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Summer Solstice in the Bay Area means the Garden of Memory

The San Francisco Bay Area  has a unique way of celebrating the first day of summer.  Our most popular new music event, the Garden of Memory, comes around every summer solstice, and reliably attracts more than 1,000 visitors while creating a parking nightmare for miles in every direction.  In 2007 I was forced, like many attendees, to park in the nearby cemetery and accidentally backed over the curb.  I left my car there and hurried away apologizing profusely for actually driving over somebody’s grave.

Every year over 30 composers, improvisers, and sound-artists take over the columbarium at the Chapel of the Chimes, located at 4499 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. The concert takes place on the summer solstice regardless of the day it falls on, and this year it’s Sunday, June 21st, starting at 5:00 p.m. and continuing until 9:00 p.m. or sundown, whichever comes first.

The first time I attended the Garden of Memory concert was also the first year I participated, though I wasn’t on the list of lucky featured performers.  In 2003 my friend Christi Denton was assigned a space in the columbarium, as all participating artists are, for her multi-speaker sound installation.  Recordings of me playing flute multiphonics, and giving a tarot card reading, were among those she looped for the installation, whose speakers hung above a collection of ferns in one of the columbarium spaces, like the fruit of a robot tree, filling the room with the disembodied voices and music of women.

Few new music events in this or any city are as family-friendly, visually stunning and sonically varied.  If you plan to spend your Sunday evening in the Garden of Memory, public transit is recommended.  Admission is $15.00 general, $10.00 for students and seniors, and $5.00 for kids under 12 (kids under 5 are free). Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from


Comment from Sparky P.
Time: June 17, 2009, 6:20 pm

But do beware, anyone fancying public transit to get to the gig, as the buses to that area stop running after 8:00 PM.

Comment from zeno
Time: June 18, 2009, 11:02 am

Do you know whether there are taxis available in the area to get one to Rockridge (I imagine the nearest Bart station)?

Comment from Sparky P.
Time: June 18, 2009, 11:47 am

Taxis, yes, there usually are a few sitting and waiting at both the Rockridge and MacArthur stations. The possible trouble is that you may have to call for one when going back.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: June 18, 2009, 11:55 am

Be sure to check out the very good Flickr pool of images from past years:

Comment from Sarah Cahill
Time: June 18, 2009, 7:27 pm

Beautiful post, Polly! It’s wonderful that the Bay Area is being well represented now on Sequenza 21.
There will be parking at Mountain View cemetery, as there has been for the past few years. They’re keeping the gates open for us until 9:30.
See you there!