Santa Barbara Music Club to start 50th anniversary season
Never mind “A major” or “D minor.”
What’s important is that the Santa Barbara Music Club plays in the key of fun.
Soloists and small groups of vocalists and instrumentalists pick classics that they enjoy performing during free, one-hour and informal concerts on Saturday afternoons.
Before they play, they talk to the audience about the works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and more. After the concert, audience members often go up to the musicians and continue the conversation.
“It’s not ‘classical’ equals ‘stuffy,’ ” pianist Betty Oberacker, who enjoys improvising on stage, told the News-Press. “It’s quite the opposite.
“We love to perform,” she said. “They (audiences) come here because of the quality and the diversity.”
The Music Club will launch its 50th anniversary season with a concert by Dr. Oberacker and clarinetist David Spring at 3 p.m. Oct. 19 at the First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.
The concert will include Dr. Oberacker playing Bach works.
“The second half is going to be myself with a marvelous clarinetist (Mr. Spring),” Dr. Oberacher said. “We’re going to be playing a Brahms work, Sonata in F Minor — a passionate, romantic work.
“I’m having loads of fun rehearsing with him,” Dr. Oberacker said.
The club started when a group of women — amateur pianists, violinists, cellists, etc. — enjoyed playing free concerts at each other’s homes on Wednesday nights. Just for the fun of it.
“Then they decided to admit men. Then they decided to expand a bit and have public concerts because the quality started to get better,” Dr. Oberacker said during a recent interview as fellow pianists Eric Valinsky and Leslie Hogan listened next to a grand piano at the Dance Hub on Anapamu Street.
Beginning Oct. 6, 1974, the Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery was used for special concerts once a year. Those grew into monthly, then bimonthly concerts.
Dr. Oberacker was part of the club’s transformation as she collaborated with Emil Torick, a violinist and acclaimed audio engineer, on improving the quality of the concerts and adding professional musicians.
The club also got a boost when the late community benefactor Cynthia Wood donated a 9-foot Steinway concert grand piano for the concerts.
From there, the club grew into a mix of accomplished amateurs and professionals who sing and play piano, organ and a variety of string and wind instruments. Musicians also include students and faculty from UCSB and Westmont College in Montecito.
From the fall through the spring, the club presents two free concerts of classical music a month — one at the Central Library’s Faulkner Library, 40 E. Anapamu St., and the other at the First United Methodist Church. Dr. Oberacker praised both venues for their acoustics.
For the 50th anniversary season, the club has asked people to perform music by Santa Barbara composers or great composers with some connection to Santa Barbara, said Dr. Hogan, who co-chairs the concert committee with Dr. Oberacker and teaches composition at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies.
“So Linda Holland will be performing a piece of hers. She’s a flutist here in town,” Dr. Hogan said. “Katherine Saxton has been commissioned to write a short piece that will be played with two other pieces.”
And there’s a special concert Nov. 9 with three organists — Emma Lou Diemer, Thomas Joyce and Steve Hodson — at the First United Methodist Church. It’s presented with the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Dr. Valinksy recalled the club’s previous concert honoring Dr. Diemer on her 90th birthday.
“That was just surreal,” he said. “Here she was, on her 90th birthday, and she was playing the heck out of the piano and the organ. She was in every piece.”
Dr. Oberacker noted Dr. Diemer will play some of her original compositions at the Nov. 9 concert.
Dr. Valinksy said he’s looking forward to teaming up with another musician, oboist Adelle Rodkey, this season on Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1962).
Dr. Hogan knows that piece.
“My, that a lot of notes Eric’s going to be playing!” she said, chuckling.
Dr. Valinksy agreed, then recalled how Dr. Oberacker challenged him to play Ravel’s Bolero with her — four hands on one piano.
“I used to be scared of repeated notes, but Betty made me do the Bolero,” Dr. Valinsky said.
Dr. Oberacker smiled and added, “He was saying he couldn’t do it, and I was saying, ‘Sure you can!’ ”
They edited Ravel’s piano arrangement to their liking, and Dr. Oberacker recalled improvising a bit during the concert. She said she thought, “It’s going really well. I think I’ll add that.”
Dr. Valinksy added that audiences always seem to like the Music Club’s concerts. “They never dislike anything, no matter what we do.
“If it’s performed with enthusiasm and integrity, the audience will like it,” he said.
In addition to performances, the club has long presented scholarships to local music students. Dr. Oberacker said the “cream of the crop” of the 30-plus scholarship winners perform during two recitals that close each season. “They’re absolutely wonderful.
“From time to time, we invite illustrious scholarship winners to come back and perform for us.”
IF YOU GO
The Santa Barbara Music Club will start its 50th anniversary season with pianist Betty Oberdacker and clarinetist David Singer at 3 p.m. Oct. 19 at the First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.
The concert is free.
For more information, go to sbmusicclub.org or email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.