Elizabeth Pitcairn and her internationally famous Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius violin made in 1720 return to perform with the Susanville Symphony Orchestra March 8 and 10 at the United Methodist Church. Only about 600 Stradivarius violins survive today. File photos

Susanville Symphony offers a message from the maestro

Twenty years ago, when we first did this thing, I started it as a lark. A way to bring temporary joy to a community desperate for more of the arts.

Some of the musicians playing today in our symphony were there at the first practice: Carol Fontana, Dennis and Maryel Roberts, Dick Bendix and Ray White. We practiced in the hot, stuffy cafeteria at Lassen Community College. I didn’t know what I was doing then, and I remember asking Ray Craig if he would like to come up and conduct.

He said, “This is your symphony, you should be the one on the podium.”

Thank you, Mr. Craig, for all the years of support, for the 19 years you played in the Susanville Symphony. Thank you for your kindness, your compliments, your musicianship and leadership, and above all thank you for not taking me up on that offer that first day so many years ago.

Here we are, 20 years later: A pillar of music enrichment and joyous musical performances that have changed and shaped the ideology of this community. My life would not be the same without the Susanville Symphony, and I believe that would be the same for many of you in the audience today. Thank you for attending the concerts, thank you for supporting the arts and thank you for buying season tickets to ensure that we are here 20 years from now.

 I want to thank the board of directors who have tirelessly worked behind the scenes, financially and physically to make this season happen.

I want to give immense praise to the musicians who have suffered under my baton and continued to perform whatever I put on the stand to the best of their abilities.

I want to welcome our new assistant conductor Laurentiu Norocel, who comes to us from the Boston Conservatory of Music. May he be a light to all of us here with new dreams, new goals and new talent.

We start a new era today: A vision for the next decade and beyond. I look to the schools in our community and ask, no demand, that they bring music back into our children’s lives on a daily basis. I look to the community to continue to support the arts, above and beyond what they have done in the past. I ask our musicians to bring life and joy into our lives through the vehicle of music, and I challenge Lassen County as a city and county to build our community a theater for the arts.

We have proven that if you build it, they will come.

This is what you have to look forward to in our 20th season!

Maestro Ben Wade toasts the audience at a previous Concert on the Green.

Concert on the Green will occur at the old courthouse. We welcome all children to attend the concert at no charge. Blankets, tables, food, beverages of your choice: Come one come all. This is what makes the evening so vibrant and fun.

This year the Susanville City Big Band will perform many exciting numbers to fit the evening outdoor mood. As we experience the end of our Indian Summer, Jessica Newton Wade will perform “Summertime,” the infamous aria from George Gershwin’s Opera Porgy and Bess. This opera, written by Gershwin in the 1920s when he lived in Charleston, North Carolina, reflects a blend of both New York jazz and the southern black traditions of praying and street songs.

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” This lazy ballad and its bluesy feel will have you leaning back in your seats soaking up the last of the summer weather.

Other vocal songs performed will include “Fever” (Phil Fetterman), “Feeling Good” (Abby Datema) and “Minnie the Moocher” (Craig Harris). The Big Band will be backed by famous rock star drummer Tony Savage, an absolute “savage” on the drums. Boom.

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day Concert, Veterans Memorial Hall

The Susanville Symphony Society Swing Band performs at the Veterans Memorial Hall back in 2016.

Before my father passed away a few years ago, my mom did something very special. She wrote to many of his friends and family and asked for them to send an email about the impact or importance he had on their life. It could be funny or poignant, filled with stories or facts. Be creative, she said. Hundreds of tributes flooded in and that made me think of a tribute concert to our very own legendary drummer Dick Bendix.

This concert will be an honor to all veterans (including brigadier general Bendix himself) and anyone who has served in the armed forces will have free entrance to the concert.

I have worked with Bendix to play all music from the golden swing band era. From “In the Mood” to “Sing Sing Sing,” this will be an evening to remember. Bendix himself has hand-selected all of the music for this show, and it is my way to say thank you, as a friend, a colleague and a pillar in this community.

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22 and 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 23 Home for the Holidays! at the United Methodist Church

The Susanville Symphony Society at a previous Christmas concert. Photo by Doc Bateson

A beautiful and cheerful Christmas Concert awaits all of Susanville and beyond as we bring a festive night of all of your holiday favorites. We have a classical surprise, brought to you by our assistant conductor, a young child protégé from Reno, Nevada, one which you will have to wait and see. Trust me when I say you will be wowed and delighted.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (we will be playing that) and the “Wizards of Winter” will hopefully be giving us a white Christmas! (Yes, we will be playing that piece as well, double boom, in case you have watched the Trans-Siberian Orchestra). We also invite you to sing along to all of your favorite carols at the end of the concert.

Our very own Lassen High School Concert Choir will sing “Little Drummer Boy” (arranged by me) and “Christmas in 3 Minutes” (a longtime favorite of the program). What beautiful voices only young adults can bring to the incredible acoustics of the United Methodist Church. This is one of our busiest concerts of the year, and one that I think brings the most joy. Don’t be a scrooge, purchase season tickets today so that you can ensure yourself a ticket for this incredible holiday event.

7 p.m. Friday, March 8 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10, The Red Violin Returns to Susanville, United Methodist Church

Elizabeth Pitcairn poses with her Red Violin after a concert at Susanville Assembly of God Church.

World famous violinist Elizabeth Pitcarirn returns to the ‘Ville to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto. Written in 1878 and dedicated to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim, this is the only concerto was the only violin concerto Brahams ever wrote, and, according to Joachim, one of the four great German violin concerti.

We can still see this concerto relevant in today’s popular culture:

The third movement is used twice in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 film “There Will Be Blood,” including the end credits.

In “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Høeg, Smilla, the protagonist says “I cry because in the universe there is something as beautiful as Kremer playing Brahms’s violin concerto”.

The violin entrance in the first movement is sampled extensively in Alicia Keys’s 2004 song, “Karma.”

Pitcairn will be performing the concerto on her world famous “Mendelsohn” Red Violin — a Stradivarius violin that dates from 1720 and is one of if not the finest playing examples left in existence from that famous era.

There will be a private concert and soiree the week of the concert. Stay tuned for more details and a chance to experience the Red Violin up close and personal in an intimate setting.

7 p.m. Saturday, May 11 The Susanville Symphony Pops Concert, United Methodist Church

Ben Wade, artistic director and conductor of the Susanville Symphony, leads the orchestra during its annual Pops Concert.

As we wrap up our 20th season, we bring you an evening of Audience Choice selected works. Representing many of our season’s past, these songs have been performed before. Do you remember our first season when we played “Procession of the Sardar?” What about Tchaikovsky’s “Marshe Slav” (a piece I ghost conducted on CBS Survivor).

We want to hear from you for more of your favorites. Send me an email, write a note in your program and hand to me after the concert or check social media and Facebook for several audience polls we will be sharing with you. We want to play what you want us to play in this concert.

Ensure you have a seat
Purchase Susanville Symphony season tickets today. Even if you don’t think you can attend all of our concerts, your donation will be worth every penny. As our audience in recent years has increased, we want you to have a guaranteed seat. The only way to do that is to purchase season tickets. They start at $125 for silver members. Ask yourself these questions: Do you support the arts? What are you doing to keep the Susanville Symphony alive and well for the next two decades?