis Malle
FRENCH DVD F AMAN

The diary of a chambermaid / directed by Luis Bunuel
FRENCH DVD F JOUR 2001