San Francisco's Home for Great Concerts since 1970

Ensemble for These Times: Alchemy – Friday, October 15 at 8 pm


Ensemble for These Times

Nanette McGuinness, soprano; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano
with special guest Chelsea Hollow, coloratura soprano

Pre-concert composer talk at 7:30 p.m.

Brennan Stokes The Unseen World Premiere
Mary Bianco new work for solo cello World Premiere
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Lamentations: Black/Folk Song Suite and Toccata
Darian Donovan Thomas Etudinal Caprice
Marcus Norris Lake Turkana
Gabriela Ortiz Suy-muy-key
Pablo Ortiz Piglia
Julia Perry How Beautiful Are the Feet
George Walker Prelude and Caprice

Award-winning contemporary music group Ensemble for These Times opens its fourteenth season with Alchemy, a program focusing on identity and transformation. Concert highlights will be two commissions, The Unseen, a new song cycle dealing with issues of these times—identity, isolation, loss, and despair—by emerging queer Bay Area composer Brennan Stokes (b. 1990) to poetry by Sara Teasdale, and a new solo cello piece by California composer Mary Bianco (b. 1939), inspired by Bach, as well as Lamentations: Black/Folk Song Suite, by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932–2004), also for solo cello. The remaining musical transformations on the program all feature underrepresented voices: Lisa Bielawa (b. 1968), Marcus Norris (b. 1991), Gabriela Ortiz (b. 1964), Pablo Ortiz (b. 1956), Julia Perry (1924–1979), Darian Donovan-Thomas, and George Walker (1922–2018).

Originally formed after co-founders Nanette McGuinness and David Garner met at Skywalker Studios, E4TT focuses on 20th and 21st century music that is relevant, engaging, original, and compelling, music that resonates today and will speak to tomorrow. E4TT strongly believes in the power of artistic beauty, intelligence, wit, lyricism, and irony to create a deep understanding of our times and the human condition.

“Imaginatively conceived and curated… the listener is always excitedly anticipating the next part of the programme.” Textura

“The Ensemble’s performance is both poised and haunting, and is raised to a rarefied realm by lustrous and soaring, songful recitatives executed by the inimitable Nanette McGuinness…” The Whole Note

Alchemy is supported by a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, made possible through the Musical Grant Program, which is administered by InterMusic SF, and supported by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and San Francisco Grants for the Arts and sponsored, in part, by a grant from The Ross McKee Foundation.

Old First Concerts has volunteer opportunities available!

Our concerts rely on the generosity of volunteers to assist with simple tasks like:


distributing programs

box office

set-up and clean-up

Scheduling is flexible — you choose when to work! We especially need helping hands for our Friday and Saturday night performances.

An excellent opportunity for students, seniors, or anyone who possesses a love for music!

If you’d like to consider volunteering with Old First Concerts, please contact for more information.