Harmony and Rhythmby Brie Stimson December 4, 2017
San Diego Symphony is starting off the year with a bang…and a beat and wind chimes. “It’s About Time: A Festival of Rhythm. Sound. And Place” starts on January 11, 2018, and will continue into February with more than 25 events in 30 days. Percussionist, conductor, author and University of California San Diego professor, Steven Schick, will curate the third annual festival.
“It’s who we are as human beings, it’s our heartbeat,” San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer explains to me over the phone while waiting for a flight. “This is an opportunity to look at music from all over the globe … Steve Schick is the curator and he has just put together a fantastic sampling of rhythm literally from all over the world and representing so many different constituents from communities in San Diego.”
Opening the festival on January 13, “Con Madera, Metal, y Cuero,” a percussion concerto by a Puerto Rican-born American, Robert Sierra, is a Caribbean mash up of rhythm and energy. Steven Schick will perform on a variety of percussion instruments that will span the stage. The concert will also showcase the symphony’s percussion section playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio espagnol.” The festival will also include a performance by the San Diego Opera, “Inuksuit – a Cross Border Presentation,” that will include percussionists from Mexico and a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, among many more. Several of the concerts will be located at venues other than Copley Symphony Hall.
Israeli violinist Pinchas Zukerman will return to the symphony as part of the festival on Feb. 2 and 3 for “Zukerman Plays Tchaikovsky.” Born in Tel Aviv in 1948, Zukerman is a world-renowned musician and sometimes guest conductor of the symphony. “I know that in the second half of the program is a Mendelssohn symphony and in the first half … he’s doing two pieces by Tchaikovsky, kind of lesser known pieces for violin and orchestra, for instance the violin concerto and ‘A Serenade for Strings,’ Gilmer explains.
“We have the debut in January of Raphael Payare. He’s a Venezuelan conductor [who] spent a lot of time in Europe and he’s making his debut as well as an Italian conductor [Jader Bignamini], making his debut in the Respighi’s ‘The Pines of Rome.’ That’s part of the festival. So I would really highlight those conductors as something I’m really looking forward to seeing.”
Gilmer tells me she’s most excited about the festival, but it’s a difficult choice because the symphony has so many events coming up in the next year.
Starting on December 3, the Symphony will accompany the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a live score. “Our film scores are really popular,” Gilmer says. “We just finished ‘Ratatouille,’ which was great and charming, and then of course ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is such an end of the year favorite with the orchestra playing the original score. And we have a new screen this year, which makes the whole presentation even that much more dramatic. Of course we’re doing the whole series of Harry Potter films [next year] and then we always add a second of third film during the summers, so films are very much part of the vocabulary of the San Diego Symphony.”
Holiday concerts “Winter Daydreams,” conducted by Johannes DeBus; “Fanfares and Celebrations” with selections by Mozart, Handel and Tchaikovsky; and “Noel Noel,” which features the San Diego Master Chorale and San Diego Children’s Choir will round out the end of the year. “[In ‘Fanfares and Celebrations’] we’re featuring Ruth Reinhardt, a young emerging conductor, and she’s doing selections from Swan Lake as well as Johann Strauss waltzes and that’s kind of in anticipation of the New Year,” Gilmer says.
On January 31, John Williams will conduct the symphony to an already sold out audience. “The first half will be conducted by Sameer Patel and the second half by John Williams with some of his favorite film scores,” including “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter,” according to Gilmer.
Other concerts include “Bach and Mahler,” a Jacobs Masterworks concert, ‘Tchaikovsky Deconstructed,” and “Beyond the Score: Isle of The Dead,” a Jacobs Masterworks concert conducted by Sameer Patel.
Israeli-born pianist Orli Shaham will return in May. “She’s coming in our chamber series. She’s the sister of Gil Shaham, the violinist.” Gilmer says the program hasn’t been completely finalized yet.
She says one of the symphony’s goals is to became a part of the community, a place for everyone in San Diego, not just those who buy tickets for Symphony Hall in downtown.
“We just gave at the Rady Children’s Hospital … one of our sensory friendly concerts for their preschool, which is part of their preschool’s mission. There are children on the [autism] spectrum. And that’s just an example of the way that we’re committed to making sure our orchestra … is appearing throughout the city, not just in the formal concert setting, but as part of the enhancement of life in the city for the parents of children as well as the children themselves.”
She says the symphony wants to connect more deeply to people who are already attending their concerts and bring in new listeners “who’ve discovered classical music can have meaning in their lives.”
“I think more and more arts really speak to our humanity and because we experience the arts together with others, this shared humanity, I think … we’re hungry for that as human beings today,” she says. “So the San Diego Symphony is really committed to being there for people as a place to go and share that wordless connection through music with each other.”
“San Diego Symphony’s made up of 82 musicians. They’re part of our community. They live here. They’re raising their kids here. They’re teaching in our schools. They play in our hospitals, and that’s an important message about who we are.”
Gilmer says the musicians come from different schools in different places and have different beliefs, “but they come together as one to create this music for us to be lifted up by … And I think that’s just a great symbol of what we would hope the world to be. Working together you can do more than you can do as an individual.”