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San Francisco Symphony New Year's Masquerade

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San Francisco Symphony


I have never seen Davies Symphony Hall like this. What is usually a temple for lofty orchestral repertoire was a site of gallivanting, dancing in masks, and unlimited flow of sparkling wine. Before the concert and during intermission it was $11 for the fizzy drink but after the concert it was free! The sound of Champagne bottles popping open all evening punctuated the jazz and rock-and-roll music. After midnight, the popping came from the thousands of balloons that were released from the ceiling.

The Martini Brothers in white jackets kicked things off downstairs with swinging numbers that drew couples to dance all around them. Their strategic positioning under the huge circular stairway created a human traffic jam in the lobby-- the fun kind.

Young Maestro Michael Francis, whose chief asset is his British accent, tried to be funny on stage and dragged a reduced San Francisco Symphony through music they seemed like they'd rather not be playing. Whether annoyed at playing simplistic "um-pa-pa" music or ticked at not being the center of attention, the orchestra gave about %25 effort. Of course, this orchestra sounds great even when they don't try as hard, but it doesn't help when the conductor disses the work he's about to perform in a joke. Viennese and German orchestras and audiences relish the Blue Danube Waltz, Radetzky March and Trisch Trasch Polka with more vigor than Americans, who are more at home with the music that was going on in the lobby. Nonetheless the performance was a light and charming diversion-- a bridge between European and American traditions, and also accessible enough to to lend a welcome to younger audiences and people new to the symphony.

Married couple Sasha Cooke and Kelly Markgraf sang opera scenes by Lehar and Lortzig in the first half and selections from Broadway musicals in the second half. Naturally, they have good chemistry on stage together. They were especially fun in the encore "No you can't! yes I can!" musical quarrel. They were at home with both the Operatic style and with mic'ed modern-jazzy style.

After the concert, Hit Parade performed an unceasing flow of chart toppers from oldies such as "I Will Survive" to newer hits such as "I Gotta Feeling...that tonight's gonna be a good night." The symphonic stage became packed with dancers as the Peter Mintun Orchestra with amplified strings and brass provided tunes until about 1AM, rounding out a fantastic party.


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