The Damon Castillo Band will join the San Luis Obispo Symphony onstage Sept. 6 at Avila Beach during its annual Labor Day weekend gala. Castillo’s will be the first rock band to perform with the orchestra.
“We wanted to lighten up the Pops a little bit,” explained music director Michael Nowak, celebrating his 25th anniversary as the symphony’s conductor.
The San Luis Obispo Symphony will perform Hollywoodthemed selections during the first half of Pops by the Sea.
The Damon Castillo Band will be backed by the San Luis Obispo Symphony during the second half of the Pops by the Sea concert on Sept. 6.
POPS BY THE SEA
4 p. m. Sept 6; gates open at 2:30 p. m.
Avila Beach Golf Resort, 6464 Ana Bay Drive, Avila Beach
$15 lawn seating, free for ages 14 and under; party tables vary
543-3533 or www.slosymphony.com
This year’s Pops program pairs soulful rock ’n’ roll with sweeping cinematic soundtracks.
“We’re going to have two different sides to the concert,” Nowak said, “The traditional side and the side where everybody can get the crease out of their pants and boogie down.”
Pops does Hollywood
Now in its 17th year, Pops by the Sea will kick off with a musical tribute to movie magic.
Audiences can expect to hear selections from classic films including “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard as Oz,” as well as newer favorites such as “Mamma Mia!,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Composer Henry Mancini gets his due with “Mancini Magic,” which features snippets from “Charade,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Pink Panther.”
For younger fans, there are medleys based on “The Muppets” and the “Harry Potter” movie series.
As Nowak noted, the theme “Pops Does Hollywood” pays tribute to his own Hollywood career.
A violist and conductor, he’s worked on the soundtracks of more than 800 films, including “Star Trek” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Nowak made his onscreen acting debut this spring as a grumpy Julliard conductor in “The Soloist.”
Liz Summer of San Luis Obispo, co-owner of Central Coast Magazine, will serve as the concert’s mistress of ceremonies.
Normally, the symphony dedicates the second half of Pops to a monumental work of music, such as “1812 Overture,” “Rhapsody in Blue” or “An American in Paris.”
This year, however, the orchestra opted for a twist: rock music.
Nowak first heard the Damon Castillo Band in November, when the quartet celebrated the release of its latest album, “Laurel Lane,” at Downtown Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo.
As he listened, Nowak thought, “This would really sound good with the symphony.” He approached Castillo this spring with a proposal — a joint concert.
“I was honored and excited and overjoyed,” recalled Castillo, whose band recently took top honors at the first-ever New Times Music Awards. “I’ve always been curious … (about having) my songs arranged for an orchestra of that size.”
Nowak and Castillo picked the set list together, focusing on “Laurel Lane” tracks such as “Close Call,” “Secret” and “Surrender.”
Castillo has been working with arranger and Cuesta College saxophone instructor David Becker to adapt his songs — written for guitar, drums, saxophone and keyboard — for a full symphony orchestra.
“It’s just a totally different language,” Castillo said, adding that one song in particular, “Close Call,” “lent itself to a bigger presentation.”
Pairing rock music with symphonic strings, woodwinds, horns and percussion is not unheard of in the world of music.
The San Francisco Symphony teamed up with heavy metal band Metallica in 1999. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra joined KISS in 2003, and scores of orchestras have performed the music of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
Here on the Central Coast, the San Luis Obispo Symphony has featured such musical guests as jazz chanteuse Inga Swearingen, steel drum band The Pandoliers and horn player Richard Todd at Pops. A rock band, however, is something new.
On Sept. 6, Castillo and his band mates— keyboardist Kristian Ducharme, drummer Jennings Jacobsen and saxophone player Larry Kim—will perform backed by the full symphony.
“I think the audience will just love it,” Nowak said, praising the Damon Castillo Band. “It just works very well. It’s got good harmonies, good rhythm.”
Aiming for a crowd
In past years, as many as 3,000 people have attended Pops by the Sea.
Concert organizers hope that even more music lovers will flock to Avila Beach to hear the Damon Castillo Band make its Pops debut.
“We figure it’s a way to open up to a lot of new fans,” said Patty Thayer, the symphony’s marketing director.
Besides, she added, the combination of sun and surf tends to draw the same people who’d shy away from symphony concerts at the Performing Arts Center.
Castillo said he’s already seen “an overwhelming response from our fans.”
“It’s going to be a wonderful day of music,” he said.
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.