Santa Maria Sun / Music
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 43
Resounding through timeThe SLO Symphony presents its first 'California Missions Tour' highlighting historical music
BY JOE PAYNE
History is made in a moment in time. Music can define that moment, ultimately putting that history in our grasp again in the present—if only for a while.
The San Luis Obispo Symphony is making some history—and celebrating it—by presenting its first “California Missions Tour” in three stunning historical locations. Mission San Luis Obispo, Mission San Miguel, and Mission Santa Barbara will be the venues for performances of beautiful chamber music on Jan. 12 and 13.
“I would hope that someday we could perform at as many missions as possible,” said SLO Symphony music director Michael Nowak. “I’d love for us to do one up north like at the Carmel Mission, or the San Juan Bautista Mission, or maybe one down south in San Diego. In that area, there are some beautiful missions.”
Nowak selected a special program for the new concert tour: Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Dr. Craig Russell’s “Ecos Armònicos.” Russell is a Cal Poly music professor and composer and the leading researcher on a specific genre, Nowak said.
“He is the world expert of the music of the California missions,” Nowak explained, “so he knows more about all of the writing that was going on in the missions than anybody else because he has done so much research. He has written books and articles about it and has really explored that world.”
Russell’s composition to be performed at the missions is titled “Ecos Armònicos,” which suggests the inspiration of the piece that includes themes and music written by composers at the missions during California’s mission era of the 1800s.
“There’s six different pieces that become a set and lead into each other,” Nowak said, “and they would be part of what would be heard in a service in a mission over 200 years ago.”
The contemporary—yet quite old—work was premiered by Nowak at the mission in San Luis Obispo. That performance was the genesis of the “California Missions Tour,” he said.
“When I heard it in the SLO Mission, I thought the combination of that work and Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ would sound so great,” he said, “and with the acoustics of the missions, that I would like to do a mission tour.”
The third concert of the series, at the mission in Santa Barbara, is doubly special because part of “Ecos Armònicos” was composed for its services.
“That’s why we are playing there,” Nowak said, “to bring some of this music back home.”
The missions also inspired Nowak to program Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” a favorite work of classic chamber music. Much of the music of the high Baroque era was written for European cathedrals.
“We’re putting it in the right kind of home,” Nowak said. “To me, it sounds better in this kind of environment than, say, on the stage of a concert hall. It’s a better sense, I would say, of the spirit of the music, or the spiritual sense of the music.”
Both works call for the talents of a solo violinist. Nowak called on former SLO Symphony collaborator and international violin master Shunskè Sato to join in.
“We have gotten to know him pretty well,” Nowak said. “He is relatively young, but he has quite a career going. He’s pretty fabulous, if you ask me—one of my favorite players.”
No matter which mission concert you attend, one thing you’re guaranteed to experience is the efforts of seasoned and skilled musicians performing music in a historically significant setting.
“This music is not dead, it’s alive,” Nowak said, “and when it fills our bodies and our hearts, it really makes us feel human. It gives us a great quality of connection with the past; we are bigger than just our years in this life; we are part of a whole picture of life of many, many centuries.”
Keep the mic open
Lucia’s Wine Co. offers an open mic event on Wednesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. at the tasting room, 126 East Clark Ave., Orcutt. More info: 332-3080.
Music with twang
The Maverick Saloon offers live entertainment, including the country music of the Jimi Nelson Band on Jan. 4 at 8:45 p.m., followed by “Late Night with DJ Totem” at 11:30 p.m. “Concert on the Deck” featuring Brant and Friends is Jan. 5 at 3 p.m. Von Cotton performs Jan. 5 at 8:45 p.m. followed by “Late Night with DJ Totem” at the saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. More info: 686-4785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at email@example.com.