Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra puts on dancing shoes to open new season

Courtesy of Linus Lerner

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2021-22 season this weekend with its first full-orchestra in-person concert since March 2020.

The volunteer ensemble, under the baton of Music Director Linus Lerner, has dubbed its season “Dance for Joy.” It’s a redux of the 2020-21 season that the orchestra had to postpone due to the pandemic.

“It’s time to get moving. The idea is the movement,” Lerner explained. “It’s time to get moving again and shake it out and move on. It’s quite exciting because the repertoire this year is dance for joy. … There’s a lot of music about movement.”

The orchestra will perform two concerts this weekend — in SaddleBrooke on Saturday, Oct. 16, and in Oro Valley on Sunday, Oct. 17.

The concert comes 18 months after SASO’s last full orchestra performance that Lerner led days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Nearly 200 people attended that concert, featuring impressionist painter Armando Silva painting while the orchestra performed, and another 50 or more watched the event on a live-stream.

Since then, Lerner had led small ensembles from the orchestra in seven socially-distanced concerts including at the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance’s Catalyst Arts & Maker Space in the Tucson Mall and in Green Valley.

Lerner said this season is particularly exciting because he has programmed works centered on dance starting with Grieg’s Symphonic Dances this weekend and including Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” Suite in November, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from “Prince Igor” in February, Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite in March and Dvorák’s Slovanic Dances to end the season in late April.

“Hopefully by the end of our season, the pandemic will be over or at least controlled,” Lerner said.

Lerner, who returned to Tucson earlier this week, spent most of the pandemic conducting all over the world including in his native Brazil, where he leads an orchestra, and in South Korea. Last week, he led the Festival de Opera Sin Limites 2021 in La Paz, Baja California Sur, along the Sea of Cortez. The festival was a takeoff of Lerner’s San Luis Opera Festival in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, which SASO has long supported. SASO musicians are part of the opera orchestra, as well, and Lerner’s Tucson orchestra supports a similar opera festival that he runs in Brazil.

Both festivals host the Linus Lerner Vocal Competition, with vocalists from around the world vying for the $7,500 in prize money for the Mexico competition. The winners also get a chance to perform with SASO in Tucson.

Several SASO musicians joined Lerner in Mexico last week for the festival’s weekend opera performances before returning early this week for SASO’s season opener.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at On Twitter @Starburch

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