Santa Barbara Revels looks forward to presenting early California music at its first in-person concert in two years
Luis Moreno calls early Californian music “the Top 40 of the 1830s.”
There’s no doubt the music from the Rancho period has struck a chord with the guitarist and singer. The 1964 graduate of Loyola High School in Los Angeles said he learned the classics from mentors now in heaven and played the hits from long ago at the Fiesta.
“I’ve played this music for seventh-generation Santa Barbarans. When they hear that music, tears come to their eyes,” Mr. Moreno told the News-Press.
Mr. Moreno will share his knowledge of the music when Santa Barbara Revels performs its first in-person concert since the pandemic started.
Actually, it’s the Revels’ first in-person production since December 2019. The vocal ensemble, known for its performers of all ages, costumes and extensive audience participation, will present early Californian music at its Equinox Concert on Tuesday. The program will be outdoor at Sola Patio at the University Club, 1332 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, and will begin at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by Mr. Moreno’s talk at 6:30.
The concert will be at 7, with Mr. Moreno soloing on some songs. For other songs, the performers are Mr. Moreno, a retired Santa Barbara City College theater instructor; Kristine Pacheco-Bernt on violin; Kathryn Mendenhall on cello; Rebekah Scogin on harp; Luis Moreno on guitar; Josh Jenkins on guitar and vocals, and Revels Music Director Erin McKibben on flute and vocals.
With its picturesque patio and fountain, the University Club’s patio seems like an ideal place to transport listeners back to the 1820s-60s, the period for the concert.
“We have the ambience, and we’ll be outside. This is exactly how you would have heard this music back in its heyday,” Ms. McKibbon told the News-Press last week at the University Club while Mr. Moreno listened.
“This will be a lovely evening. The stars will come out,” Ms. McKibben said. “You’ll hear the beautiful singing and the harp, and it will be romantic and lovely.”
Musical selections will vary from the popular “La Paloma” to Manuel de Zumaya’s Cantana from the Mexican baroque period. Harpsichords were a key part of baroque music, but for the Santa Barbara Revels’ concert, the harp will be played instead.
“My training is classical, so I’m really drawn to Mexican baroque music because its choral traditions, harmonies and counterpoints are beautiful,” Ms. McKibben said.
She added that she has enjoyed learning about early Californian music from Mr. Moreno, who will teach audience members easy choruses from various songs. Audience participation is a tradition at Santa Barbara Revels concerts.
Ms. McKibben said there was one song she knew had to be part of the concert.
“When I saw ‘La Paloma’ in Luis’ repertoire, I thought we should include that. It’s a favorite of mine,” Ms. McKibben said, noting she likes the song’s constant and beautiful bass line. “There’s a lot of flexibility as the performers phrase around its bass line.”
Since the pandemic started, the Santa Barbara Revels performed a virtual Christmas production, which was filmed at The Marjorie Luke Theatre in Santa Barbara without an audience. That took some imagination, Artistic Director Susan Keller told the News-Press at the University Club.
“We were only allowed to have 10 people at a time: a videographer and me and 10 choristers,” Ms. Keller said.
Santa Barbara Revels made the concert look like 16 vocalists on stage by filming eight of them at a time. Then the filming was edited to complete the look of a 16-member choir, Ms. Keller said.
She explained the singers pre-recorded their music and lip-synched for the virtual concert, but wore Elizabethan costumes.
“It was very much appreciated by the people who saw it,” Ms. Keller said. “It was Christmas cheer that everybody needed.”
That said, there will be no lip-synching at Tuesday’s concert. The music will be live and dynamic, and Santa Barbara Revels will interact with the audience it has missed.
“It’s everything for Revels. Audience participation is one of the hallmarks of Revels,” said Ms. Keller, who founded Santa Barbara Revels. The ensemble has been presenting full performances locally since 2008.
Ms. McKibben said Tuesday’s concert will be a preview of Santa Barbara Revels’ full-fledged production of “The Christmas Revels: An Early California Celebration of the Winter Solstice,” set for Dec. 18 and 19 at the Lobero Theatre.