Prime Time Band proves to be worthy successor to West Coast Symphony with Monday’s Fourth of July concert
With community band members snapping their fingers behind her, vocalist Anikka Abbott threw the right amount of jazz into a classic, “Fever.”
The soloist then turned around and showed another side of her talent with the sweet “Moon River” from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Known locally as a weather reporter for Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV and its sister stations, Ms. Abbott later wowed the audience with “God Bless America.” Her beautiful rendition inspired many to stand during the Prime Time Band of Santa Barbara’s patriotic concert Monday in the Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
The performance introduced the community to the musical side of Ms. Abbott, who earlier had a career in musical theater and opera.
And the concert, which also featured vocal soloist Gary Johnson singing the National Anthem, marked the first time the 27-year-old Prime Time Band played a Fourth of July concert in the Sunken Gardens.
The band consists of musicians in their 40s to 90s.
The ensemble played beautifully and did a great job in succeeding the West Coast Symphony, which formerly played the Independence Day concerts at the outdoor venue.
On Monday, the venue was about three-fourths full, which allowed for a comfortable amount of space among the lawn and beach chairs and blankets. As the band played John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” one man and a little girl did some spontaneous marching and dancing. Other audience members clapped to the beat of the famous march.
At other times, audience members enthusiastically waved small flags or simply stood because of the patriotic nature of the music.
And veterans from various branches of the service stood when they heard the branch’s theme song during “The Armed Forces Salute.”
The concert, which had an informal, fun spirit, was performed in conjunction with the Santa Barbara-based Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, which was represented by its founder, former Navy Lt. John Blankenship of Montecito. (His home, by the way, contains the foundation’s detailed museum of wartime artifacts.)
During the band’s break, Lt. Blankenship, standing under the giant American flag that graced the courthouse, told people about Mr. Claeyssens, who, shortly before his death, wrote a check for $1 million in Mr. Blankenship’s name to start the veterans foundation.
In addition to patriotism, the concert was a celebration of music that helped to define America, including a medley of Western movie themes. It started with what is arguably the best theme ever written for a Western: Elmer Bernstein’s iconic music to “The Magnificent Seven.” The melody captures the essence of the OId West, and the rhythm matches the moderate, steady pace of the horses ridden by stars Yul Brynner and others.
Before the band played a medley of Aretha Franklin’s songs, Dr. Paul Mori, the Prime Time Band’s conductor and a member of the Westmont College music faculty, talked about the queen of soul and the personal tragedies in her life. He noted how Ms. Franklin managed to create great music despite what she faced.
“That’s what music is all about, to find the joy through the pain and to make the world a better place,” Dr. Mori said.
The tempo of Monday’s concert was upbeat, literally and metaphorically, and there was a moment of humor as Dr. Mori, his baton raised to begin a song, waited patiently for the courthouse clock to stop chiming on the hour.
He jokingly told the band, “That’s not the tempo.”
Band members and the audience laughed, and the music began.