It ended in picnic mode, with food for the belly and the brain/soul.
We’re talking, of course, about the Music Academy’s Friday night “picnic concert” tradition. Because festival travels are pulling me out of town, I regretfully have to miss the last week of Academy happenings, and the final event in a busy summer season for this avid Academy listener was last Friday’s “picnic” affair. A spread of tasty vittles on the Academy’s dreamy grounds preceded a tasty musical Hahn Hall program of Steve Reich, Samuel Barber, Shostakovich, and the two-piano arrangement of Ravel’s gleefully mad waltz salad, La Valse (delivered with brio and apt abandon by pianists ChiJo Lee and Ryan Jung).
Looking back over the Academy’s grand return-to-normal season, after two deprived summers mostly lost to the pandemic, the musical table was laid in inspiring, feast-like proportions. A few personal highlights: Jeremy Denk’s majestic-cool reading of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2 — from memory — the new music micro-fest from Sō Percussion; a moving take on the mid-summer’s grand opera, Eugene Onegin; Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite at the Santa Barbara Bowl … the list goes on.
One salient observation to be made about the 2022 season is that it has been well-stocked with programming featuring women as performers, composers, and conductors. The two major events of this final week is the appearance of the celebrated violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery (August 4, at Hahn Hall) and the orchestral finale, Saturday at the Granada, conducted by globally ascendant maestra Speranza Scappucci.
Other memorable Academy encounters with women this summer included new music electro-chanteuse/composer Molly Joyce, and Met-entrenched (and MA alumna) soprano Susanna Phillips’s recital (eloquently accompanied by the Academy’s Voice Department director, John Churchwell, on piano). Last Monday’s program was dedicated entirely to women composers, from Hildegard von Bingen to Amy Beach, through Black women composers Florence Price and Rebecca Clarke, and many stops between. Equal time and attention to the gifts of artists beyond the male-dominated classical world is busy in catch-up mode, including at the Academy.
After being spoiled by ample live music offerings via the Academy, we now enter the lean period for classical music, as calendars slouch toward the fall concert seasons starting in late September. Awfully nice while it lasted.
BLASTING BACK TO THE ‘BERO
News of the August 6 Lobero Theatre arrival of the Blasters, that rootsy-post-punky brother-based band outta’ Downey that brings joy to the hearts of those who know and love them. The anchoring brother factor, which started out with Dave and Phil Alvin as co-leaders, dissipated for years as Dave became a King of California Americana and Phil survived health woes to carry the Blasters torch as a leader. The current tour celebrates the 40th anniversary of the band’s 1980 debut (delayed by the pandemic), with Dave involved as a “special guest.”
That said, longtime locals and Blasters trivia-minders know that 2022 is the 40th anniversary of their infamous 1982 Lobero show, in which over-excited fans damaged seats and started what in the distorted lens of hindsight has been deemed a mild “riot.” Subsequently, the historic theater resisted booking rock shows for years. Reports of a “riot” are greatly exaggerated, allegedly, but we’re entitled to our urban myths, like any self-respecting city — even a modest-sized burg such as ours.
When I spoke to Dave before one of his personal Lobero shows, he explained that “it’s a legend among members of the Blasters. We were banned from three or four cities in California,” citing Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, Davis and “another San city.”
“The way we viewed it was that our job is to play our songs. I never wrote a song that said ‘Rip out the seats of the Lobero Theatre.’ We were just doing what we were doing. All these things happened around the same period, around 1982. Kids back then were very, um, enthusiastic. Let’s just put it that way.”
Asked, a decade ago, if the Lobero might ask them back, Dave laughed and said, “I may have to wait until I’m in my eighties or nineties.” The 66-year-old’s math is, thankfully, off.