Valentine’s Day is perfect for falling in love again, and that’s what happened at Love Love Love at the Granada on Saturday night. Some already well-loved music, including Felix Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Beatles songbook, and some of our favorite people, like JoAnne Wasserman and the Santa Barbara Choral Society, the State Street Ballet Company, and Beatles’ producer George Martin, all got together, and the result was like falling in love again.
The evening began with Mendelssohn’s gloriously airy music for Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with dance, rather than words, telling the story. José Edwin Gonzalez made a muscular, yet impish Puck, dispensing love potion with graceful abandon, while Ryan Camou’s dignified Oberon, King of the Faeries, radiated otherworldly power. Jennifer Rowe, as Titania, his Queen, made us believe in her infatuation with Bottom (Sergei Domrachev), the joiner who has been turned into an ass by fairy magic. The entire cast floated and skipped through this ballet segment with ethereal delight.
The real magician arrived next. After a short video clip showing him with the Beatles as they recorded their first album, George Martin, now ninety-one, took the stage as if 1962 were yesterday. He first conducted a chorale and orchestra version of “Eleanor Rigby”; with the SB Choral Society’s refined voices filling in for Paul McCartney’s casual artistry, it felt eerie and mysterious. He then led the Chorale in a performance of “The Mission Chorales,” his fascinating recreation of a moment in the seventeenth century when Jesuit missionaries answered the chants of Amazonian warriors with messages of peace and love.
After the intermission, the State Street Ballet and the SB Choral Society shone in “Love Love Love.” William Soleau’s choreography and Stephen Dombek’s arrangement of seven Beatles songs brought out new dimensions in some of the more thoughtful moments in the music. No room for “Love Me Do” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand” here—instead, it was “Something” and “For No One,” all against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Protestors with signs marched, and the chorale looked on as if they were the judgment of history. A soldier’s letters home fluttered through the air, until a final letter arrived and struck his fiancé to the floor in grief. In lighter moments, the dancers did the pony, the swim, and the monkey to “The Word,” and when the finale came—you guessed, it was “All You Need Is Love”—we remembered which word John Lennon was thinking of in “The Word,” and why. Maybe love is all you need.