Fringe Concerts a Marked Success

“They start at the morning, then go on through noon, and end at night,” a San Francisco Early Music Society volunteer usher recounted of this year’s devoted Fringe concert audience. “Really they do! They’re exhausted!”

Concert attendees flocked to the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition’s 60 Fringe events in droves—a welcomed development for SFEMS, whose latter-day struggle with festival organization and depleted funding motivated the organization’s turn toward community-based programming. Though attendance statistics have yet to be tabulated while the festival continues, Harvey Malloy, SFEMS Executive Director, claimed that most Fringe concerts had been at almost full capacity: “They have been extremely well-received…they’ve been filling the house every night.”

“The concept of the festival as we conceived it,” Malloy explained, “[encouraged] a lot of equal participation from the community.” While SFEMS served as this year’s clearinghouse for festival promotion, most Fringe concerts were self-produced. Artists provided their own box office, ticket pricing, program books, and venue space.

Despite the collaboration with partner arts ensembles formed the cornerstone for Fringe concert success, Malloy avoided comment on the scope and strategy of future festivals. “I think it’s premature to say at the moment. Every festival we have brings early music up;” he explained, “[but] there will be a festival in 2012.”

Ralph Berberch, a SFEMS member and long-time patron of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, circled the festival’s exhibition room. Dazed from his two-week post as an on-call volunteer, one of the 80 members whose responsibilities ran the gamut from feeding musicians to moving instruments, Berberch regrets he could not attend most of the festival’s Fringe events. Of the sole festival event he had attended, last week’s Galax Quartet concert Bach’s Art of Fugue, Berberch unfalteringly quipped, “it’s great to hear such devoted musicians playing [this] incredible music.” “I’ll make it up!” Berberch promised as he continued his on-call duties—winking knowingly.

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