Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra has rare lineup next season

[The] Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is digging deep into the vault of the rarely played next season, presenting several works that hardly ever get programmed in Southern Arizona.

Among the notable pieces on deck: Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony to open the season in October, and Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto featuring saxophonist Ashu and Fauré’s choral powerhouse Requiem with vocal soloists and a choir, both next March.

The volunteer orchestra, led by music director Linus Lerner, performs in SaddleBrooke and Oro Valley. It also presents two concerts in Green Valley.

In addition to Lerner at the podium, SASO will host the young Russian conductor Anton Shaburov in the season finale next April. He will conduct Dvorák’s Seventh Symphony. Other guest artists set to make their SASO debuts include flutist Carol Wincenc, who will play lead on Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto in November, and Ashu, who is no stranger to Tucson.

The critically acclaimed saxophonist has performed three times with Arizona Friends of Chamber Music including his 2009 performance in the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival.

THREE OTHER NOTABLE THINGS ABOUT SASO’S UPCOMING SEASON:
  • It hopscotches across nine countries and three centuries, traversing four countries in the October season opener alone.
  • A trio of soloists are making encores: pianist James Dick for Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F in October; violinist Edwin E. Soo Kim for Elgar’s Violin Concerto in January; and Melanie Chae for Schumann’s Piano Concerto in April.
  • The orchestra jump-starts the season with a free concert on Sept. 15 at Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., to commemorate Mexican Independence Day. Guest vocalists from Mexico and Mariachi Sol Azteca are in the lineup in a concert sponsored by the Mexican Consulate in Tucson and the Instituto Cultural Mexicano de Tucson.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter: @Starburch

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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."
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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