New West Symphony Opens 24th Season with Salute to Gershwin, "Rhapsody in Blue" October 6 & 7, 2018 in Thousand Oaks, Oxnard

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The New West Symphony opens its 24th season with a 120th birthday salute to George Gershwin. Rhapsody in Blue, composed at the height of the Jazz Age, was Gershwin’s attempt at fusing classical music with jazz. Pianist Kevin Cole makes his New West Symphony debut with this beloved work. Opera star turned chanteuse, Sylvia McNair, brings her inimitable stylings to the Gershwin Songbook in her New West Symphony debut. Leonard Bernstein’s jazzy suite from the ballet Fancy Free is a hat-tip for his 100th birthday year.  Darius Milhaud’s rollicking Le boeuf sur le toit pays homage to the venerable Parisian café that was the haunt of artists, writers and musicians during the Jazz Age.

Performances at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 7:30 pm and Oxnard Performing Arts Center on Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 3 pm.

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Program to include:

  • Bernstein | Suite from Ballet Fancy Free

  • Frost | Serenade for Strings

  • Gershwin | Rhapsody in Blue

  • Milhaud | Le boeuf sur le toit

  • Gershwin | Songbook selections

    • The Man I Love – Strike up the Band

    • But Not For Me – Crazy For You

    • Summertime – Porgy and Bess

    • ‘S Wonderful – Funny Face 

About Sylvia McNair (soprano)

Singer Sylvia McNair had spent years performing with esteemed orchestras and opera companies across the US and Europe. She had sung the B Minor Mass in the Vatican for the Pope. She had won an invitation to the White House from an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton.

But the successful singer was at a turning point: She remembers she had two stacks of music in front of her on the piano. One was a pile of the more mature opera roles she’d have to master, if she wanted to continue in her career as a sought-after classical singer. The other was a collection that embraced the best of the American Songbook, pieces she had always loved and connected with. “The choice was easy,” she laughs. “It was like night and day. The switch to a different genre, which I dearly loved, would be a clearer way to sing my heart.

She made her choice. She moved into finding deep engagement with the work of greats from Gershwin to Sondheim, repertoire she had always longed to explore. It led to a new blossoming of McNair’s career, including a busy performance schedule, several compelling albums that span everything from Latin standards (“Romance”) to Christmas favorites, and a one-woman show, called ‘Subject to Change!’, that has all the sass and drama you’d expect from someone who’s been both opera star and torch singer.

Stage presence and vocal chops, while important, are not the only concerns for McNair. For her, “words first music second”. Whether performing before thousands of admirers at the Hollywood Bowl or in an intimate cabaret space, McNair finds a way to bring songs’ stories home to listeners, sharing the joy, heartache, and humor of some of the last century’s best popular songs.

About Kevin Cole (piano)

Pianist Kevin Cole is an award-winning concert performer, musical director, arranger, composer, vocalist and archivist whose repertoire includes the best of American Music with a particular affinity for the music of George Gershwin.

About Michael Christie (guest conductor)

Michael Christie is a thoughtfully innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience at his performances entertaining, enlightening, and enriching. The New York Times reports, “Michael Christie is a director open to adventure and challenge,” and the Cincinnati Enquirer declares, “If Michael Christie represents the future of music in this country, the future looks promising indeed.”

Deeply committed to bringing new works to life, Michael Christie has championed commissions by leading and emerging composers alike, including Mark Adamo, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Osvaldo Golijov, Mark Grey, Daron Hagen, Matthew Hindson, Marjan Mozetich, Stephen Paulus, Kevin Puts, and more. In 2011, Christie led the Minnesota Opera in the world premiere performances of Puts’ Silent Night, which was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music.