SASO China Tour 2012-2013: Update 5

Some comments from Diane about our concert in New Year’s Day:

‘Our fourth concert presented new surprises. We thought we were on our way to Shenzhen, but we were driven to Longgang. We wondered if this was a mistake: the day before, one of the the bus drivers had been lost for half an hour. But no, the hotel staff seemed to be expecting us, and we soon learned that we had been scheduled to play in at a theater in Longgang, a suburb of Shenzhen. Hmm!  The theatre was nice, with good acoustics, but the facilities were not on the level of the other theatres where we performed. (All the other theatres were part of the Poly group.)

‘To our surprise, we found an out-of-tune upright piano on stage for Sheryll, our orchestral pianist.  The piano has important parts in many of our pieces, so this was disappointing.  Moments before we went on stage, we located a nice grand in the far corner of the backstage area. By then it was too late; Sheryll had to play the first half of the concert on the tinny upright. At intermission, the proper piano was brought on.  Other surprises awaited.  After our second song, tinsel from the show the day before started wafting down in our direction. Then a man in the balcony started fighting with his friends, and the slender usher had to run and find someone stronger to help her have the man removed!’

Despite all these surprises, the standard of our performance again improved over the previous evening, and the audience seemed to enjoy it, becoming more enthusiastic as the show progressed.

Next morning, we had a short bus ride to Shenzhen proper, and arrived the splendid entrance of the Hotel Kempinsky (5-star).  Such luxury!  But our rooms were not ready when we arrived, so to compensate we were given vouchers for the hotel lunch buffet.  Members of the orchestra were seen walking around in a daze at the array of delicious items available – traditional Chinese, sushi, hot dishes cooked before ones eyes, wonderful desserts, etc.

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SASO’s Story

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