CAMA’s World Classical Music Parade begins at the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara

To suggest an arc of continuity in terms of Santa Barbara’s recent cultural life, a highlight of the year so far in classical music came when the revered maestro Sir Simon Rattle appeared last spring, at the helm of his current orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra. This Granada evening, presented by CAMA (Community Arts Music Association) and the Music Academy of the West, set the bar high for symphonic majesty and stardom in the 805.

On Monday 10 October at the Granada Theater CAMA launches its impressive new season of world-renowned orchestral and chamber music with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which Sir Simon has indeed made famous during his long tenure at the helm. The circle continues, sometimes passing through Santa Barbara.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla | Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Speaking of circles, Monday’s concert, the first of nine concerts also including the return of the mighty Chicago Symphony (January 25, 2023), features a local return from British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, now all 23, who made his Santa Barbara debuted last spring as a duet with his gifted pianist sister, Isata Kanneh-Mason, at Campbell Hall. In Granada, he performs as a soloist on the Cello Concerto in E minor by Sir Edward Elgar. Incidental historical note: Elgar was the first conductor of the Birmingham Orchestra on its debut in 1920.

The dynamic young Lithuanian maestra Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, known in Southern California as a former assistant to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (who makes her annual appearance at CAMA on May 28), currently occupies the podium. Monday’s program menu also taps into Ralph Vaughan Williams’ double-dipped British music culture Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Talliswith Debussy’s beloved The sea and Mieczysław Weinberg’s “Jewish Rhapsody”.

In Britain and around the world, Sheku Kanneh-Mason quickly became an international sensation, and for what it’s worth, he was the first black musician to win the coveted BBC Young Musician competition in 2016. He landed in a world (and cosmic?) spotlight when he performed at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s 2018 wedding. royal couple, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now call Montecito home.

The cellist is also a musician with a wide repertoire and taste, as evidenced by his new album Decca Song. Here his diverse but somewhat cohesive playlist spans JS Bach, Burt Bacharach (a final version of “Say a Little Prayer”), Stravinsky, Beethoven, an early recording by British composer Edmund Finnis, the poignant Olivier Messiaen Quartet for the end of time, “Cry Me a River”, and more twists. He’s cellist and co-songwriter on “Same River,” with fellow singer-songwriter Zak Abel providing the sole voice in a decidedly diverse and primarily instrumental venture.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla | Credit: Astrid Ackermann

CAMA’s next season, an encouraging return to its former glory after the pandemic restrictions, is shocked with striking highlights on the schedule. Among them, the Juilliard String Quartet (October 24), Hélène Grimaud (December 7), the Filharmonie Brno conducted by Dennis Russell Davies (February 13, 2023); and the Romero Guitar Quartet (March 4, 2023).

CAMA is alive and well and is launching a cultural high season with a British accent next Monday at Granada.


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