By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | Published on 05.16.2015 5:13 p.m.
The Santa Barbara Symphony’s season-closer will be an all-American affair, with a program consisting of Dan Redfeld’s Arioso for Oboe, Strings & Percussion, Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, Opus 30, “Romantic” (1930) and the concert version ofGeorge Gershwin’s only opera, Porgy and Bess (1935), with a libretto by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin.
Redfeld began his study of music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and finished it at UCLA. He works mainly in film — chiefly short films, to date — and in the musical theater. He wrote the music for a popular adaptation ofLouisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which ran on Broadway in 2001.
Hanson (1896-1981) was head of the Eastman-Rochester School of Music for 40 years, and while he was there he was an ardent and unstoppable champion of American music.
We all owe him, I think. Hanson wrote seven symphonies — the first, called the “Nordic,” in 1923; the last, called “A Sea Symphony,” in 1977 — but the only one played in our concert halls with any regularity is this one.
All are lovely, sweet and unchallenging, and if you think I meant that last word as a put-down, think again. Contrary to the wisdom of young firebrands, most music lovers would just as soon not be mugged at a concert.
Heyward (1885-1940) was born in Charleston, S.C., the direct descendent of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was afflicted with poor health for most of his childhood, and ultimately contracted polio. He spent much of his childhood in bed, and took to reading in self-defense.
Readers tend to become writers, and Heyward’s first story, The Brute, in 1918. His novel, Porgy, set in the African-American denizens of Charleston’s Catfish Row, was a best-seller in 1925, and was adapted as a play by his wife, Dorothy, whom he had met at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H.
The play, which was the basis of Gershwin’s opera, did quite well on Broadway — better, in fact, than the opera did, in its first run.
Dubose collaborated on the libretto of Porgy and Bess, and, according to Stephen Sondheim, “most of the lyrics in Porgy — and all of the distinguished ones — are by Heyward” (this is something of an overstatement, since Heyward did not write “It Ain’t Necessarily So”).
Certainly, “Summertime” is one of the greatest songs ever written, but I have to say that its greatness, like that of the rest of the opera, is mostly the work of Gershwin’s genius.
The weekend’s Santa Barbara Symphony performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at The Granada Theatre, 1214 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara.
Tickets to this concert are $28-$133, with special rates for seniors, students and groups. Discounted student tickets are available for $10 with valid student ID. Single tickets are available from The Granada box office, by calling 805.899.2222 or click here to purchase tickets online.