San Diego Symphony’s summer season has something for everyone
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
and Kai Oliver-Kurtin | SDUN Reporter
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, but one thing that never changes is all concerts feature the San Diego Symphony orchestra.
In most cases, subscription performances span a two-night weekend, 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.
Summer Pops conductor Matthew Garbutt, who has been with the San Diego Symphony for over 30 years, leads the symphony and said he has a hard time identifying a favorite performance. “I look forward to the whole season, actually,” he said. “The entire summer season is a real special time. It is so much fun out there.”
When he is not conducting the Summer Pops or taking a spot in the audience, Garbutt works with youth music programs and serves as the symphony’s principal tuba player, under the direction of Jahja Ling.
This season’s guest appearances begin Friday, July 6, with Roberta Flack. Other guests in this year’s lineup include The Temptations, pop-trio Wilson Phillips, 1970s icon Neil Sedaka, the legendary Doc Severinsen and Burt Bacharach.
“It’s really exciting to work with these real icons of American popular music,” Garbutt said.
Additionally, there are several special events this season that the Symphony hopes will appeal to a wide variety of audiences.
First, to coincide with the start of Comic-Con on Thursday, July 12, is “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” showcasing the work of Nintendo composer Koji Kondo. Attendees are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Zelda characters to enter a costume contest.
Later in the season, the season includes a movie screening as part of the offerings, with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” showing in high-definition, 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, he said. “It’s quite complicated but it actually works extremely well.”
Another highlight of the 2012 season is “Dave Koz at the Movies,” when the Grammy-nominated saxophonist will share songs from classic films, such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Godfather” and “The Wizard of Oz,” among others.
“Summer Pops is a San Diego tradition, where you can be with family and friends on the water, with a full symphony,” Stephen Kougias, director of public relations for the Pops, said.
“To top it all off, there’s a fireworks show after Friday and Saturday night performances, sponsored by The Fish Market,” he said.
The Symphony’s Summer Pops venue, which holds approximately 2,700 people, is located at behind the San Diego Convention Center. Tickets start at $17, and subscription packages start at $300.
“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.”
Conductor Garbutt’s own enthusiasm for the season echoes Kougias’s sentiment. “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.” The season runs now through Sept. 2.
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 food, but no alcohol drinks are allowed inside the premises. Concessions may also be purchased inside. For more information, visit sandiegosymphony.org or call 619-235-0804.