Kostis Protopapas to conduct Santa Barbara Symphony’s concert on New Year’s Eve
Kostis Protopapas started to catch up with movies after he learned this week that he’s directing a New Year’s Eve concert featuring film scores.
For example, he hadn’t seen “How To Train Your Dragon,” an animated 2010 film whose epic orchestral music is part of the Santa Barbara Symphony’s program on Friday.
“I saw it this week. The score is terrific,” Mr. Protopapas, the artistic and general director of Opera Santa Barbara, told the News-Press Thursday.
The animated movie’s music is among the reasons Mr. Protopapas is excited to direct the symphony as it ushers in 2022.
The Santa Barbara Symphony will perform movie scores and popular music by George Gershwin and others in a concert featuring Los Angeles bass-baritone vocalist Cedric Barry and the symphony’s principal pianist, Natasha Kislenko. The program will take place from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at The Granada, 1214 State St.
Mr. Protopapas has seen most of the films whose music will be played Friday night. Besides “How to Train Your Dragon,” he hasn’t seen “King’s Row,” a 1942 film starring President Ronald Reagan, but he plans to watch it before Friday. The main theme will be played during the concert.
“I never heard the music before, but it’s by the great composer (Erich Wolfgang) Korngold,” Mr. Protopapas said.
He started watching the two films he hadn’t seen after the symphony offered him the guest conducting gig a few days before the concert. (Originally Bob Bernhardt was scheduled to be the guest conductor.)
“I got the call Monday morning from Nir (Kabaretti, the symphony’s music and artistic director),” Mr. Protopapas said. “I’m honored to work with them (the symphony’s musicians) this New Year’s Eve.
“I hope people will come out,” he said. “Theaters are about the safest place to be. Everyone is vaccinated, and everybody will be masked. It’s a great opportunity for people to come celebrate, hear great music and support our hometown symphony and its terrific musicians.”
Mr. Protopapas said he has worked with some of the symphony members, who play in the Opera Santa Barbara orchestra.
And he noted the New Year’s Eve concert is a favorite among the symphony’s audiences.
“It’ll be a celebratory, light program,” Mr. Protopapas said. “We’re doing a Motown medley, a lot of movie tunes, and it’s going to be a lot of fun with some sing-along opportunities. It’s an opportunity for everyone to toast the New Year.”
There will be party hats and party favorites, and the concert will end with the audience singing “Auld Lang Syne,” accompanied by the orchestra.
Among the movie music will be Elmer Bernstein and Patrick Russ’ suite from the classic 1960 movie “To Kill A Mockington Bird,” based on Harper Lee’s novel of the same name and starring Gregory Peck.
Mr. Berry, the vocal soloist, will be accompanied by the symphony on “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ ” from “Porgy and Bess” (with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward), Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Music of the Night” from “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“If you’re going to pick three numbers that everyone knows, those are the three numbers,” Mr. Protopapas said.
“ ‘Nature Boy’ is one of my favorites. I remember hearing it for the first time with Nat King Cole when I was 12 years old,” said Mr. Protopapas, who was born in Athens, Greece.
Friday’s concert will also feature a salute to Motown: Jeff Tyzik’s arrangement of “Hot Soul Medley.” The songs in the medley will vary from “I Heard It on the Grapevine” to “My Girl.”
“They’re all Motown, but rhythmically, each one has its own identity. The tempo and the syncopation is different,” Mr. Protopapas said. “They were carefully crafted.
“And these are get up-and-dance tunes,” he said.
The concert will also feature a medley of the theme songs for the branches of the services. Bob Weinman will continue his tradition of conducting the Armed Forces Salute.
And the pianist, Ms. Kislenko, will perform with the symphony as it plays Mr. Tyzik’s arrangement of the “Big Movie Suite,” featuring music from classics such as “Gone With the Wind” (1939), “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) and “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962).
“That’s the great thing about music scores: They really capture the essence: the characters, the mood,” Mr. Protopapas said. “The music is there for a reason. It tells you things you cannot tell in any other way. For the great Hollywood movies, the music is as much a part of the movie as the acting and the choreography. That’s why the golden era movies are what they are.”
He described the theme of “Gone with the Wind,” for example, as representing resilience during adversity. “It’s ambitious and optimistic.”
The New Year’s Eve concert will feature a very celebratory work when Ms. Kislenko jams with the symphony on variations of George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.”
Like the song says, “Who could ask for anything more?”