Derek Paravicini center. Composer Matthew King second from left.
The Mainly Mozart Festival has completed it’s Genius Weekend which ran from June 7-June 10 at multiple locations throughout San Diego County and Tijuana. It was perhaps the most rigorous weekend of music and presentations ever taken on by a San Diego classical music organization.
Mainly Mozart 2018
The Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra playing with the Festival Orchestra and Derek Paravicini
June 7 started it all with a concert of classical guitar and violin at The Music Box in Little Italy. June 8 was centered around a showcase concert of musicians and artists on the autism spectrum at a palatial private residence in Elfin Forest, southwest of Escondido.
June 9 was an all-day affair in the Gaslamp with lectures about music and the mind and how that relates to autism, a sensory friendly concert at the Balboa Theatre which was attended by 500 members of the autistic community. Julia, Sesame Street’s autistic character, was outside the concert greeting attendees. Later that evening the Jacobs Festival Orchestra Series launched the Balboa Theatre into near earth orbit with a Mozart Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.
Following the concert was a reception at the Sparks Gallery honoring Nobel Laureate and president emeritus of Salk, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn. Mozart-themed cocktails at the Smoking Gun followed the reception.
June 10 saw the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra travel to Tijuana to perform with a choir of 1500 Mexican children conducted by by Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra music director Hernan Constantino and Mainly Mozart Festival music director Michael Francis. Francis and the youth orchestra then sprinted north to the Balboa Theatre to rehearse for a “side by side” concert at the Balboa Theatre.
The side by side concert had members of the Advanced Youth Orchestra playing with the All-Star Festival Orchestra. It’s safe to say that this was a peak musical experience for the kids. That being said, the headliner of the concert was Derek Paravicini. Derek was born 14-weeks premature which resulted in blindness and severe autism. Yet he is a musical genius in some ways on the same level as Mozart himself.
The first half of the concert concluded with a world premiere commissioned by Mainly Mozart for Derek Paravicini and composed by Matthew King. The dimensions and structure of the concerto were Mozartian but the texture of the music favored the piano concertos of Ravel and Gershwin.
The evening concluded with Derek taking requests from an eager audience. He improvised on requests such as "Chopsticks," "Let it Be," and "Amazing Grace."
I want to return to the June 9 Festival Orchestra. The performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 pushed the limits of possibility. This is the fourth year for MIchael Francis as music director. He and the formidable cast of characters in the orchestra are beginning to connect to each other and the composer at an even more exalted level.