Best Bets: Megan Lowe, Scottish Games, Linda Tillery

Pianists Sarah Cahill and Regina Myers will team up to perform the U.S. premiere of Mamoru Fujieda’s “Sprites in the Large Camphor Tree” and several other pieces at the annual Flower Piano festival in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. (Courtesy Travis Lange)

Freebie of the week: Megan Lowe is a talented dancer, choreographer, musician, singer-songwriter, teacher and filmmaker whose dance works have been performed across the Bay Area, place such as the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and the de Young Museum and the annual Trolley Car Dances in San Francisco.

She is also an artist with a lot on her mind. One of her main goals is to present dance and other works that reflect the lives of people of color and with mixed-raced backgrounds. It’s not surprising, given her Irish and Chinese heritage.

Melissa Lewis Wong, Malia Hatico-Byrne, Megan Lowe and Clarissa Dyas perform in “Gathering Pieces of Peace,” which will be presented this weekend and next at ODC Dance Theater (Courtesy RJ Muna/Megan Lowe Dances)

“Mixed-race individuals make up less than 5 percent of the S.F. population and are severely underrepresented in the arts,” she says.

Lowe, collaborators and members of her company Megan Lowe Dances are “building a movement of folks with a rare and powerful understanding of how drastically different racial and cultural backgrounds can come closer together — dreaming up possibilities for our futures and the futures of our diverse communities.”

The latest chapter in that campaign is “Gathering Pieces of Peace,” an evening-length dance work premiering this weekend and next in San Francisco. Combining music, text and dance, “Pieces” aims to relate stories of “fractured selves and longings to belong.” The cast of dancers — including Lowe, Clarissa Rivera Dyas, Malia Hatico-Byrne and Melissa Lewis Wong — and musicians are all mixed-rated artists with Asian American/Pacific Islander heritage.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Sept. 8-9 at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted. More information is at or

The acclaimed Bay Area Celtic rock band Tempest will perform at the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games this weekend. (Courtesy Dave LePori/Tempest)

Scottish Games return: We believe there are two kinds of people in the world: those who worship the bagpipe as the unrivaled apex in human musical evolution, and those who have a screw loose.

OK, that’s putting it rather strongly, but we bagpipe lovers are not a particularly nuanced lot. Many of us will joyfully head to the Alameda County Fairgrounds this weekend as the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games returns for its 157th year.

Of course, you don’t have to love bagpipe music — in all its sublime, honking glory — to have a blast at the Scottish Games, one of the Bay Area’s best and most popular festivals. You can take in such feats of strength as the stone, caber, sheaf and Scottish hammer tossing contests, or watch (or take part in) the Kilted Mile race.

There are also a variety of Scottish and Celtic cultural exhibits and family heritage displays, not to mention Highland and Scottish Country dancing, all manner of Scottish and Celtic culinary offerings and, of course, whisky tastings. As for the music, there will be plenty of bagpipe bands, not to mention fiddlers, harpists, Scottish folk singers, pipe and military bands, drummers, and a performance by Tempest, the terrific Bay Area Celtic rock band.

The fun, food, and music run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton. Admission is $35 for a single day and $60 for a two-day pass, with youth and senior discounts available; Military members and kids 11 and under get in free. Go to

Bay Area singer-songwriter, musician and activist Linda Tillery celebrates her 75th birthday on Saturday with a concert at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. (Courtesy Linda Tillery)

Celebrating Linda Tillery: Linda Tillery is a Bay Area musical treasure. The singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, bandleader and producer has lent her immense talent to a variety of blues, jazz and American roots music ventures, bringing an equal measure of authenticity and passion to each performance and recording.

She got her start as a member of the psychedelic rock band The Loading Zone. Her second album, a self-titled release, came out in 1977 on Olivia Records, a women-run label that emerged at a time when women occupied few positions of leadership in the recording business. She was heralded as a pioneer in a genre that became known as Women’s Music.

Tillery has collaborated with such luminaries as Barbara Higbie and Holly Near and sung with A-listers ranging from Carlos Santana to Huey Lewis and the News to Boz Scaggs to Bobby McFerrin and the Turtle Island String Quartet. And she won a Grammy in 1997 for, of all things, a children’s album.

This legendary member of the Bay Area music scene turns 75 on Saturday, and she’ll greet the milestone on stage in a celebratory concert at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage. She will be performing with The Freedom Band in a program titled Songs of Protest and Resistance (with all tunes penned by Black songwriters) and also will perform a set with the Chocolate Psychedelic Band. It’s sure to be a rousing show full of love for a Bay Area original.

General seating tickets are sold out but standing room only tickets are still available ($38). And the show will also be available for live streaming ($20). Go to

Callie Floor has done the costume design, and Peter Crompton the scenic and projection design for Solo Opera’s production of “The Three Feathers,” based on a tale by the Brothers Grimm. (Courtesy Solo Opera)

Feathers in their cap: September is when the big guns on the Bay Area classical music scene roll out their grand season openers, but a small and plucky opera company based in the East Bay deserves attention for mounting its most ambitious production yet.

Solo Opera, founded in 2000 with some 18 operas already to its credit, will present the 2013 opera “The Three Feathers,” by composer Lori Laitman and librettist Dana Gioia (former California poet laureate) for the company’s first ever performances in the Hofmann Theatre at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek next weekend.

Based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the story takes a shy princess named Dora to an underworld ruled by a giant frog, where she screws up her courage and faces down some challenges that ultimately result in her saving her father’s kingdom from her scheming sisters.

Solo Opera has scored some well-known Bay Area stars for the production – soprano Shawnette Sulker as Princess Dora, baritone Eugene Brancoveanu as the King, and bass Kirk Eichelberger as the Frog King. Members of the renowned San Francisco Girls Chorus perform as a children’s chorus of rats, frogs, and bats, and an eight-member adult chorus also fills in. Conductor Alexander Katsman leads the 20-piece orchestra, and Gioia, also the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, will give a 30-minute lecture an hour before the performances at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 and 2 p.m. Sept. 10 in the 785-seat Hofmann Theatre.

You can get tickets, $25-$55, at and (925) 943-7469 and find more information at

Pianists Sarah Cahill and Regina Myers will team up to perform the U.S. premiere of Mamoru Fujieda’s “Sprites in the Large Camphor Tree” and several other pieces at the annual Flower Piano festival in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. (Courtesy Travis Lange)

Four hands on the ivories: The annual Flower Piano happening in the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is a happy extravaganza that invites pianists, accomplished or rank amateur, to plunk themselves down at any of the dozen pianos scattered throughout the garden’s 55-acre expanse. But professionals are also engaged to entertain at various points during the festival, which opens with a special event on the night of Sept. 7 and runs through Sept. 12.

One definite highlight will be Bay Area radio host and nationally renowned pianist Sarah Cahill’s 1 p.m. Sept. 9 collaboration with fellow keyboardist Regina Myers on the U.S. premiere of a piece by Japanese composer Mamoru Fujieda, “Sprites in the Large Camphor Tree.” The duo will perform several other pieces, including works by Meredith Monk and Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Admission to the festival is free after the $10 general admission to the Botanical Garden. Advance tickets are recommended. For more information and a calendar of all the festival events and locations, go to

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *