SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — The Santa Cruz Symphony, led by Maestro Daniel Stewart, will hold concerts this weekend at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville.
The concert, “Symphonic Fire,” features Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances.” Internationally renowned principal cellist Jonah Kim will join the symphony for the Dvorak piece.
According to SCS’ Marketing Manager James de Leon, the symphony owes a great deal to Stewart, who has been able to bring in such well-known musicians like Kim in recent years. Many were classmates of Stewart’s who have been eager to collaborate with him.
“Danny has given us a lot of star power,” de Leon said. “We could never afford to hire musicians like these before. It’s been amazing.”
Dvorák’s Cello Concerto in B minor is one of the most performed cello concertos in the world. Originally written in 1895 for Dvorák’s friend, cellist Hanus Wihan, the piece would premier publicly in Prague in 1896, instead featuring English cellist Leo Stern.
“Symphonic Dances” by Rachmaninoff is an orchestral suite completed in 1940. Premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1941, it was the composer’s final composition before his death in 1943.
“Symphonic Fire” will bring the two pieces together for an evening performance in Santa Cruz on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday in Watsonville at 2 p.m. De Leon said that the symphony hopes to garner more interest from South County residents to come to the Sunday performance, especially since the Mello Center is such a quality venue.
“The Mello really is a premier performing arts hall in the county,” he said. “We want to get the word out to people who might be unaware that a world-class symphony comes to play right in their home town.”
ABOVE: Internationally renowned cellist Jonah Kim will join the Santa Cruz Symphony on Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor. (Contributed Photo)
Introducing people to the symphony, and classical music in general, is one of SCS’s main goals, de Leon said. Particularly in schools — where music education is often the first thing to be cut out of the budget. The symphony routinely sends its members to schools across the county to give students exposure to music. Last year, the symphony brought thousands of recorders to schools for kids to learn.
“I met a fourth-grader at Mintie White [Elementary],” de Leon recalled. “He told me that he’d originally asked for an Xbox for Christmas. But he changed his mind after music lessons. He wanted a recorder instead. That is why we do this.”
Prior to this weekend’s concerts, the symphony will offer a Free Open Rehearsal at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Guests are invited to come experience a behind-the-scenes look as the musicians practice for their upcoming performances.
“This a great way for families to come experience music,” de Leon said. “Often the cost is too high, or parents are worried their children will not be able to stay quiet during the show. It’s a wonderful solution.”
“Symphonic Fire” will be performed on Saturday at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St. in Santa Cruz, and Sunday at the Henry J. Mello Center, 250 East Beach St. in Watsonville.
Tickets are available to pre-order in person at the Civic Box Office, online at santacruztickets.com, or by phone at 426-0553. For ticket prices and information, visit santacruzsymphony.org.
“Having such a world-class symphony in a small community like Santa Cruz is incredible,” de Leon said. “We want people to experience the beauty created here. Our hope is that people leave the concerts feeling good about existing as a human being.”