Celebrating its 70th year, the always-free Beach Cities Symphony Orchestra holds its second of four annual concerts on Jan. 31 in Marsee Hall at El Camino College.
Then, on Feb. 29, BCSO holds a gala fundraiser titled "Summer in February," at the Alta Vista Community Center in Redondo Beach, in support of the nearly all-volunteer orchestra.
The gala honors BCSO’s last active charter member, Bob Peterson, who has played French horn with the group since 1949.
Peterson, 98, will play at the upcoming concert of selections including Beethoven’s “Ah! Perfido” and “Dvorak’s 8th Symphony," conducted by Paul Piazza.
The concert will also pay tribute to four guest conductors: Piazza, Geoffrey Pope, Dean Anderson and Michael Stanley, one of whom will become the orchestra’s permanent maestro for the 2020-21 season beginning in September.
“I don’t mean to brag, but we are good," said board member Erika Snow Robinson, also the orchestra’s second bassoonist. "And this season has been so exciting. I had people coming up to me after the last concert, both musicians and audience members, saying ‘I forgot I was listening to a community orchestra!’”
The Feb. 29 gala offers dinner, drinks, and dancing, as well as a raffle and silent auction packed with items. Admission includes the meal, one complimentary alcoholic beverage, and live music from South Bay locals Stephen Curto and Scott Fleetwood, as well as a raffle ticket and Selfie Station. Tickets are $70.
“I’m all for celebrating someone while they are here,” Robinson said about the tribute for Peterson. “It’s a momentous, and possibly, once-in-a- lifetime event, where we are ‘auditioning’ four different conductors with the chance to choose one to become our long-term, hopefully for the next couple decades – maestro.”
Robinson, who has played with BCSO for 22 years, said she's "just a baby" in the orchestra family compared to veterans like Peterson.
“We are a family— not only a community orchestra but in some ways a family affair," said Robinson who added a gala slide show will highlight the orchestra's 70-year history.
In addition to four free yearly concerts, BCSO gives scholarships to middle school students. Robinson is hoping to increase membership, donations and ad buys in the orchestra's programs.
But, most importantly, she's trying to get more people in seats at concerts.
"Parents, bring your kids," she said. "It’s okay if they fall asleep. They will grow up with an appreciation of classical music and that’s how we keep it alive.”
The local orchestra bonds those with a love of classical music, said Robinson, and her goal is to make the organization one the community celebrates.
"We are unfortunately the best kept secret around," said Robinson."I'm aiming to change that and I think we can.”
The Jan. 31 concert, "Heartbreak and Homeland," featuring former opera singer Erin Wood, begins at 8 p.m. at Marsee Auditorium at El Camino College. There's a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. with the conductor.
For more information, visit www.beachcitiessymphony.org.
To attend the gala Feb. 29 gala, visit