Weather reporter Anikka Abbott, Gary Johnson to sing during courthouse program
For the first time ever, the Prime Time Band of Santa Barbara will perform an Independence Day concert Monday at the Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
And the band’s board president couldn’t be more thrilled.
“It’s very exciting,” President Barb Statler told the News-Press. “It’s a special treat on the Fourth of July.”
The band will perform there at 5 p.m. in a free program in conjunction with the Santa Barbara-based Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation.
Audience members are welcome to bring their blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets for a program of patriotic and popular music at the courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara.
The community band, whose 65 members range from their 40s to their youthful 90s, and its conductor, Dr. Paul Mori, are picking up where the West Coast Symphony, which used to play on the Fourth at the Sunken Garden, left off.
On Monday, the Prime Time Band will perform everything from John Philllips Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “America the Beautiful” to a medley of hits by the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.
No doubt, the band will prove it’s worthy of some “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
And get ready to saddle up. For fans of Westerns, there will be a special medley of movie themes.
Two talented local vocalists will perform with the orchestra. One is Gary Smith, who will perform the National Anthem with the band. “He’s sung at Dodger games,” Mrs. Statler said.
And the other singer is a well-known personality for viewers of the morning news broadcasts on Santa Barbara-based TV stations KEYT, KCOY and KKFX. Weather reporter Anikka Abbott will sing “Moon River” and — everybody, get ready to snap your fingers — the jazz classic “Fever.”
She will also perform “God Bless America” in a concert full of patriotism.
“She’s a contra soprano,” Mrs. Statler noted about Ms. Abbott. “She’s got quite a resume of performance. We’re excited to have her singing.”
During a separate News-Press interview, Dr. Mori praised the multi-talented broadcast journalist.
“Everyone thinks of her as the morning weather anchor, but she’s much more than that,” Dr. Mori said. “It’s really exciting to us to share that and introduce her to Santa Barbara.
“As far as I know, this is the very first public concert she’s done in Santa Barbara,” Dr. Mori said.
“She has this great versatility to her singing voice,” Dr. Mori said. “She nails this classical stuff like you wouldn’t believe. And she has this pop side to her voice.
“She’s sung both opera and musical theater,” Dr. Mori said. “She’s a great singer, a lovely singer.”
Dr. Mori, who succeeded Jeff Peterson to become the Prime Time Band’s third conductor last year, shares Mrs. Statler’s enthusiasm for performing in the Sunken Gardens.
“It’s really quite an honor to do this, to continue this long tradition in Santa Barbara,” said Dr. Mori, who’s part of the instrumental music faculty at Westmont College in Montecito. (Coincidentally, Dr. Michael Shasberger, who led the West Coast Symphony in its previous Fourth of July concerts at the Sunken Gardens, just retired from the Westmont Music Department.)
Dr. Mori told the News-Press he looks at Monday’s concert as an opportunity to present a musical gift to the community and educate more people about the 27-year-old Prime Time Band of Santa Barbara, “to let them know what a great group it is.
“This is a bunch of amateurs who love music and want to perform at a high standard,” Dr. Mori said.
“There are all these people in the band who maybe played in high school, had a career and loved to play again,” Dr. Mori said.
Mrs. Statler noted the band also includes people who wanted to learn to play an instrument during their retirement or semi-retirement.
Some of the band members are veterans, so it’s appropriate the Prime Time Band on the Fourth of July will play “The Armed Forces Salutes,” a medley of the theme songs for the branches of the service.