by Betsy Hudson Traba, Principal Flute
Thirty-two years ago in 1989, a stroke of genius bolted through the Orchestra Center: Then-Music Director Paul Wolfe and our management team envisioned the idea for a “Boston Pops-style” chamber orchestra series. Christened “Enchanted Evenings,” it was a magical combination of light classics and pops interspersed with commentary and comedy from the podium and, occasionally, from orchestra musicians themselves. The series became one of our most popular offerings almost immediately, and what began as one Saturday night concert grew to our current four or five per week as the Great Escapes concept and series has proven to be one of the most enduring and most beloved by our audiences.
Over the years this flute player has performed multiple times as a soloist (both on my flute and as a singer, believe it or not!), danced, been asked to scream like the shower scene in Psycho, and bark like a dog. I’ve come onstage at Halloween dressed like a toddler, a nun, a convict, the Grim Reaper, and a fairy princess, among others, and have played for conductors who were dressed as everything from pirates to cockroaches…all to our audiences’ delight. It has been a wild ride.
The 2021-2022 season will continue the tradition of great music and good, clean fun as we return to the Holley Hall stage with six programs guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Popular conductor Steven Jarvi returns to Sarasota for October’s opening program The Roaring 20s, a tribute to the classic ragtime and blues tunes of the last Roaring ‘20s alongside music from our current Roaring ‘20s. Jarvi’s 2019 Great Escapes program was among the liveliest that season, and we are looking forward to welcoming him back for two weeks in 2021-‘22.
Broadway conductor William Waldrop will help usher in the holiday season in early December with a program called Holiday Lights. Holley Hall is always decorated, and between the Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and dreidels, the musicians never fail to get in the spirit of the season. Traditional favorites and newer compositions such as Christmas at the Movies will stir your memory and perhaps leave you longing for snow…or not!
Sarasota native and longtime Great Escapes Maestro Christopher Confessore will have you chuckling in January during his program called Comedy Tonight. Confessore’s concerts always combine intriguing music with his dry wit, and this program will include music by Professor Peter Schickele, the classical music jokester popularly known as “P. D. Q. Bach.”
February brings a Valentine’s Day program called Be Mine, conducted by Sarah Hicks. One of the most sought after “crossover” conductors of our time, Hicks has toured with artists as diverse as Hilary Hahn, Smokey Robinson, and Sting.
March’s program, Journey on the Orient Express, will feature yours truly as soloist in La Flute de Pan by Jules Mouquet, part of Maestro Steven Jarvi’s “murder mystery” narrative which combines gorgeous music from the route of the fabled train with some orchestra hijinks!
Finally, the Great Escapes series concludes in April with Saddles of the Silver Screen, a trip through the soundtracks of some of the most iconic TV and film Westerns. Maestro Enrico Lopez-Yañez will return to Sarasota to serve as the “orchestra wrangler” for that program, which should leave us all happily riding off into the sunset after another season of jolly Great Escapes!
We hope you will join us!