Cornelius Cardew Choir

2009: see our flyer for upcoming performances

Wednesday 10 Sept 08 at Lisser Hall at Mills College, Oakland, CA as part of Toyoji's Song, a benefit for the Deep Listening Institute. 7:30 pm See for more details.

Wednesday 17 Sept 08 at Meridian Gallery, 535 Powell St., San Francisco, CA for Meridian Music: Composers in Performance presents: Now is the Time! Political Performance Art for the exhibit Art of Democracy: War and Empire. Musical works by Pauline Oliveros, Nancy Beckman, Joseph Zitt, Bob Marsh, and Tom Bickley. $10 general, $5 students/seniors (no one turned away for lack of funds)
Call (415) 398-7229 for more information. Download the flyer here.

Some past events:

21 June 2008 5-9 pm Garden of Memory at the Chapel of the Chimes, Oakland, CA

Program notes for our performance at The Garden of Memory:

I See Listening as a Creative House (2008) by Eric Glick Riemann –This piece is a tribute to the Scratch Orchestra's ideals. If you don't know what the Scratch Orchestra was, think a late 1960's era amateur and professional music group aimed at exploring sound and redefining music - in the midst of a world in political and social uproar. The text is a quote from  Judith Euren, one of the  participants in the Scratch Orchestra, during its politically charged implosion in 1974.  A brick is worth a thousand words...

This is the text by Judith Euren (1974):

All this does not mean that I am opposed to these current beliefs and interests. Things are not so simple. We must structure ourselves to accommodate the complexities of what we are. In order that decisions can be representative of us all I suggest that we might have a trial meeting in which we order our discussion by every person having an equal opportunity to speak in turn. This disciplined structure would slow down our present proceedings enough to enable the valuable function of listening to take place. We would be receptive to the present moment and a collective inspiration might then emerge of its own accord… We see listening as a creative force.

Phoneme Garden (2008) by Joseph Zitt – Ever-changing groups of voices and of instruments combine, sound, and disperse, working with the syllables of Toyoji's name, celebrating the art of memory. Soloists each move once among the constellations once. Each chord, each combination is a new, beautiful surprise.

Phoneme Forest (1997) by Joseph Zitt – a memorial piece in which the name of the person to be honored (sounds and letters) are the source material for vocal improvisation according to specific processes. Tonight we honor Cornelius Cardew, Theo, Lee Nagrin and Margaret Greenlief.

The Heart Chant (2001) by Pauline Oliveros - gathering in a circle, connecting hands and hearts, we sing length-of-breath tones on the syllable "ah," each person on a pitch of her or his choice. The circle expands, contracts, expands as we sing for healing for all of the world, including ourselves.


10 September 2008 8 pm Mills College, Oakland, CA - a benefit for the Deep Listening Institute and the family of Toyoji Tomita

17 September 200 7:30 pm Meridian Gallery, San Francisco, CA - Meridian Music: a performance for the exhibit Art and Democracy.

For more information, contact director Tom Bickley: 510 204 0607 or

About the performers

  • The Cardew Choir is a large vocal performance ensemble based in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was begun by Kattt Sammon, Bob Marsh and Tom Bickley. After initial discussions, the first organizing meeting was held in Berkeley on 1 May 2001.

    The choir is an exciting intersection of community and experimental music brought together by singing. There are a number of us in the group with a lot of experience singing (many professionally, others quite good amateurs), and some members who have thought about singing and are using this to turn that thought into sonic action. There's a very welcoming feel to the group and we're all learning good things from each other. People feel free to make suggestions about ways of performing a given piece, ask for help, try an approach to singing to see it that approach works, etc. It's a diva-free zone (divo-free too).

    Some Past Performances

    May 9 at 7:30 PM,
    the Cornelius Cardew Choir celebrates May Day
    at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut Street, Berkeley, in Live Oak Park
    as part of Live Oak Concerts, Producer Marvin Sanders
    Admission is $10, BACA members $9, students & seniors $8.


    The program includes
    Paragraph VI of The Great Learning by Cornelius Cardew,
    Counting II by Margot Bevington (world premier),
    Revolving Door by Tom Duff (world premier),
    Via Piazza by Viv Corringham

    Cornelius Cardew:
    Viv Corringham:
    Tom Duff:
    Margot Bevington:
    Berkeley Art Center:

    Saturday 6 March 2004 at the CORNELIUS CARDEW CHOIR Workshop Meridian Gallery, San Francisco!

    The Cardew Choir welcomes all interested parties to participate in a daylong workshop from 11am-5pm Saturday, March 6 at Meridian Gallery, 545 Sutter St., San Francisco (BART/MUNI to Powell Street Station or park at Stockton/Sutter Garage). By "all interested parties", we mean anyone who wants to sing/perform, has a score they'd like considered by us for performance, and/or wants to observe our process. We'll be discovering new strategies of improvising, creating and considering new pieces, and working on performances for this spring and the Chapel of the Chimes in June. Enthusiasm necessary; prior experience not required. It's FREE!

    Plans for the day include coffee/tea/snacks in the morning and a break for lunch (perhaps a potluck?) in the afternoon.

    16 November 2003
    7:30 pm
    The Third Anniversary Concert by the Cardew Choir
    Live Oak Concert Series at the
    Berkeley Art Center
    1275 Walnut St.
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    $10 gen., $9 students and seniors, $8 BACA members

    That Alphabet Thing by Joe Zitt
    Phoneme Forest (for Cornelius Cardew) by Joe Zitt
    The Tuning Meditation by Pauline Oliveros
    Naufractus* by Bob Marsh
    The Black Tongue (an invocation of Kali)* by Scot Gresham-Lancaster

    (* indicates Berkeley premiere)

    Help spread the word! Click here to view/download the 81/2 by 11 pdf of the poster for the concert.

    26 October 2003
    7:30 pm
    on the S.I.M.M. Series
    at the Musicians Union Hall
    116 9th St.(btwn Mission & Howard) San Francisco
    (1.5 blocks from Civic Center Bart Station)
    Donation $10 general
    $8 student/senior $5 artist (no one turned away for smaller donation)

    World premieres by Bob Marsh and Scot Gresham-Lancaster, maybe even more!

    30 October 2003
    7:30 pm
    at Borders Books & Music
    400 Post Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (nr Powell Street BART Station)
    Free and open to the public
    The Cardew Choir performs scores from Joseph Zitt's book Surprise Me With Beauty at this event celebrating that publication. Audience participation strongly encouraged!

    9 November 2003
    10 am
    The Experimental Music and Jazz Mass
    at All Souls Episcopal Church
    2200 Spruce (at Cedar)
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    Free and open to the public
    Members of the Cardew Choir participate in singing Pauline Oliveros' Tuning Meditation along with the All Souls Parish Choir. Other music provided by Scot Gresham-Lancaster, Tom Bickley, John Schott, Paul Hanson, Chess Smith, and John Reager. This event is part of All Souls' Year of the Arts celebration.

    8 pm
    17 May 2003
    at SF Alt Festival at
    the Musicians Union Hall
    Premiering the new work Embedded by Viv Corringham which is being composed for the choir as you are reading this line of text.
    For details on ticket prices, other performers that night, etc. please see the website for SF Alt at

    8 pm
    20 November 2002
    at Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Bl, Oakland, CA
    open to the public, free of charge
    Premiering From the Desert to the Sea by Jonathan Segel (as part of a concert of his compositions).

    7:30 pm
    24 November 2002
    at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut, Berkeley, CA
    open to the the public, $10 general admission, available at the door
    The choir performs:
    The Great Learning, Paragraph 6 (Bay Area Premiere) by Cornelius Cardew
    Rokkaku (World Premiere) by Tom Duff
    From the Desert to the Sea by Jonathan Segel
    Three Birthday Hommages (World Premiere) by Katherine Setar

    Cardew Choir performs as part of the St. Gregory of Nyssa Spring Music Festival
    Sunday 26 May 2002 4 pm
    St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church
    500 De Haro at Mariposa
    San Francisco, CA
    ticket prices: general admission $10 - $15 sliding scale

    The choir will present the first public performance of Bay Area composer/performer Tom Bickley's Tuning Fork Mosquitos. The piece is an hommage to the mosquitos of Rose Mountain, New Mexico, site of the first Deep Listening Retreats. It is a work of choral theater. The second, somewhat similarly theatrical work is Cornelius Cardew's Great Learning, Paragraph 7 which the choir brought to the Bay Area in November 2001.

    Cardew Choir performs as part of the three-day festival Sounding the Margins: a retrospective of the works of Pauline Oliveros on her 70th Birthday
    Saturday 1 June 2002 evening concert
    Lorraine Hansberry Theater
    620 Sutter St. at Mason
    San Francisco, CA
    tickets $15/$10 (students/seniors); Festival passes $30/$25 (students/seniors)

    The choir will perform esteemed American experimentalist Pauline Oliveros' choral work Wind Horse. This work evokes many aspects of wind and calls upon the performers to produce sung notes, non-pitched sounds, tell stories, and most importantly of all, listen and respond to each other and the entire context.

  • Cardew Choir performs Joe Zitt1s Surprise Me With Beauty: the Music of Human Systems
    Saturday 2 February 2002 8 pm
    Tuva Space, 3192 Adeline, Berkeley, CA (near Ashby BART)
    General admission $10 (students/seniors/starving artists $8)

    Joe Zitt's text scores combine clarity of direction, improvisatory elements, and engagingly collaborative processes of ensemble sounding. His work stands in the tradition of experimental scores by the British composer Cornelius Cardew for whom the choir is named. Zitt's poetic work is influenced by John Cage, Jackson MacLow, and other text-sound poets. His book-length poem Shekinah was published by Metatron Press. His participation with the choir is part of his national tour for the release of his new book Surprise Me With Beauty: the Music of Human Systems.

  • Sunday 11 November 2001 at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., Berkeley, CA. 7:30 pm Admission: $10 general / $8 students and seniors. This performance is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Art Center and the ACME Observatory Contemporary Music Series.

    The Great Learning, Paragraph 7 by Cornelius Cardew is his setting of an English translation of a classic text by Confucius. It is a quiet, meditative work which takes about an hour to perform, and is scored using an elegant set of textual instructions. Performers make numerous decisions that affect the sound of the piece and their involvement provides a stream of energy throughout the work.

    Beginning the program will be the premier of Bay Area composer Kathy Kennedy's most recent Sonic Choreographies score. Sonic Choreographies are the general name for the musical works that Kennedy has been composing for specific spaces for over a decade. They  are musical compositions which use live performers moving in or around a specific site. They have been performed at the International Voice Festival in Montreal in 1994, the inauguration of the Vancouver New Public Library in 1996 and the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Series in 1999.

    Composer bios:

    Cornelius Cardew was born May 7, 1936, in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England; and killed in a hit and run automobile accident in London, December 13, 1981. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London as well as other schools. With Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton he formed an improvisational ensemble The Scratch Orchestra, which premiered the entire cycle The Great Learning. He was active in the seminal chamber ensemble AMM with Eddie Prevost, Keith Rowe, John Tilbury and Christopher Hobbs. Cardew's concern for human rights and economic justice led him into Marxist politics and renunciation of his experimental music. He pursued popular styles of music-making. At the very end of his life (and after Mao Tse-Tung's death), he appeared to be open to reclaiming aspects of his earlier broad approach to sonic art.

    Kathy Kennedy is a sound artist with a background in classical singing. She holds a Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Western Ontario as well as a Bachelors degree in music and another in visual art. Her practise generally involves the voice and issues of interface with technology, often using telephony or radio.  She is also involved in community art and is a founder  of the digital media resource center for women in Canada, Studio XX, as well as the innovative choral groups for women Choeur Maha and Esther. Her large scale sonic installation/performances for up to 100 singers and radio, called "sonic choreographies," have been performed internationally, including the Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Series.



  • DAT and video recordings of the Cardew Choir in rehearsal are available for research purposes. To arrange access to these recordings, please contact Tom Bickley.