SASO Musicians Head to Music Festival in Brazil

TUCSON, AZ – The well-traveled Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is headed for another international performance – this time in Brazil.

Forty SASO musicians will join members of the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte and other Brazilian musicians for two concerts at the Gramado In Concert International Music Festival. Linus Lerner, a native of Brazil, is artistic director of both orchestras and founder of the festival.

With Lerner conducting, SASO previously toured China twice and performed at the Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico the past three summers. SASO musicians will spend five days in Gramado participating in the festival. Many will then spend three days in Rio de Janeiro before returning to Tucson.

Gramado is a European-style tourist town in the mountains of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The inaugural festival took place in early 2015 and the second will run from Feb. 12 through Feb. 21. The festival includes an extensive program of recitals, master classes and concerts.

The festival orchestra will present two concerts. The first will be Feb. 14 at the Palacio das Convenções and the second on Feb.16 in a specially constructed auditorium in the Rua Coberta. Both programs include Morton Gould’s American Salute and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, known as “From the New World.”

In addition, acclaimed violist Brett Deubner will play two contemporary American viola concertos, one at each concert. More than 80 works for viola have been dedicated to and premiered by him, including both these concerti. This will be the premiere performance of Max Wolpert’s Viola Concerto No. 1, “Giants.” The other featured concerto is Amanda Harberg’s Viola Concerto. Deubner plans to record both these pieces with SASO in Tucson this spring.

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SASO’s Story

Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
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