Conductor Bob Bernhardt to lead Santa Barbara Symphony at annual New Year’s Eve concert
Conductor Bob Bernhardt grew up with a love for all kinds of music.
“My mom listened to Bobby Darrin, Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra,” he told the News-Press.
Mr. Bernhardt, who grew up in Rochester, N.Y., said his mother, Freda Bernhardt, who recently died at the age of 103, also enjoyed listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Vic Malone, Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney.
But he said his mother and father, the late Myron “Mike” Bernhardt, weren’t certain about a band of Liverpool musicians their 12-year-old son saw on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“They were scratching their heads about The Beatles,” Mr. Bernhardt said.
Well, the Fab Four proved to be popular and timeless. And Mr. Bernhardt will conduct the Santa Barbara Symphony performing the three B’s — not Bach, Brahms and Beethoven but The Beatles, Broadway and Bond, James Bond — during the annual New Year’s Eve concert.
The concert, which includes champagne, party hats and noise makers, will take place from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday at The Granada in Santa Barbara.
Expect everything from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Yellow Submarine” during the Beatles medley.
Mr. Bernhardt said this is around his 10th year conducting the orchestra on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s a joy to be with the orchestra,” the guest conductor said. “They play beautifully. They’re sharp. Their attitude is fantastic.
“We don’t get much rehearsal time, but they’re spot on, ready to go,” Mr. Bernhardt said.
The New Year’s Eve program is both a party and concert, Mr. Bernhardt said. “We’re all getting ready for the new year.”
“It feels informal, which I love,” he said. “I get to have a relationship with the audience, which I love in my pops concerts. All of that, plus the great music we get to do, is a win-win.”
He said he included the Bond and Beatles medleys as “party music” for the New Year’s Eve concert.
“The Bond medley is a wonderful ride through those great songs that became hits,” Mr. Bernhardt said.
Jeff Tyzik arranged the medley, which includes “Nobody Does It Better,” which Carly Simon sang in “The Spy Who Loved Me”; “For Your Eyes Only,” which Sheena Easton sang in the movie of the same name; “Live and Let Die,” which Paul McCartney performed in the film of the same name; and the theme to “Thunderball,” sung by Tom Jones.
Of course, the orchestra will play the iconic James Bond theme, which composer Monty Norman created with the sound of an electric guitar.
And the medley includes “The Look of Love,” which was sung in a 1967 spoof of James Bond movies: “Casino Royale,” which starred David Niven and an all-star cast that included Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Welles. Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote”The Look of Love” for that film, and it was sung by Dusty Springfield.
Saturday’s concert also will feature Broadway hits, which soprano Mela Saranjane Dailey will sing with the symphony. They include songs from musicals such as “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
The success of orchestral pops concerts involves using the right arranger, Mr. Bernhardt said. “It’s important to find and use and play quality arrangements that use the orchestra. I think what’s happened in the last 20 years is that the world of the symphony has opened up to virtually every genre of music.”
Mr. Bernhardt noted rapper Common, rock band Boyz II Men and other popular singers perform with symphonies. So have rock bands such as the Moody Blues, which was among the first to realize that an orchestra and rock musicians could go together.
Mr. Bernhardt noted Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979), the renowned conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, would start his concerts with light classical music, then add popular music. “The last part of his concerts would be Broadway and film music.
“His idea of a pops concert was to give you a hundred-year view of music with the orchestra,” Mr. Bernhardt said. “In the hands of great arrangers, we can bring very satisfying and very nostalgic, emotional rides for an audience.”
Mr. Bernhardt said Saturday’s concert will feature music from the 1940s to essentially today.
The conductor — whose New Year’s resolution is “to continue to have fun in my work and to continue to realize how lucky I am to do what I do” — said the evening will end with the audience singing “Auld Lang Syne” with Ms. Dailey and the symphony. The arrangement is from “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the classic starring Jimmy Stewart.
“This one uses the entire orchestra,” Mr. Bernhardt said. “It’s big and brassy, a really big finish.”