Under Maestro Daniel Stewart’s visionary direction, the Santa Cruz Symphony proves yet again its commitment to present groundbreaking music on local stages.
Last weekend’s production of Enlightenment was no exception, with radiant music by Emmy Award-winning local composer John Wineglass, 2017 Klein Competition grand prize winner and cellist Jeremy Tai, and the illustrious Maestro Stewart and SCS musicians.
The concert celebrated inspiring luminaries from the past and present, featuring historic masterpieces by Tchaikovsky and Mozart and a contemporary pièce de résistance from Wineglass – the auspicious World Premiere of “Bonny Doon: From the Misty Redwoods down to the Mighty Pacific Ocean”, a symphonic reflection of our beloved California nature at its best.
SCS commissioned the arrangement from Wineglass, a renowned concert-hall, film and television composer as well as multi-instrumentalist who is locally based. His prolific music has won him the Emmy 3 times, is linked to some of the most dazzling names in show biz, and is sought after far and wide. “Bonny Doon” is his newest composition, and tells a musical story of the diverse birds indigenous to this region as they travel from the forest to the sea.
SCS musicians gave a spirited performance that conjured up the sensations of a bird in flight with cinematic brilliance. Playful chirps of birdsong from wind instruments, lush soaring notes from strings, and dramatic crescendos from percussion created vibrant images of wings, wind, and waves. Wineglass even infused the theme with hints of a Scottish jig, a nod to local Scotsman John Burns who named Bonny Doon in the 1900s. Through his music, Wineglass captures the essence of the California Coast so vividly that even those unfamiliar with it will be able to imagine and appreciate its unique beauty. The short piece was a thrilling ride ending with an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Audiences also had the great pleasure of listening to the young California-native and rising-star Jeremy Tai, performing his interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme”. Tai revealed an abundance of depth and jaw-dropping skills as a cellist, delivering the nostalgia and elegance that Tchaikovsky’s music requires with well-timed accompaniment by the orchestra. Whether playing with the lightest touch or intense adrenalin, Tai’s vast musical expression conveyed the tone of “Rococo” as much as his own striking virtuosity. Under Maestro Stewart’s dynamic baton, transitions between his exhilarating solos to conversational sequences with the orchestra were smooth; the individual contributions from each musician strong and clear.
The orchestra also showed great ease and agility navigating the technical challenges of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. SCS musicians work as a powerful collective, showing orchestral balance that blends impressive technical skill with emotional substance. Their performance expressed the shifting moodiness of Mozart’s Symphony with precision and depth, illuminating the composer’s greatness at conveying the human experience, and making the feeling of intensity transparent and relatable for listeners.
In their performances, Stewart and his orchestra maintain the highest levels of artistic integrity in an atmosphere that feels welcoming and accessible. Santa Cruz Symphony continues to elevate the arts in this community, defining what makes classical music transformative and this area so culturally inspiring.