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Jan. 6 Pianist Sarah Cahill Presented by Old First Concerts

Sarah Cahill Gives World Premieres by Frederic Rzewski, Robert Pollock, Arlene Sierra, and Carolyn Yarnell in Performance Presented by Old First Concerts

Photo of Sarah Cahill by Kristen Wrzesniewski available in high-resolution at

Friday, January 6, 2023 at 8pm Old First Church | 1751 Sacramento Street | San Francisco, CA General Admission In-Person Tickets: $25 Senior (65+): $20 Full-time student with ID: $5 Livestream Suggested Donation: $20

More information:

“[Sarah Cahill is] an eloquent new-music pianist” – The Wall Street Journal

Sarah Cahill:

San Francisco, CA – On Friday, January 6, 2023 at 8pm, Sarah Cahill, described as “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times, starts the new year with a performance presented by Old First Concerts. For her first concert of 2023, Cahill will give the world premieres of works by four composers: Humanitas by Frederic Rzewski, selections from Enneagram by Robert Pollock, Birds and Insects Book 3 by Arlene Sierra, and Nocturne by Carolyn Yarnell. Also on the program are Rebecca Saunders’ Shadow and Walk in Beauty by Peter Garland. The concert will be held at Old First Church (1751 Sacramento Street) and general admission is $25. The concert will also be available to watch online as a livestream with a suggested donation of $20.

Recognizing the significance of the performance date, Cahill shares these thoughts about the thematic focus of the music on the concert program:

“It’s an honor to perform the first recital of the new year in Old First Concerts’ excellent series. When they suggested January 6th, it didn’t register at first that this would be the second anniversary of the horrific attack on [the U.S.] Capitol. I then thought about creating a concert program which would somehow address that awful day. But the music on this program does in fact reflect essential values for both the new year and for January 6th in particular: compassion, social justice, boldness in the face of adversity, historical awareness, and basic human decency. It is especially wonderful to introduce four premieres on this program.”

Humanitas was one of the last pieces Rzewski wrote before his death in 2021. Cahill commissioned the work from him in honor of Terry Riley's 85th birthday. Rzewski and Riley were friends and had a lot of respect for each other, musically and personally. In Humanitas, the pianist speaks texts from Plautus, Catullus, Clausewitz, and Oscar Wilde.

“The nine pieces that make up my piece, Enneagram, make passing references to the psychological portraits that many recent students of the enneagram associate with each of the nine points on the circle,” Robert Pollock writes. “The form of the piece reflects the enneagram process. Each of the pieces contain material from other connected pieces. Recurrent musical themes pertain almost in a juxtaposed manner.”

Birds and Insects is an ongoing project of piano works by London-based, American composer, Arlene Sierra. She explains: “Each piece features distinct characteristics to fit its title: spelling the name in pitches, employing a transcription of an animal’s song from nature, recalling its physical movement in various ways, or developing ideas drawn from an animal’s cultural symbolism.” Cahill premiered two pieces from Book 3 for a performance at the Barbican Conservatory in March 2022. She is preparing to record all three books of Sierra’s Birds and Insects for the Bridge label in 2023.

Composer, photographer, painter, and poet Carolyn Yarnell is known for works that unite visual elements with musical portrayals of landscape and light. A native of California, Yarnell often pays homage to the natural landscapes of the state. Beyond finding inspiration in the natural world, Yarnell also looks to science and the emotional vastness of the human experience. Yarnell’s Nocturne dates from the mid-1980s when she was also a pianist and immersing herself in Chopin’s Nocturnes.

Rebecca Saunders says of her work Shadow: “This solo explores the play of shadow, vertical harmonic clouds of differing density and complexity. Clouds of colour are projected into the acoustic resonance, or shadow, of the preceding gesture.”

Of the conceptual foundation behind Walk in Beauty, Peter Garland says, “The conceptual basis of ‘Walk in Beauty’ is found in the all-night peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church and the curing ceremonies of the Navajo.”

About Sarah Cahill: Sarah Cahill, hailed as “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times, has commissioned and premiered over seventy compositions for solo piano. Composers who have dedicated works to Cahill include John Adams, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Pauline Oliveros, Julia Wolfe, Roscoe Mitchell, Annea Lockwood, and Ingram Marshall. Keyboard Magazine writes, “Through her inspired interpretation of works across the 20th and 21st centuries, Cahill has been instrumental in bringing to life the music of many of our greatest living composers.” She was named a 2018 Champion of New Music, awarded by the American Composers Forum (ACF).

Cahill enjoys working closely with composers, musicologists, and scholars to prepare scores for each performance. She researched and recorded music by prominent early 20th- century American modernists Henry Cowell and Ruth Crawford and commissioned a number of new pieces in tribute to their enduring influence. Cahill has worked closely with composer Terry Riley since 1997, and for his 80th birthday, she commissioned nine new works for solo piano in his honor and performed them with several of Riley’s own compositions at venues across the country. Cahill also had the opportunity to work closely with Lou Harrison and has championed many of his works for piano.

Cahill’s latest project is The Future is Female, an investigation and reframing of the piano literature featuring more than seventy compositions by women around the globe, from the Baroque to the present day. Recent and upcoming performances of The Future is Female include concerts presented by The Barbican, Carolina Performing Arts, Carlsbad Music Festival, Detroit Institute of Arts, University of Iowa, Bowling Green New Music Festival, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, North Dakota Museum of Art, Mayville State University, the EXTENSITY Concert Series’ Women Now Festival in New York, and the Newport Classical Festival.

Cahill has performed classical and contemporary chamber music with artists and ensembles such as Jessica Lang Dance; pianists Joseph Kubera, Adam Tendler, and Regina Myers; violinist Stuart Canin; the Alexander String Quartet; New Century Chamber Orchestra; Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and many more. She also performs as a duo with violinist Kate Stenberg.

Sarah Cahill’s discography includes more than twenty albums on the New Albion, CRI, New World, Tzadik, Albany, Innova, Cold Blue, Other Minds, Irritable Hedgehog, and Pinna labels. Cahill's latest album, The Future is Female, Vol. 2, The Dance, was released in October 2022 on First Hand Records. on First Hand Records. The Future is Female is a three-volume series, which celebrates and highlights women composers from the 17th century to the present day. These albums encompass 30 compositions by women from around the globe and include many new commissioned works and world premiere recordings.

Cahill’s radio show, Revolutions Per Minute, can be heard every Sunday evening from 6 to 8pm on KALW, 91.7 FM in San Francisco. She is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory and is a regular pre-concert speaker with the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

For more information, visit

About Old First Concerts: Since its founding in 1970, Old First Concerts has grown to be an important part of the San Francisco cultural landscape.

In a beautiful historic space with excellent acoustics, Old First Concerts presents rich and diverse high-quality concert experiences of classical music, jazz and world music. We feature eclectic and adventurous programming including works and performances by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community alongside more established classical music repertoire. Our audiences discover a like-minded community of music lovers eager to explore the energy and excitement of the new music and performers of today, re-engage with old favorites, and help build the musical culture in San Francisco by supporting local musicians. Many of our concerts include our Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano, a favorite of local pianists. The piano is meticulously maintained by David Love (

All concerts are held at the Old First Church, home to an affirming and welcoming congregation with a long history of social activism, located on the corner of Sacramento Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Please note that Old First Concerts is a completely separate 501(c)3 organization with no religious affiliation and we strive to feature music that is welcoming and inclusive to all people regardless of their race, culture, gender identity, sexuality, age or any other identifying characteristic.

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