SASO China Tour 2012-2013: Update 6

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

‘The veterans of our 2009-2010 tour were excited to get back to Shenzhen, where we had played at the pretty concert hall that looks like a lunar module … or perhaps a giant egg.

‘Our last concert was a resounding success! Linus was even more animated than usual. The audience paid attention. Only one or two people started to clapbetween the sections of de Falla suite (El Amor Brujo). A baby wailed loudly but on cue during “West Side Story.” Our two loyal accompanying persons who attended all five China concerts were in agreement that this had been our best concert yet. Some members claimed they had played flawlessly. Others…. had not quite played that well but were still pleased with their performance.

‘As has happened four nights in a row, an attendant went on stage to remove the music stand of the saxophone player. And as usual, the music fluttered to the stage floor. This time Linus deftly picked up the page when he came on stage and bowed, and held it behind his back.  Just as deftly, Ariela sitting behind him in the first violin section pulled it from his hand, so that when he held his hands forward again the page had disappeared like a magic trick.  The more concerts we play, the tighter we get. Let’s play five more, at least!

‘Afterwards we had a feast with lots of interesting foods, including mushrooms and—was that a pigeon? And then it was up to Linus’s room for drinks – including that strong Chinese stuff of the type that my friend who lived in Nanjing used to buy to clean her kitchen countertops!’

Yesterday (Thursday January 3) we took our leave with some regret from the luxury of the Kempinsky hotel and the relative warmth of southern China.  We flew back to Shanghai, to the same hotel where we stayed seemingly so long ago, on December 27-29. In the evening, a dinner of soup and special Shanghai dumplings was served.  After dinner many of us went off to explore the Old Town and test our bargaining skills buying gifts and souvenirs. Next, the bus dropped us off so that we could stroll along the Bund, an embankment along the Huangpu river where many historic old buildings are located. The cityscape was indeed awesome, but the freezing temperatures with occasional snowflakes were hard to ignore and we looked for the bus … it had disappeared! Eventually it was summoned back and we gratefully returned to the hotel.

Our return flights from China are spread over several itineraries, some departing today and some tomorrow (Saturday). We are hoping that it goes more smoothly than the outward travel. Wish us luck!

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SASO’s Story

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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.