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The Derriere Guard

The Derriere Guard
Is there still such a thing as the avant-garde? In a world in which musical dissonance is de rigueur, conceptual art is commonplace, and free-verse poetry is painfully prosaic, classical composer Stefania de Kenessey thinks not. In response to all those unlistenable symphonies, unreadable poems, and incomprehensible art in 1997, de Kenessey (pictured) founded the Derriere Guard, a group of New York-based artists, poets, and composers whose work revives the long-lost 3 “R”s of the arts: realism, rhyme, and representation. But despite what its whimsical name suggests, the intent of the Derriere Guard is not about taking one giant artistic step backward so much as trying to find a way to make classicism cutting edge.

After successful — and controversial — festivals in New York and Chicago, the Derriere Guard wends its way to the West Coast with a series of exhibits, readings, and concerts by California artists at San Francisco SOMARTS Gallery. A highlight of the festival is the Nov. 13 opening-night concert featuring new works by Bay Area composers, as well as de Kenessey herself. Titled “The Drama of Song,” the concert includes songs by San Francisco Opera's composer-in-residence, Jake Heggie, performed by soprano Kristin Clayton; excerpts from composer Alva Henderson and poet Dana Gioia's opera-in-progress, Nosferatu, sung by Susan Gundunas and Peter Van Derick; Gordon Getty's settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, interpreted by soprano Lisa Delan; and songs by Stefania de Kenessey, performed by Metropolitan Opera soloist Heidi Skok.

For those sick of contemporary classical music concerts that lack consonance, check out what the Derriere Guard delivers, and you may just find yourself humming — yes, actually humming — a different tune. Wouldn't that be a kick in the rear?

The third Derriere Guard Festival will be presented Nov. 13-21 at SOMARTS Gallery, 934 Brannan (at Eighth Street), S.F. Call 863-1414 for more information on performances and ticket prices.

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