by Chuck Louden on July 25, 2022

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

SF Symphony, Summer 2022

The San Francisco Symphony is no doubt ecstatic to welcome people back to live performances this summer in all of their venues. Davies Symphony Hall, Stern Grove and The Shoreline Amphitheatre all have full schedules of terrific performers to treat everyone this summer.  There is definitely something for every age and musical taste. For program schedule and tickets, visit SF Symphony/Summer. Here are reviews of two swell programs I saw.


Judy Garland’s 100th Birthday and San Francisco Pride weekend at once. Talk about a Gay Old Time. Of course so much of going to Davies is just as much about dressing up and people watching as it is to hear our great orchestra. The crowd dressed to impress — a sea of sequined jackets, tight dresses and rainbow suits were on hand June 29..

Guest conductor Edwin Outwater led the proceedings. Projected on three large screens were vintage clips of Judy Garland performances taken from her 1963-64 one season television variety series The Judy Garland Show. Back in its day CBS gave America a great opportunity to showcase Judy’s powerful vocal talents. Selections included Judy’s musical numbers and that of her duets with top stars of the day. The live symphony accompaniment added dimension and power to her performances with belter Ethel Merman, the then-young Broadway star Barbra Streisand, and heartthrob of the day Bobby Darin. Judy performing with vintage Rat Packers Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra are classics. Foreshadowing future stardom, some of the best duets were with her teenage daughter Liza Minnelli, who even then showed considerable talent.  

Jessica Vosk, guest vocalist with her own set of powerful pipes, provided powerful renditions of several of Judy’s famous hits “The Trolley Song”, “You Made Me Love You”, and “Come Rain or Come Shine”. The very handsome Broadway star Andy Karl joined Jessica for several duets. Local favorite drag performance artist Peaches Christ addedlevity to the evening with her Diva antics and running commentary.

Volk’s powerful rendition of the most famous Judy Garland song of all, “Over the Rainbow”, brought down the house. San Francisco, Pride Weekend, and Judy Garland….there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Picnics, family, friends and fireworks are all synonymous with the 4th of July. Add SF Symphony at the Shoreline Amphitheatre and you have all the ingredients for an all-American outdoor experience.

With Maestro Outwater conducting, and perfect warm weather, the evening of great music was magical. The first half featured the classic sounds of Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn (the openly gay composer of “Take the ‘A’ Train”). Later, music by Leonard Bernstein included numbers from the classic Broadway show West Side Story. The acoustics of the classic Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View — which borders the ever-expanding campus of tech giant Google — means that the sound travels well beyond the confines of  the theater. Hundreds of people were spread all along the lawns of the campus on blankets and folding chairs, with kids in strollers, couples and groups of friends enjoying the sounds of the concert on the lawn for free. Indeed the second half of the concert shifted to a more family friendly sound featuring the music of Alan Menken, composer of most of the Disney animated films of the last 35 years, including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Hercules.

Showcasing newer Disney films such as Coco and Encanto, guest vocalists Kelly Brandeburg, Ruby Day & Gary Stanford, all decked out in sparkles, performed several songs with film scenes projected on large screens, which really perked up the kids in the house. I have to confess that of all the songs performed by the vocalists, the only song I recognized was the ubiquitous “Let It Go” from Frozen performed by powerhouse vocalist Rosana Hill Jackson.

Of course the highlight of any event this time of year is fireworks. After all the Disney songs were finished, the profound and distinct overture to Star Wars was played by the orchestra. A boom was heard in the sky and the fireworks started. It was a brilliant sight accompanied by the fantastic sound system. The blasts and colors continued for 20 minutes, ending with the fireworks favorite, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. A classic evening indeed.

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