As a music lover, particularly classical, jazz, the Great American Song Book and Broadway musical theater, when I moved to the Conejo Valley years ago I wondered whether I would be cut off by distance and traffic from the best our region has to offer. We live about 40 miles from the Music Center in L.A., not that far until you factor in two hours of traffic and stress to get there—a bit less for the Pantages and Catalina’s, but still usually not a fun driving experience. However, with the New West Symphony, we have a classical cultural treasure right here in the Conejo Valley.
In preparation for the opening of their 24th season, New West Symphony hosted a “With a Song in My Heart” Soirée concert at Sherwood Country Club. Attendees helped fund their “Adopt a Musician” program and enjoyed a preview of the Rhapsody in Blue concert (featured in this issue, Good Times, page x). The performance of Gershwin tunes by vocalist Sylvia McNair and pianist Kevin Cole was nothing short of magnificent. McNair is a classically trained soprano who has now chosen to focus her career and passion on the Great American Song Book. An amalgam of musical gold that ranges from pop to Broadway to jazz, this music will outlive whatever came before and definitely what has come after. What better place to focus this evening than on George Gershwin, who belongs with Bernstein, Copeland and Ellington, in this writer’s opinion, among the giants of American music in the 20th Century. What a chanteuse! An operatic soprano who tore into all of the jazz-inflected Gershwin tunes with a vengeance. “The Man I Love,” “Summertime,” “S’Wonderful” and so much more. I did not want the evening to end!
Kevin Cole, a pianist and expert in everything Gershwin, was also amazing. His performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” at the season opening concert the following week brought the house down.
There is a full season ahead from New West Symphony, starting in January with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and continuing through May. View their full concert schedule at NewWestSymphony.org or call 805.497.5880.