ON the Beat | Rain Before the Deluge

The Santa Barbara Symphony Wakes up the City’s Music Scene Winter’s Nap


This edition of ON the Beat was originally emailed to subscribers on January 12, 2023. To receive Josef Woodard’s music newsletter in your inbox each Thursday, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.


Ensemble Intercontemporain | Credit: Courtesy

As I write this on a foreboding Monday morning, the sky is soggy. Ditto the ground and the amped-up waterways. And while those from regions where “serious weather” is a common reality may find our extreme weather-wariness amusing, our emotional rain sensors become part of a collective consciousness. Danger awaits in fragile areas, but the excess of rain brings relief to the drought-weary and enhancement to the comforts of indoor life.

Musically speaking, we’re also coming out of a dry season, roughly spanning the latter part of December and early January, with multiple inviting prospects for hanging out in indoor music spaces this month. The parade starts next weekend at the Granada Theatre, with the Santa Barbara Symphony’s January program, “Planes, Trains & Violins.” The January 21-22 program features late film composer titan and entrenched local Elmer Bernstein’s Toccata for a Toy Train and former Oxnard resident Miguel del Aguila’s “Violin Concerto,” with a splash of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” for warhorse riding’s sake.

For fans of the classical and jazz arts, the last space of the month is truly chockablock with juicy fare. Within a week, we’ll take in legendary mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato’s multi-sensory concept piece EDEN (January 24), the global might of the Chicago Symphony, with Ricardo Muti in charge for the last time (January 25), the first major jazz show of the year in the form of the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour band — featuring vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling, and young lioness Lakecia Benjamin (DownBeat’s cover subject this month) — at Campbell Hall on January 29, and the local debut of the great contemporary unit, Ensemble Intercontemporain, led by Matthias Pintscher leading Olga Neuwirth’s score for the silent film Die Stadt ohne Juden (The City Without Jews), at the Lobero Theatre on January 28.

Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and Leonidas Kavakos | Credit: Nigel Parry

Oh yes, and amidst these standout special occasions, we also have the return of Santa Barbara regulars Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos, at the Granada on January 27. Serious music-wise, it may be the starriest week of the year in Santa Barbara.

Space, the Vinyl Frontier, and Beyond

Guy Guden | Credit: Courtesy

Hard as it may be to believe the math or the musical daring involved, radio programmer and curator Guy Guden has been surfing the fringes of musical culture with his show “Space Pirate Radio” for 50 years, as of this month. Exploring realms of progressive and art rock, experimental, electronic (not EDM) and ambient sounds and other alternative modes of musical conduct, Guden started his space trek in the age of vinyl. Back then, he presided over the wee hours’ shows on KTYD in the adventurous and genre-wiggly early days of the early 1970s, and other spots on the regional dial.

In recent years, the formats of choice may include the renascent vinyl, but is mostly digital and he travels the spaceways (in a way differently than Sun Ra did) on the internet. The world wide web allows him to go more global — in keeping with his seeking out and championing sounds from around the world. Find him at Twitch TV here, still in the wee hours, as Friday melts into Saturday. The benevolent piracy continues, a half century deep.

Classical Manners on the Sidelines

In a city as blessed with high-octane classical music offerings, between established local organizations and the world class touring acts brought to us by CAMA, UCSB Arts & Lectures and other sources, we can tend to overlook the healthy status of classical music on the “sidelines” in the 805.

Take, for instance, the Santa Ynez Valley Concert Series (formerly the Schoolhouse Music Series, vis a vis a connection with Dunn School). Now headed up by pianist and artistic director Robert Cassidy, the series kicks off its new year with a concert featuring the Los Angeles Reed Quintet (LARQ), this Friday (January 13). Taking place in the intimate environs of the St. Mark’s in-the-Valley sanctuary, the concert affords the too-rare opportunity to hear an all-reed repertoire — from Mahler to Ligeti to living composers’ work — in an alluring chamber setting. The group features saxophonist Patrick Posey, now a Los Angeleno, but an important administrative figure in the recent history of the Music Academy of the West.

Another solid fixture in Santa Barbara’s classical music scene, going boldly forth since 1969, is the Santa Barbara Music Club, showcasing the ample talents of local musicians in concerts free to the public. Its first concert of the new year takes place at the First United Methodist Church on Saturday (January 14) at 3 p.m., a double-whammy performance, “Romantic Music for Two Pianos.” The pianists, Betty Oberacker and Eric Valinsky, will perform Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor and Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, on what will — according to weather.com — be a rainy-day occasion.


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