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Library to Stage Sold-Out Benefit Concert

The Alameda Free Library is set to get quite a boost from mezzo-soprano and Island resident Frederica von Stade, cellist Emil Miland and members of the Young Musicians Program later today, Feb. 25.

At the historic Alameda Theatre, Von Stade will sing two arias and a variety of jazz and other songs with performers in the Berkeley-based Young Musicians Program. “We’ll do a little opera, some show tunes, music played by two young pianists – kind of a fun mixed bag of music,” said the opera star, speaking about tonight’s sold-out benefit show.

According to library supporters, the event came together by some careful planning and a bit of luck. “Those of us that helped organize the Live at the Library concert series – Ruth Belikove, Luzanne Engh and myself – had talked about asking Frederica, or Flicka, to perform in town for some time,” said Eileen Savel, a co-producer of the event.

The group envisioned hosting such an event at a venue that could accommodate more people than the performance space at the Main Library. A few months ago, Savel bumped into von Stade by chance at Daisy’s on Park Street and shared the idea with the popular performer, and shortly thereafter she met up with Kyle Conner at the Alameda Theatre and got the opportunity to ask him about staging the event there.

“This is really a dream come true for the Live at the Library group, as well as for Conner and other supporters,” Savel shared. “The concert should be extraordinary. Everyone involved is putting their heart and soul into making it a tremendous evening.”

In addition to von Stade, other performers are deeply connected to Alameda, as well. Miland, for instance, grew up in Alameda, where his late father taught music for many years, according to von Stade. He has performed with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1988.

The library very much needs community support at this time, says Jane Chisaki, director of the Alameda Free Library. State budget cuts have eliminated funding for libraries in the current fiscal year and should do so again in the coming year, she notes.

The literacy program, thus, has lost $20,000 in operating funds. And the budget for buying new books, magazines and other materials has been “hollowed out” by cuts of $130,000 over the past four years.

“The concert will help us bring back the materials budget, so we can purchase more materials for our community to read and enjoy,” said Chisaki. “We are really excited that our supporters are hosting a benefit concert of this magnitude. Libraries are always evolving to serve the communities that they are in, and that takes funding. We’ve heard that von Stade has promised some surprises for the event, and the buzz is just building.”

Some 700 tickets have been sold.

Janet Levaux