Summer by the Bay with the San Diego Symphonyby Brie Stimson May 28, 2018
Bayside Summer Nights is back this year with several new acts and, of course, all the old favorites.
“Every season brings new artists and we’re really excited about this summer,” said Martha Gilmer, CEO of the San Diego Symphony. “A couple of things, we’re celebrating Leonard Bernstein at 100, so in August we’re doing the complete “Westside Story,” the film of his musical and with … the orchestra playing the score.”
Singing legend Patti LaBelle on July 28 and The Temptations and The Four Tops on Aug. 24-25 will be highlights of the concert series. “I think that one’s going to be great. I’m really excited about that myself,” Gilmer told me.
Other famous names include Clint Black (July 4), Arturo Sandoval (July 12), Rick Springfield (July 13-14), Burt Bacharach (Aug. 3), Pablo Montero (Aug. 12) and Roger Daltrey and members of The Who (August 15).
The Robert Daltrey concert and a showing of “Star Wars: A New Hope” (for which the symphony will play the score live) will have stadium seating for extra capacity.
Gilmer is also excited about Broadway performer Megan Hilty, who will entertain on July 6-7. Hilty gained fame performing on Broadway in “Wicked,” “9 to 5” and was nominated for a Tony for “Noises Off.”
“I think this is a Broadway town and I think these incredible performers with our orchestra is great,” Gilmer said. “I should also say that we’re doing … a Gershwin Tribute, including excerpts from “An American in Paris” and “Porgy and Bess” and we have just announced our first soloist … Norm Lewis who … did “Porgy and Bess” in 2012 … That, I think, is going to be a great concert.”
Gilmer says booking the lineup is a collaborative process. “We look at making sure the mix is right because we know we have a large number of subscribers that have very eclectic tastes across many genres, but we also want to make sure we have the right balance throughout the season. And we have the things you can always expect. Our Tchaikovsky weekend closes the season and Star Spangled Pops open the season and, this year, we’re having Beethoven by the Bay, which is a program of all Beethoven, featuring a young pianist Albert Cano Smit and Beethoven 5. And those things you can kind of learn to expect, and the variety comes in between.”
In some cases, they try to coordinate with artists that happen to be touring. “Roger Daltry is one of those,” she said. “He’s making a big U.S. tour and we were able to secure a date with him. We know who we want, it’s just about fitting in dates. But it’s a complex puzzle, as you can imagine, when you’re trying to lay out a season.”
Film screenings with the symphony playing the score are a big draw each summer. “We know people love the idea of film on that incredible LED screen with the orchestra playing that soundtrack, and so we’ll have “Harry Potter [and the Goblet of Fire]” and now we’ve just added “Star Wars” and “Westside Story.”
For many attendees, the atmosphere of being at a concert on a summer evening is what makes it worth it.
“When we hear from our audiences, the sight itself is just so compelling,” Gilmer said. “It’s beautiful, set on a summer evening on the shores of the bay on one side and with the skyline of San Diego on the other. It is a bit more informal so you can order a bottle of wine, you can bring your own food. We have food service tables in the champagne section and then there’s also food that you can purchase, and so you can come early and have a meal with your friends right there and then enjoy the concert.”
Of course, every Friday and Saturday night they have fireworks. “You don’t always get that at a regular concert,” she quipped.
Gilmer said every summer she’s amazed by the collaborative process that takes place between visiting artists and the San Diego Symphony.
“What I’m always impressed with is the respect that these musicians have for our orchestra, for our musicians of the orchestra, and that’s returned,” she said. “So what we really aim to do in all of this is ensure that the level of training and artistry and professionalism and mastery in whatever genre of music is being performed is of that kind of level.”
Gilmer said they also encourage people to come early to enjoy the free pre-concerts near the box office that often involve community groups.
Other performances over the summer include, Godfathers of Latin Jazz: A Salute to Dizzie Gillespie and Chano Pozo (July 26), Marc Cohn and the Blind Boys of Alabama (July 27), “Bird” on the Bay: A Charlie Parker Tribute Feat. Charles McPherson (Aug. 9), Hooray for Hollywood (Aug 11), Robert Randolph and the Family Band (Aug 19) and Ladies Who Jam: Women in Jazz (Aug. 23).
Bayside Summer Nights runs from June 29 through Sept. 2 at the Embarcadero Marina Park South. Go to sandiegosymphony.org for tickets or information.