To tap a pop music reference, orchestral maneuvers have generally gone dark in the time of COVID-19. Orchestral culture, internationally, has been seriously affected, with seasons truncated or canceled, and historic organizations reeling in the pandemic’s wake. Locally, the fallout has translated to the radical retooling — or absence — of such cherished institutions as the Ojai Music Festival; the live, in-person version of the Music Academy of the West; the vitally important CAMA concert series; and Camerata Pacifica.
On a positive note, however, the Santa Barbara Symphony will launch a seven-concert season from The Granada Theatre this Saturday, October 17. That show, Cabaret with Kabaretti, will be the Granada’s first live event since March, and although the series will initially be streamed to audiences, it’s possible that, as restrictions loosen, people may be able to attend some of the later concerts in person.
Kabaretti admits that “the easiest decision would have been to cancel everything and follow other organizations that went dark, but it has never crossed my mind. We are committed to this community, to our loyal supporters, musicians, staff, and audience.… This is our time to tell the thousands of people who make our large family, ‘We are here with you and for you, doing whatever we can to enrich your lives also during these times.’
“There are, indeed, a lot of hurdles that we are challenged with,” he continued, “and we are making sure to maintain the most severe safety protocols and addressing all technical issues with streaming, filming, etc. It is a complicated puzzle that we put together here.”
Cabaret with Kabaretti is a light affair, in a season whose highlights include November’s nod to Beethoven’s 250th birthday and February’s celebration of Black composers. Saturday’s show also serves as a jump-starting of the dormant Granada, for which the event is a fundraiser.
Palmer Jackson, chair of the Granada, admits that “this partnership requires both organizations to stretch themselves, as we’ve never done anything quite like it. The past seven months has been the most challenging period in the history of the Granada, so we are pleased to begin to gradually ‘reemerge’ with this innovative first-of-its-kind performance. This effort illustrates the synergy that exists between our organization and the Symphony. We both need each other.”
The L.A. Philharmonic has been streaming concerts recorded outdoors from the vast Hollywood Bowl stage, but this is different, and more difficult. As Kabaretti comments, “The L.A. Phil did a phenomenal job with the broadcasting from the Hollywood Bowl, and they are privileged to have such an outdoor space available. We will be streaming from indoors, which is a big difference and requires extra safety measurement. But we are up to the challenge.
“Like the L.A. Phil, also our symphony will be spaced onstage, maintaining the social distance requirements, adding plexiglass shields, etc. For that reason, we are reducing the number of strings, and in general picked pieces not written for a huge orchestra. Having said that, I also incorporated some historical arrangements for a smaller orchestra of big pieces, so we will still have Mahler, Brahms, American music reorchestrated, and more.”
In other S.B. Symphony news, it is establishing a partnership with Westmont College’s music department, benefitting classical music education of young students, allying with the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, and making further liaisons. Michael Shasberger, professor of music and worship at Westmont, says that “ideally,” the partnership “will eventually entail a continuum of programs from the earliest stages of musical introduction to young children by the Symphony through the collegiate program at Westmont and connecting to the professional endeavors of the Symphony.”
The Symphony’s brave, nearly full-scale 2020-21 season embodies Kabaretti’s belief that “music and art in general can lift our souls and empower the sense of human spirit. This period is challenging us to be more creative in the way we deliver our arts, but it shouldn’t stop us from creating and from dreaming. Luckily, today we are equipped with technology that allows us to stay connected with people all over the world and provide some comfort.” —Josef Woodard
411 | Cabaret with Kabaretti is streaming online on Saturday, October 17, 7 p.m. Purchase tickets in advance here.
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