Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra to perform in-person concert at Tucson Mall

Nearly two dozen Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra musicians will perform a concert of Baroque music on Sunday, March 7 — the ensemble’s biggest concert since the pandemic began last March.

“It’s going to be really nice,” said SASO Music Director Linus Lerner, who said the program celebrates a number of notable anniversaries, including the 300th for Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. “Baroque music is nice to listen to.”

In addition to two of the six Brandenburg Concertos, the ensemble — 22 string players and a harpsichordist — will perform works by Vivaldi, Corelli and Pachelbel, many of which have opportunities for soloists.

“They are wonderful pieces and they give so many players solos,” Lerner said.

Sunday’s “Baroque Masterpieces for Strings” concert will be performed before an audience of no more than 30 at Tucson Mall’s Catalyst Arts & Maker Space, 4500 N. Oracle Road, beginning at 3 p.m. The concert also will be live-streamed.

Tickets, available on a first-come, first-served basis, are $30 in advance through sasomusic.org until noon on Sunday; there will be no tickets available at the door. Group seating will be limited to four people and masks will be required.

This is the third live event the orchestra has done since last fall and Lerner said the plan is to do one more event later this spring.

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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
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.
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 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 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.
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