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Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Symphony Goes ‘Pops’ for New Year

Swing into 2012 with the annual New Year’s Eve Pops Concert on Saturday at the Granada

Soprano Mela Dailey will help the Santa Barbara Symphony sing in the new year Saturday at the Granada Theatre.
Soprano Mela Dailey will help the Santa Barbara Symphony sing in the new year Saturday at the Granada Theatre. (Thin Man Photography photo)

Once again, the Santa Barbara Symphony is offering us an easy out. We can spend the entire New Year’s Eve in boisterous, well-lubricated hilarity (paying dearly for it the next morning), or we can spend two hours of the evening — from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday — relaxing in a comfy seat at the Granada Theatre, smiling at our neighbors and listening to two hours of tuneful, pleasurable, unchallenging music performed by one of the best ensembles on the West Coast.

Then we can go on to other, possibly less comfy venues for a bit of ritual frenzy — or not. That is the choice the symphony’s New Year’s Eve Pops Concert has been offering Santa Barbara residents for more than 20 years, ever since it was established by the late, lamented Varujan Kojian.

And to my knowledge, no single person who has chosen in favor of the symphony has ever regretted it — however much they might wish they had not gone on to this or that more vigorous bacchanal afterward.

Conducting the symphony this year will be Robert Bernhardt, now in his 29th season as the principal pops director of the Louisville Orchestra and conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony. As it happens, I am listening to a Louisville Orchestra recording as I write this, having put it on before I learned of Maestro Bernhardt’s day job. Soprano Mela Dailey will be on hand as guest soloist.

The program has a pronounced Viennese flavor this year, starting with three waltzes — Bahn Frei (Free Track), Emperor Waltz and Mein Herr Marquis from Die Fledermaus — by waltz king Johann Strauss Jr. After that, there will be Vilja from Franz Lehar’s beloved operetta, The Merry Widow; Brindisi from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata; and two charming European-influenced pieces by American composer Leroy Anderson, Blue Tango and Belle of the Ball.

Then it’s off to Brazil for the delightful choro piece Tico-Tico no Fubá by Zequinha de Abreu. The rest of the program — with possibly a surprise or two — will consist of the Suite from Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” John Williams’ “Flight to Neverland” from the film, Hook, Duke Ellington and Woody Herman’s “Ellington Fantasy,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” from Jerome Kern’s Showboat, “All I Ask of You” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, a selection from the score of the film Polar Express by Alan Silvestri and Williams’ “The Olympic Spirit.”

Tickets to the Santa Barbara Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Pops Concert are $35 to $100 and are available at the Granada box office, 1214 State St. or 805.899.2222, or click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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