Natasha Kislenko

Natasha Kislenko

After, reluctantly but sensibly, keeping the Granada Theatre dark a year ago, the Santa Barbara Symphony — our flagship classical music ensemble — will turn the lights back on again, Dec. 31 with its beloved New Year’s Eve traditional party/concert.

From 8:30-10 p.m. that evening, the orchestra will dazzle audiences with “the music of Gershwin and other celebratory symphonic favorites,” conducted by returning pops maestro Bob Bernhardt, with the inestimable baritone Cedric Berry, and the symphony’s own pianist Natasha Kislenko (she will solo with the orchestra in a performance of George Gershwin’s “Second Rhapsody for Piano & Orchestra”(1931).

And, the management adds, “Guests will also enjoy a champagne pour and festive party hats.”

2021 was a year darkened by the pandemic and political violence; 2022 could scarcely be worse — maybe if a comet hit the Earth (touch wood) — and will almost certainly be better. In any event, said Kathryn R Martin, symphony president/CEO.

“Santa Barbara is ready to celebrate,” she said. “I can think of no better way to come together, safely, to say goodbye to a year of big challenges, and celebrate the possibilities of 2022!  This concert is joyous and celebratory, featuring audience favorites by Gershwin, movie music, and a salute to the Armed Services. It’s going to be electrifying!”

As always, and unlike most other parties taking place that evening, mellow rather than hysterical will be the watchword for the symphony’s gathering. Despite their prediction that the music will have the audience “dancing in their seats,” very little will be expected of us in the way of physical exertion.

Guests are virtually encouraged to loll in our seats and do nothing but enjoy ourselves, whatever form that takes. There will, of course, be enough good music, beautifully played and sung, to keep our souls from atrophying.

Although the Chinese, the Jews, the Moslems, and many other religions and cultures each celebrate their own New Year, almost everyone on earth believes that something ends on Dec. 31 and something else begins in Jan. 1. It’s like a universal punching of the reset button at midnight.

Whatever else we disagree on, we are, for practical purposes, all on the same page in agreeing that 2021 ends and 2022 begins. However transitory this unity, it is nevertheless real. That’s something to build on.
Tickets to the symphony’s New Year’s Eve event are available online at, or in person at the Granada Box Office, 1214 State St., or by phone at 805-899.2222.
Finally, alas, while we are all very tired of Covid, the virus is not tired of us, and all the Covid restrictions and guidelines governing public events will be maintained by the orchestra on this occasion. To find out the dos and don’ts, go to

Principal sponsor of this concert is Montecito Bank & Trust, and the event is presented in partnership with The Granada Theatre

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