By Kai Oliver-Kurtin | Downtown News
and Morgan M. Hurley | Downtown Editor
Every July through September the San Diego Symphony stakes claim over Embarcadero Marina Park South with its Summer Pops concert series, set against the backdrop of San Diego Bay. Constructing its summer venue each year from the ground up, the symphony has provided outdoor musical performances to San Diegans for over 30 years.
Special guest performers vary annually, with music genres ranging from pop, Broadway and Motown, to country, classical and tributes to the legends — but one thing that never changes — all concerts feature the San Diego Symphony orchestra.
In most cases, subscription performances span a two-night weekend period, consisting of Friday and Saturday nights; however, there are several special Thursday night productions this season, as well as a number of Sunday night performances.
Leading the symphony will be principal Summer Pops conductor, Matthew Garbutt, who has been with the San Diego Symphony for over 30 years.
“I look forward to the whole season, actually, the entire summer season is a real special time,” Garbutt said. “It is so much fun out there, everybody has so much fun.”
When he’s not conducting the Summer Pops or taking a spot in the audience, Garbutt works with youth art and music programs and also serves as the symphony’s principal tuba player during the winter season, under the direction of Jahja Ling.
Although the season unofficially started last weekend with a special tribute to the Beatles, this weekend’s Star Spangled Pops “patriotic extravaganza” with the legendary Marvin Hamlisch at the helm as guest conductor, will be the first of the 2012 season’s subscription events and kick-off the season.
Each night of this pre-independence day, weekend-long celebration will include a tribute to the military, plenty of John Philip Sousa marches and a grand fireworks show.
“Even though I am not conducting it, I am really looking forward to the Fourth of July concerts, they are always so much fun, especially here in San Diego, being a military town our the military salute … and Fourth of July shows are very exceptional,” Garbutt said.
The season’s guest performers will begin July 6, starting with Roberta Flack. Joining her in this year’s lineup are music superstars The Temptations, pop-trio Wilson Phillips, 70s icon Neil Sedaka, the legendary Doc Severinsen, and the timeless Burt Bacharach.
“It’s really exciting to work with these real icons of American popular music,” Garbutt said.
There are several special events this season that will appease a wide variety of audiences.
First, to coincide with the start of Comic-Con on July 12, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses will showcase the work of Nintendo composer Koji Kondo through a video screen while the symphony does their own magic. Attendees are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Zelda characters and enter a costume contest.
A movie screening, surely aimed at families, is even part of this season’s offerings. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” will be shown in HD, during which the blockbuster’s musical score will be performed simultaneously by the symphony.
“The sound effects and the dialogue will all be there, the only thing that is left out of the movie is the music, which the orchestra provides live,” Garbutt said. “It is actually the sound score that was written for the movie and the orchestra actually performs it live while the movie is going on.”
Garbutt went on to explain that the conductor will be working off of a “click track” which consists of a headset that alerts him when it is time to start, stop, fade in and fade out.
“It’s quite complicated but it actually works extremely well,” he said.
Another highlight of the 2012 season is “Dave Koz at the Movies” on Sunday, July 29th, when the Grammy-nominated saxophonist will share songs from your favorite classic films, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz and many more. “Broadway Rocks” hits the marina the following weekend on August 3 & 4, featuring hits from The Great White Way.
While tribute bands seem to be all the rage these days, the Summer Pops is no exception.
The Pops have their own tribute band, skillfully backed up by the San Diego Symphony. On July 27 & 28 get ready for a night filled with the music of Abba. Later in the season, enjoy tributes to the music of Michael Jackson with a special show on August 23, and then the music of The Eagles on August 24 & 25.
From an evening consisting of a classical trip around the world, to cirque-style acrobats from China, and a finale that will really give you a reason to stand up and do some air-conducting yourself, the 2012 Summer Pop has something for everyone. They end the summer season with: an 1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular, which will span over three different days, Fri, Sat, and Sunday, August 31, Sept 1 and 2.
“Summer Pops is a San Diego tradition,” said Stephen Kougias, director of public relations, “where you can be with family and friends on the water with a full symphony.”
“To top it all off, there’s a fireworks show after Friday and Saturday night performances, sponsored by The Fish Market,” he said. There will be two additional nights of fireworks this season, one during the pre-independence day weekend on July 1, and again during the Tchaikovsky Spectacular, on Sunday, Sept 2.
The Symphony’s Summer Pops venue, located at Embarcadero Marina Park South, behind the San Diego Convention Center, and adjacent to San Diego Marriott Marquis’s Marina.
The venue holds about 2,700 people with a variety of seating options ranging in price from $17 to $76, and subscription packages starting at $300. For larger groups of 30 or 40 people, a bird’s-eye view of the stage can be reserved in the Champagne Chalet, an area set-aside for private parties and larger group outings.
“It’s one of the most beautiful outdoor music venues in the country,” Kougias said. “Other cities have to worry about rain and bad weather.”
The San Diego Symphony holds over 100 concerts year-round, with most performances taking place in the group’s home venue at Copley Symphony Hall 750 B St., Downtown. The orchestra is the first in California to celebrate its centennial anniversary.
Conductor Garbutt’s own enthusiasm for the season echoes the words of Stephen Kougias. “Come and have a really, really good time. It is one of San Diego’s best party atmospheres and it’s one of the best places to be in the summertime. With all the food and the wine, it is a real San Diego tradition.”
The 2012 Summer Pops series is sponsored by Ashford University. Most concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and last for two hours, including intermission. Attendees are permitted to bring in food, but no drinks are allowed inside the premises. Concessions may also be purchased inside the food court from Wolfgang Puck Catering.
Before the concert you can kick back and listen to some pre-concert entertainment, you can dance every night away in the dedicated dance area near the stage, and you can sit comfortably in any section, whether you and your family choose to sprawl out on the lawn, or enjoy four-person table seating in the Cabaret or Champagne sections.
Reserved parking, table service and family pack tickets are also available. For more information, visit them online at www.sandiegosymphony.org or call the box office at 619-235-0804.
Tags: Dave Koz, Matthew Garbutt, Neil Sedaka, Roberta Flack, Summer Pops