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San Diego Symphony’s 2022 ‘Hear Us Here’ season set for nine San Diego County venues (and one in Palm Desert)

San Diego Symphony's Douglas Hall, Rafael Payare, Zou Yu, Martha Gilmer, Erin Dowrey
San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare (second from left) and CEO Martha Gilmer (second from right) are shown with orchestra members Douglas Hall (left), Erin Douglas Dowrey (center) and Zou Yu (right) at California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The 32-concert season will be held everywhere from Rancho Santa Fe and Escondido to Rolando, Chula Vista and the orchestra’s new $85 million Rady Shell downtown

Much like The Beatles in their prime, the San Diego Symphony will be here, there and everywhere during the orchestra’s unprecedentedly ambitious and wide-ranging 2022 winter and spring season.

Between its Jan. 15 opening concert at downtown’s San Diego Civic Theatre and its May 27 bayside conclusion at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the orchestra will perform 31 concerts at nine San Diego County venues, large, small and in between.

The locations range from the new Southwestern College Performing Arts Center in Chula Vista and California Center for the Arts, Escondido, to the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in Rolando and the PHAME Performing Arts Center at Patrick Henry High School in Del Cerro. Masking and proof of full vaccination will be required of all attendees at each intermission-free concert, as well as of performers and staff members.

The season — aptly titled “Hear Us Here” — will also include a March 2 performance at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

“This isn’t a reinvention,” stressed Martha Gilmer, the symphony’s unwaveringly dedicated CEO. “It’s an invention.”

The schedule encompasses the most venues in any season ever held by the orchestra, which is the oldest in California and next year celebrates its 112th anniversary.

The season, which includes such distinguished soloists as cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Yefim Bronfman, also boasts the most concerts the symphony has ever held in any January to May period. A total of 10 female soloists will perform. Seven of the works that will be featured are by composers of color and three of the guest conductors are from the Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities.

“It is very exciting and ambitious,” said Rafael Payare, the symphony’s charismatic, Venezuelan-born music director. “But, after last year, it isn’t that challenging. Over the last 18 months, the pandemic changed everything we do — and our mission changed.”

Rafael Payare conducts at opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare conducts at the August 2022 opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the orchestra’s new $85 million year-round outdoor concert venue.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

From COVID-19 to splashy rebirth

Gilmer was instrumental in navigating those changes.

Last year, she guided the orchestra as it confronted the pandemic-fueled shutdown of all live events. The symphony’s spring, fall and winter seasons were canceled, salaries were cut for the musicians and at least 19 of the symphony’s 57 staff members were furloughed.

Gilmer then helped the nonprofit arts organization pivot to streamed performances by smaller-sized ensembles of largely masked symphony members who were socially distanced. Their online concerts were filmed incrementally, sans audiences, in the otherwise empty Copley Symphony Hall. The horn players, who could not play with masks, performed high up in the venue’s mezzanine section to ensure safety protocols were followed.

Orchestra’s Friday concert, the first in its home venue since March, will feature 45 musicians performing in different configurations. To ensure safety, the brass section is playing from the balcony, not the stage

Most notably, Gilmer was key in spearheading the fundraising, construction and triumphant August opening of the orchestra’s new, year-round $85 million outdoor venue, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

The debut season at the bayside venue was pushed back from last year by COVID-19. Its opening earned a feature on the PBS Evening News and international media coverage. And when Apple unveiled its new iPhone 13 in September, it prominently using footage of The Shell, which — prior to its official opening — had hosted audience-free streamed performances of a truncated edition of the symphony.

The performance kicked off a 40-concert outdoor season for the new venue, whose lineup includes orchestral performances by Jason Mraz, Police co-founder Stewart Copeland and rapper Nas

“We don’t get bored, that’s for sure,” said Gilmer, who was hired as the symphony’s CEO in 2014. She is now overseeing the ongoing renovations of the orchestra’s downtown home, Copley Symphony Hall at Jacobs Music Center, which won’t reopen in time for the upcoming 2022 winter and spring season.

“Somewhere around the spring of this year, we started looking at what we wanted to do in this kind of transitional season,” Gilmer explained. “We fashioned the idea of appearing throughout the region. We did scouting and took Rafael around to multiple performance spaces in San Diego.”

The move to nine venues across San Diego County is undeniably pragmatic for an organization seeking to broaden its reach and expand its appeal.

This holds even more true during a time period in which Copley Symphony Hall is undergoing a series of major improvements that were delayed by the pandemic shutdown. One of the biggest is moving the venue’s HVAC system and cooling towers from the basement to a parking garage above the hall.

But the upcoming, countywide season also represents the realization of a goal Gilmer is been eager to achieve.

“Since I arrived seven years ago, I have really wanted to make the symphony part of the fabric of San Diego,” she said. “And this new season is going to take the orchestra to perform where people live. We hope to connect with new listeners in their community and bring our existing audiences to these different venues and destinations.”

San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare (left) and CEO Martha Gilmer, Oct. 26, 2021
San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare (left) and CEO Martha Gilmer have forged a fruitful creative partnership.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Musical bounty across the county

Just how different is readily apparent by skimming the upcoming season’s schedule.

In February, 30-year-old guest conductor Christopher Dragon will lead the orchestra and violin soloist Elena Urioste in four concerts in three days, starting with a Feb. 3 performance at La Jolla Music Society’s Baker-Baum Concert Hall at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. The symphony will perform the same concert of music by Vivaldi, Piazzolla and Golijov on Feb. 4 at The Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe, on Feb. 5 at the Southwestern College Performing Arts Center and on Feb. 6 back at The Conrad in La Jolla.

In late April, a program showcasing Tijuana composer Andrés Martín’s Double Bass Concerto No. 1 will be showcased at venues in Escondido, Rolando and Del Cerro.

The logistics of such a far-ranging undertaking are formidable, both geographically and because of the greatly varying seating capacities and structural design differences of each venue.

“We are adapting our repertoire and the size of the orchestra for each venue,” said Payare, who considers the dimensions of each stage to determine how many musicians can play at each concert.

“For Mozart’s ‘Gran Partita’ at The Conrad in La Jolla, we’ll have 13 players,” he continued. “For our concerts at the Civic Theatre, we’ll have the full orchestra.”

Payare, 41, became the symphony’s music director in the fall of 2019, just a few months before the pandemic-fueled shutdown of live events. He conducted the symphony at the August opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park and his wife, renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein, was one of the soloists.

Based in Berlin, the husband-and-wife musical team are now living in San Diego because of the coronavirus pandemic

Weilerstein tested positive for COVID-19 later that month, as she acknowledged on social media, and had to cancel her Aug. 21 Hollywood Bowl concert. Payare tested positive a short while later.

“I tested negative when Ali got it,” he said. “A couple of days later, I went again and I tested positive. We are, of course, both double-vaccinated. Thankfully for me, it was just a couple of hours with a temperature.”

From the outset of the pandemic, Gilmer has let sound medical science guide the symphony in keeping its musicians and audiences safe.

“Right now, vaccinations are mandated for our orchestra and staff to come to work,” she said. “It sends a signal to people that we are serious and want to provide a safe space.”

Gilmer is also committed to making the symphony’s upcoming season work, despite — and because — of its unorthodox multiple-venue format.

“Recalibrating is in our blood now, because of COVID,” she said. “Of course, we look at the January to May 2022 season concert by concert, but I really look at the entire year. ...

“Ticket revenue doesn’t support the complete expenses of any concert we do, so we look at the overall picture. Between revenues and our fundraising, we believe we can present a season that will be balanced and a budget in line with our expectations — although you can’t say it’s a budget that looks like the one we had for 2020 or 2019.

“We’re in an unprecedented and historic position, but we think we can make this work. The symphony has two of the most important venues in the city, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park and Copley Symphony Hall. And, now, we have these satellite venues that we can revisit on a regular basis in the future.”

Violinist Elena Urioste will be guest soloist with the San Diego Symphony at three concerts in February.
Violinist Elena Urioste will be guest soloist with the San Diego Symphony at three concerts in February.
(Alessandra Tinozzi
)

San Diego Symphony Jacobs Masterworks

Ticket information appears below.

Saturday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 16, at 2 p.m.: Copland’s Suite from Appalachian Spring , Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88, featuring Principal Guest Conductor Edo de Waart and violinist Simone Lamsma. San Diego Civic Theatre. 1100 Third Avenue, downtown.

Friday, Jan. 28, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m.: Still’s Darker America, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14, featuring Music Director Rafael Payare and pianist George Li. San Diego Civic Theatre.

Thursday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 6, at 2 p.m.: Golijov’s Last Round, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Op. 8, RV 269, and Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, featuring conductor Christopher Dragon and violinist Elena Urioste. The Baker-Baum Concert Hall at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Avenue, La Jolla.

Friday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m.: Golijov’s Last Round, Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni, Op. 8, RV 269, and Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, featuring conductor Christopher Dragon and violinist Elena Urioste. The Village Church, 6225 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe.

Saturday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m.: Golijov’s Last Round, Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons) Op. 8, RV 269, and Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, featuring conductor Christopher Dragon and violinist Elena Urioste. Southwestern College Performing Arts Center, 900 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista.

Friday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m.: Norman’s Drip Blip Sparkle Spin Glint Glide Glow Float Flop Chop Pop Shatter Splash, Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major, D’Rivera’s Concerto Venezolano for Trumpet and Orchestra, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, featuring Rafael Payare and trumpeter Pacho Flores. San Diego Civic Theatre.

Wednesday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m.: Norman’s Drip Blip Sparkle Spin Glint Glide Glow Float Flop Chop Pop Shatter Splash, Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major, D’Rivera’s Concerto venezolano for Trumpet and Orchestra, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, featuring Rafael Payare and trumpeter Pacho Flores. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert.

Saturday, March 5, at 8 p.m., Sunday, March 6, at 2 p.m. and Sunday, March 6, at 7 p.m.: Schnittke’s Moz-Art à la Haydn, Saint-Georges’ Violin Concerto No. 9 in G Major, Op. 8, and Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B-flat Major, K. 361 (370a), Gran Partita, featuring Rafael Payare and violinist Jeff Thayer. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Wednesday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m.: Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70, featuring conductor Jonathon Heyward and pianist Yeol Eum Son. California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 340 North Escondido Blvd., Escondido.

Friday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m.: Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70, featuring conductor Jonathon Heyward and pianist Yeol Eum Son. The Village Church, Rancho Santa Fe.

Wednesday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m.: Pipa player Wu Man and members of the San Diego Symphony (program to be announced).

Borders and genres blur in the hands of the internationally acclaimed masterful musician, who has lived in San Diego since 2004

Wednesday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m.: Martín’s Double Bass Concerto No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, “Italian”, featuring conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl and bassist Jeremy Kurtz-Harris. California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

Thursday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m.: Martín’s Double Bass Concerto No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, “Italian”, featuring conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl and bassist Jeremy Kurtz-Harris. Joan B. Kroc Theatre at Salvation Army Kroc Center, 6845 University Ave., Rolando.

Saturday, April 23 ,at 2 p.m.: Martín’s Double Bass Concerto No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, “Italian”, featuring conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl and bassist Jeremy Kurtz-Harris. PHAME Performing Arts Center at Patrick Henry High School, 6702 Wandermere Drive, Del Cerro.

Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.: Haydn’s Symphony No. 93 in D Major, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504, Prague, featuring Principal Guest Conductor Edo de Waart and violinist Aubree Oliverson. California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

Thursday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m.: Haydn’s Symphony No. 93 in D Major, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504, Prague, featuring Principal Guest Conductor Edo de Waart and violinist Aubree Oliverson. Poway Center for the Performing Arts, 15498 Espola Road, Poway.

Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m.: Haydn’s Symphony No. 93 in D Major, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504, Prague, featuring Principal Guest Conductor Edo de Waart and violinist Aubree Oliverson. The Village Church, Rancho Santa Fe.

Friday, May 6, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 7, at 5 p.m.: Fisher’s Tupaia, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Op. 35, featuring conductor Tianyi Lu and pianist Gabriela Martinez. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, 220 Marina Parkway, San Diego, downtown.

Saturday, May 14, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 15, at 5 p.m.: Grieg’s Selections from Peer Gynt Suite, Op. 23 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, featuring conductor Jahja Ling, pianist Yefim Bronfman, and soprano Tasha Koontz. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

Saturday, May 21, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 22, at 5 p.m.: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19, Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé, and Debussy’s La mer, featuring Rafael Payare and violinist Veronika Eberle. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

Friday, May 27, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 28, at 5 p.m.: Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, Choral, featuring Rafael Payare and cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

Chamber concerts

Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 7:30 p.m.: Verdi’s String Quartet in E Minor, Boccherini’s Fandango Quintet in D Major, and works for solo guitar by Albeniz, Tarrega and others. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Wednesday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m.: Program and artists to be announced.

Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m.: Brahms’ Quintet in F Minor, featuring pianist Benjamin Hochman. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Season ticket packages

The San Diego Symphony’s four new subscription options go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. and include: A three-concert package at San Diego Civic Theatre or California Center for the Arts, Escondido ($66 and up); a four-concert package at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park ($88-$388); a seven-concert “Downtown Tour” package ($210-$631); and and a 12-concert “Grand Tour” package ($388-$947).

Single tickets: Pricing will vary by location, but will start at $25 for each venue and go on sale Dec. 5.

Online: SanDiegoSymphony.org

Phone: (619) 235-0804


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