Expect everything from a Tony-winning musical to Gershwin as Santa Barbara Symphony prepares for in-person concerts
Pianos, violins, Bach and Beethoven are all great, but there’s more to orchestral music than those elements.
And the Santa Barbara Symphony is determined to prove that with a diverse season that celebrates the return of in-person concerts at The Granada and features everything from a full-fledged musical to jazz improvisation.
Not that pianos will be forgotten. At one point, fans will see a husband-and-wife duo play together on a single piano, their hands crossing over each other’s as they merge their musical souls together.
And Bach will be honored as well during a diverse, 2021-22 season that will also feature show tunes and ultimately a Sonic Boom. More about that later.
“I think our audience will enjoy a variety of styles, a variety of genres larger than we’ve ever put together,” Nir Kabaretti, the symphony’s music and artistic director, told the News-Press Tuesday.
“It’s part of our mission, to be inclusive,” Maestro Kabaretti said, speaking via Zoom from the Tel Aviv area in Israel. The Santa Barbara resident said he hopes to bring new listeners to the symphony’s audience.
Here’s a look at the season, concert by concert.
— “Kismet,” Oct. 21-24. (The symphony’s season subscription includes the performances at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 and 3 p.m. Oct. 24.)
The symphony will perform behind a full-fledged production of the Tony-winning musical, which is being produced by Sara Miller McCune and will feature a mix of Broadway and local stars as well as State Street Ballet dancers.
“Kismet” is inspired by the magic and romance of the “Tales of the Arabian Nights” and follows poet Hajj and the forbidden love of his daughter Marsinah. It includes the hit song “Stranger in Paradise.”
Emmy-winning director Lonny Price will direct the production, which features choreography by William Soleau.
“It’s a really beautiful score,” said Maestro Kabaretti, who is providing the musical direction. “It’s very colorful music with a lot of rhythm.”
— 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 and 3 p.m. Nov. 14. “Royal Fireworks” will feature guest conductor Nicolas McGegan and symphony principal violist Erik Rynearson.
The symphony will celebrate the 300th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s concertos by playing Brandenburg Concerto No. 4.
Maestro Kabaretti said Bach was a genius whose timeless music speaks to everyone and is ideal for a concert saluting baroque music.
Mr. Rynearson, principal violist for both the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, will play Telemann’s Viola Concerto.
Maestro Kabaretti noted the audience will get to appreciate the color and sound of the viola. “It’s another way for us to show our audience that music is not just violins and piano.”
The concert will also feature Rameau’s Dances from the opera “Nais” and Handel’s “Royal Fireworks” music.
— 8:30 p.m. Dec. 31. “New Year’s Eve with the Symphony.”
Bob Bernhardt will be back to host a concert of popular music. The program will feature baritone Cedric Barry, pianist Natasha Kislenko and the entire symphony.
“There will be a lot of Gershwin, some Broadway, some film music, and we will honor Elmer Bernstein,” Maestro Kabaretti said.
Mr. Bernstein is known for writing memorable film themes and scores, including arguably one of the most famous Western themes for “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), although Maestro Kabaretti said he doesn’t know whether the orchestra will play that number.
— 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 and 3 p.m. Jan. 16. The “Fandango Picante” concert will feature violin soloist Anne Akiko Meyers, playing “Fandango,” a new piece written for her by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. The work will make its world premiere during a Los Angeles Philharmonic concert at the Hollywood Bowl a few months before the Santa Barbara Symphony concert.
“We will be the second orchestra in the world to play it,” Maestro Kabaretti said with a big smile.
The concert will also feature the orchestra playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, known for its Spanish folk themes.
“Hopefully a lot of our friends in the Hispanic community will be excited to come and hear the tunes as we open our doors to a larger group,” Maestro Kabaretti said.
— 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 and 3 p.m. Feb. 20. The “Beethoven in Bloom” concert will feature Michelle Temple, the symphony’s principal harpist.
In addition to hearing the music, the audience will see images on screens.
The orchestra will play “The Great Circle” by Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal, who almost lost his home in the 2017 Thomas Fire. It will include images of the devastation, the heroism of first responders and images of rebirth from the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s photographic research collection.
“I love his (Mr. Beal’s) music,” Maestro Kabaretti said.
In addition, the symphony will play Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” (Symphony No. 6).
— 7:30 p.m. March 19 and 3 p.m. March 20. “Sonic Boom” will feature organ soloist Cameron Carpenter.
Maestro Kabaretti explained why the concert is called “Sonic Boom.”
“You know, the organ itself has a huge sound, a massive sound, but it’s not often played as a solo instrument in an orchestra. Normally, it’s part of church services,” Maestro Kabaretti said. “We’re playing French pieces by two composers who thought the organ should be part of the concert experience.”
The concert will be a different experience for audiences more accustomed to seeing an organ in a church than as a solo instrument during an orchestral concert.
And “the boom is like when you have the last movement of the organ,” Maestro Kabaretti said with a smile.
The concert will feature the suspenseful Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings.
The program will be in a partnership with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and its “Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources.”
— 7:30 p.m. April 23 and 3 p.m. April 24. It’s time for “Romance in a New Key.”
Piano duo Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg return to Santa Barbara for the world premiere of a reimagined composition of Robert Schummann’s Piano Quartet.
Brahms arranged it to be played by two pianists, and Austrian composer Richard Dünser went a step further for an arrangement for two pianists with strings.
Typically piano duets are performed with two facing grand pianos. But Maestro Kabaretti explained the husband-and-wife team will play on the same piano, with their hands crossing over each other’s.
This also is in partnership with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and its “Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources.”
— 7:30 p.m. May 21 and 3 p.m. May 22. The symphony will perform its “Riffing on Gershwin” concert.
During Gershwin’s Concerto in F, the orchestra is substituting the usual piano soloist with a jazz trio, specifically the Marcus Roberts Trio. It consists of pianist Marcus Roberts, drummer Jason Marsalis and contrabassist Rodney Jordan.
The trio will do something that wasn’t done in Gershwin’s day. Maestro Kabaretti said the three musicians will improvise.
“That makes this sort of a jam session on a piano concerto, which is very much something that Gershwin would have loved to do. But a hundred years ago, you wouldn’t dare,” Maestro Kabaretti said.
The symphony will also play Symphony No. 1 by early 20th-century composer Florence Price, who’s recognized as the first black woman who was a symphonic composer. Her symphony made its debut in 1933 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was inspired by Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Like Dvorak, Ms. Price incorporated the sounds of folk tunes and hymn-like melodies to depict America and its diversity.
The concert is presented in partnership with Jazz@ the Lobero.