Tailor-made for The City’s multi-faceted community, the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony closes its season on Saturday with an evening celebration of rainbow diversity.
The last of four conductor audition concerts that culminate with the choice of the group’s next music director, the evening showcases Dawn Harms, associate concertmaster of the New Century Chamber Orchestra, co-concertmaster of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and longtime violinist in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
While BARS' main focus is making music, it likes to have at least one lesbian/gay person as composer or soloist on every concert, says Harms.
On Saturday, it has three: Harms; composer Clarice Assad (whose “Brazilian Fanfare” intermingles cool Brazilian rhythms with old-time and modern jazz-influenced passages); and cellist Emil Miland, who solos in Elgar's glorious Cello Concerto.
Miland and Harms, both Northern California natives, are longtime buddies. They first met at the New England Conservatory of Music when they were 19.
Seven years after Miland joined the S.F. Opera Orchestra in 1988, Harms followed suit, first as principal viola, then as a violinist.
"I've had the joy of collaborating with Dawn in so many different situations," says Miland. "Recently we recorded a CD of songs by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer. We also recorded with the late mezzo-soprano, Zheng Cao, and are dedicating our June 8 performance to her."
Miland has loved the Elgar since his youth in Alameda, when he listened to the recording by Jacqueline du Pré and John Barbirolli over and over, and wanted to be part of it.
"It's a wonderful heartfelt vehicle for the cello," he says, "and it showcases its singing qualities."
Harms responds in kind. "Elgar is a musical journey I've always wanted to take with Emil," she says. “The piece is unusual because it completely emotes from the heart. Even people who don't know classical music get it, because you can hear the human touch and feel Elgar's soul speaking through the notes."
Elgar wrote the work late in life, after surviving the devastation of World War I. After a heart operation, he started writing the first theme immediately upon coming out of the anesthesia, as an uncensored emotional response to where he was in his life.
Saturday’s concert ends with with Saint-Saëns' blockbuster Symphony No. 3. Often dubbed his "Organ Symphony," the organ's first breathtaking entrance comes 10 minutes into the piece. Some concertgoers will recognize one of its themes from the animated movie “Babe.”
"We're renting an organ that is big enough to blow the roof off the hall," says Harms.
Bay Area Rainbow Symphony Pride Concert