[News-Press] Music’s cause trumpeted for young ears
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
On Thursday morning, all was not status quo around the 1200 block of State Street. Passersby may have been startled by the sight of a friendly invasion of school children, an orderly pileup of small people lining the sidewalks between Anapamu and Victoria streets, with a caravan of yellow school buses circling the block surrounding the Granada Theatre.
It was all for a good and culturally worthy cause, part of the Santa Barbara Symphony's "Concerts for Young People" series, in which busloads of elementary age children from around the area - in this case, 2,600 children brought in on field trips from 33 local schools - are given exposure to the workings of a real, live symphony orchestra.
The symphony's ongoing education series title, "Concerts for Young People," is a play on composer Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." The underlying goal is to give valuable exposure to children not normally attuned to classical music through conventional pop cultural channels.
For some, this would be the first introduction to the unique experience of a live symphony orchestra onstage and in real time, and seeds could be sown for future music appreciators, or becoming musicians themselves.
Given the program's focus on the orchestra's longstanding principal trumpeter - John Lewis, and his versatile sweep of styles, the young audience got to hear a variety of symphonic and combo sounds - short, well-known classical works familiar to the pop cultural world, a taste of mariachi, swing era jazz, and then into the movie realm of "Star Wars" as a finale.
Thursday morning's show, with two hour-long presentations to maximize the number of young ears reached, and subsidized by various charitable entities, was part of a run-up to this weekend's official concert program on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
But for this occasion, the focus was not on the weekend's musical menu - including a live accompaniment to the silent Charlie Chaplin film "City Lights" - but on an accessible potpourri of short pieces in different styles, with trumpet in the spotlight.
Conductor Dirk Brossé, a Frenchman who is in town to guest conduct this weekend's symphony program, greeted the young audience, in both English and Spanish.
Mr. Lewis opened with the familiar strains of the trumpet-led melody of Baroque composer Jean-Joseph Mouret's "Fanfare for Trumpets," which the musician later mentioned might be familiar from its use as the theme to "Masterpiece Theatre" or on "Sesame Street."
Next up was Rossini's "William Tell Overture," familiar to many as the theme to the "Lone Ranger" and a Loony Tunes favorite. Mr. Lewis later explained that he actually played the trumpet part on the score to the film remake of "Lone Ranger," as well as the trumpet part on the new "Star Wars" trailer.
As the program continued, Mr. Brossé posed basic questions to the trumpeter, from the fundamental questions of how he uses "just three valves to get hundreds of notes" to the volume and range of the instrument.
Questions included how old a new trumpet student should be - about fourth grade, Mr. Lewis said - and how much practice is required - about a half-hour to an hour a day, he said, although he sometimes plays for 10 hours a day, when working.
He was also asked about duration of held notes and the matter of breathing between phrases. "It's like traveling," said Mr. Lewis. "You have to plan stops to take a break, just as with breathing while playing the trumpet."
Continuing with the variety hour, boredom-preventing program, two trumpeters from the orchestra's ranks came forward to join Mr. Lewis in playing the triple trumpeter "pops" chestnut of Leroy Anderson's "Bugler's Holiday."
Adding another relevant twist to the program, featuring a symphony orchestra that draws on many Los Angeles-based musicians who work regularly in the studios in Hollywood, for movies and other high-profiled settings, Mr. Brossé turned the focus to the trumpeter's extra-classical music life, in the movies.
This edition of "Concerts for Young People" may have started with a Baroque fanfare from the early 18th century, but closing with the modern-day fanfare linked to the lore of Luke Skywalker was clearly a young crowd-pleasing touch.
Listeners who might have associated the orchestral sound with movie music got a broader, but entertaining learning moment in the Granada.