Please bring the whole family to the Civic Auditorium this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. to hear the Rhythms of Life. A hundred professional musicians will perform five pieces that introduce newcomers and remind old hands of the joy of music.
The concert lifts off under the baton of John Larry Granger and the Santa Cruz Symphony Orchestra of 60 musicians with 40 members of the Santa Cruz County Youth Orchestra. It will be a rousing, part-listening, part-interactive event.
Zun Zun will narrate Russell Peck's Thrill of the Orchestra, a modern composition where the audience meets each instrument and section.
Mexican composer Jose Elizondo's Estampas Mexicanas has flipping metric rhythms typical of Latin American music. This 39-year-old professor of math and science received a 25,000 person standing ovation in 1996, when Estampas was played by the San Jose Symphony.
Pieces by Bernstein and Sousa bring more rhythms to life, and the concert concludes with a bang. Samson brings down the temple walls in Saint Saen's Bacchanale Samson and Delilah.
“We like to end by bringing the house down,” said Granger.
John Larry Granger has been the conductor of the Santa Cruz Symphony for 20 years, six as Music Director/Conductor of the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre Orchestra, and long-time conductor of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony. Granger's commitment to music for youth goes back more than three decades.
“My mentor, Herbert Blomstedt of the San Francisco Symphony, believed in giving back," said Granger.
"While I've been with Santa Cruz for 20 years, I've been conducting for 40, 35 of which has been with youth orchestras. I get inspiration from these sharp, intelligent young people.”
Granger worries about how the cuts to arts in schools will affect future generations. Many Americans don't study the scientific literature demonstrating a link between music and overall school success, or music and the shaping of development and math skills.
“Otherwise we wouldn't cut funding for the arts,” he said. “The current students in the Youth Orchestra are as good as they ever were. They learn discipline, concentration, responsibility, incredible multi-tasking and team-work from playing an instrument.”
Granger is used to being called maestro, with all of its implications.
“Maestro means teacher, although a lot of people think it means master, or egotist," he said. "I started as a teacher and owe my teachers a great debt. When I was young I watched Leonard Bernstein conduct the New York Philharmonic on TV, with all the flair he had. I never imagined that I'd be conducting an orchestra when I grew up.”
Granger was praised in an interview with the director of the Joy of Music School in Knoxville, Tenn., a ground-breaking music school for disadvantaged youth that has received national acclaim.
“John-Larry Granger's commitment to quality music-making and taking it directly into schools is the height of cultural accountability," said Francis Graffeo. "Maestro Granger and the Santa Cruz Symphony have earned their dual reputations as brilliant artists and compassionate mentors.”
The Symphony has a core group of 53 contract musicians, but like many community symphonies in the Bay Area, they share the talent. One third of the orchestra lives locally, but the others are gifted musicians in high demand who “drive for dollars.” Meet the Symphony Musicians
Granger is conducting his favorite symphony this week--at least it's his favorite this week.
“I usually say it's the one I'm conducting," he said. "I think it depends on the time of life, or mood. If I'm feeling thoughtful, I'll listen to Schubert or Mahler. If I'm up, it will be Mozart – or Motown. Beethoven and Stravinsky scores are such incredible constructions that I keep finding something new no matter how many times I study them.”
The third of this season's concerts will be on March 26 and 27, Decadent Delights featuring Percy Grainger, Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov. The final concert of the season on April 30 and May 1 is the larger-than-life Symphony #9 by Beethoven, loved around the world for its “Ode to Joy.” This concert will feature Cheryl Anderson conducting the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus.
Descriptions of the two concerts may be seen at: http://www.santacruzsymphony.org/concerts.htm Single concert tickets run from $20 - $65, a bargain in the symphony world.
Tickets for Sunday, March 6 Rhythms of Life at the Civic are $8 for students and seniors, $10 for adults.
Parents and children can see what an orchestra looks like on-line at: Instruments of the Orchestra
The Concert on Sunday, March 6 is low-cost to the public thanks to sponsors Rowland & Pat Rebele, Monterey Peninsula Youth Fund, Lee & Emily Duffus, Susan Dony, Diane & Donald Cooley and Jack & Barbara Ritchey.