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Gerald Carpenter: Pop Goes Santa Barbara Symphony for New Year’s Eve

The Santa Barbara Symphony will hold its New Year's Eve Pops Concert/Party at 8:30 p.m. on the evening in question — Tuesday — in the Granada Theatre.

The engaging Robert Bernhardt, head of the Pops division of the indispensable Louisville Orchestra (and baseball fan), returns to guest-conduct the symphony in a program of Broadway hits and Hollywood blockbuster scores. There will also be ballroom dancing by couples from the State Street Ballet. And of course, party hats and noisemakers will be available for all.

In the advertised program, movie scores predominate: West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein), Pirates of the Caribbean (Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer), Lawrence of Arabia (Maurice Jarre), Gone with the Wind (Dimitri Tiomkin), The Pink Panther (Henry Mancini), "plus more!" as the symphony says. (It's true that West Side Story was a hit on Broadway years before it was made into a movie, but the audience for the movie was exponentially larger than for the stage show, even granting respectable sales of the original cast album.)

New Year's Eve is often about forgetting, about cutting loose from the past, breaking the chains of memory and plunging — resolved — into the future. This is generally a process requiring repeated applications of potent solvents.

But there is another new year's tradition, and that is remembering — not just remembering the ending year, but all of your past years, and beyond. The song we sing after midnight, "Auld Lang Syne" — usually starting when the firecrackers are still going off — is, in fact, just an archaic way of spelling "Old Long-Since." It is better, I think, to learn to live with our pasts, to savor the good parts, than to blot them out and try to live without them. Forgetting our mistakes, our embarrassing moments, is a good way of making sure we repeat them.

The perfect venue for such remembrance is a seat in the Granada auditorium, and the perfect vehicle — à la Proust — is a movie score. This is not just America, after all, but Santa Barbara — a movie-mad town, if ever there was one.

There may be few of our number who saw Gone with the Wind as a first-run film, but that few no doubt remember the event with startling clarity — thanks, in large part, to Tiomkin's lush, romantic music. And almost all of us remember seeing West Side Story and Lawrence of Arabia when they first opened in our town (I saw the former five times in its first week; I took the girl of my dreams to the opening night of Lawrence, and while we both found the movie fabulous, the nonmovie part of the evening was something of a disaster).

Before The Pink Panther opened in my town, the studio offered a showing at 6 a.m. in a theater downtown, and they served everybody a glass of pink champagne; though it was the middle of a school week, we went.

It is also a lovely opportunity to remember the great Peter O'Toole.

The company could not be more agreeable; the atmosphere could not be more benign. If you're looking for noise and excitement, you won't find it there — although, it doesn't have to be either/or, you can still go on somewhere wild after 10:30 p.m., when the concert ends. But if you are looking to end the year with neither a bang nor a whimper, but with a sigh of contentment, this is the place.

Tickets to the Santa Barbara Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Pops Concert are $38, $63, $83 and $113, and are available for purchase at the Granada box office at 805.899.2222 or [email protected], or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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