Nir Kabaretti and a beautifully augmented Santa Barbara Symphony got the new season off to a thunderous start over the weekend with Ludwig van Beethoven’s mighty Ninth Symphony, the “Choral.”

The orchestra was accompanied by three of Santa Barbara’s most distinguished vocal groups: the Santa Barbara Choral Society, directed by Jo Anne Wasserman; the Westmont College Choir, directed by Michael Shasberger; and the Quire of Voyces, with Nathan Kreitzer directing.

The ample stage of the recently restored Granada was filled to capacity by the orchestra and the three choral groups on risers at the back. Performances took place Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and the audience for the latter matinee occupied every seat in the house.

History tells us that Beethoven first began to think about setting Friedrich Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” when the composer was 23 years old. It took nearly 35 years from that initial conception to the final production in 1824. Needless to say, it was worth the wait.

The first three movements are solely orchestral, with the first immediately establishing the profound and mighty tone of the work. The second movement contains dance forms giving an energetic lead-in to the third movement, with its exquisite adagio.

This, of course, leads to the fourth and final movement, with its exalted chorale and four soloists singing Schiller’s poetry in praise of joy. This music could not fail to move anyone, and it certainly brought the Sunday audience to its feet with applause and shouts of “bravo.”

Bass-baritone Jason Grant sang the introductory vocal lines, immediately establishing a commanding presence. A Los Angeles native, Grant has been singing the Ninth with various other ensembles, and performing around the country in heavy-duty works such as the Johannes Brahms and W.A. Mozart Requiems, Felix Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht and Igor Stravinsky’s La Rossignol.

The other soloists were soprano Susanna Phillips, mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata and tenor Bryan Griffin. All of the singers are young but have lengthy credits both in this country and abroad. Grant, Phillips and Griffin are alumni of the Juilliard School, as well as various other music programs. Quagliata trained at the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut. All of them have extensive performing resumes, as well.

It should be noted that the program began with Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture, Opus 124. This is no mere trifle; Beethoven composed it in 1822 while taking the waters and cures at the Baden spa in Germany. He presented it publicly shortly before bringing forth the Ninth, so the overture had a bit of a slow start in comparison to the massive Choral Symphony. It was beautifully played by the Santa Barbara musicians.

The symphony’s next concerts at The Granada will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, featuring Kabaretti on the podium and Sergio Tiempo as piano soloist. The program will include Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.