The San Diego Symphony’s annual Bayside Summer Nights will mix some new twists with old favorites for its 2019 season. The series, which runs June 28 through Sept. 1 at Embarcadero Marina Park South, boasts nearly three dozen concerts — the most in the event’s history.
More than a dozen artists will be making their Bayside debuts this year. They range from Chaka Khan and Lyle Lovett to Cynthia Erivo and Common, the only hip-hop performer to win an Oscar, a Tony Award and a Grammy Award. Common will be accompanied by the symphony, marking the first time the orchestra has shared the stage here with a rapper.
“It’s nice that we’re able to pepper in new artists and add to the mix,” said Lea Slusher, the symphony’s vice president for artistic administration and audience development. She came on board here last August after 20 years at Carnegie Hall, where she recently helped oversee the production of more than two dozen free, predominantly non-classical-music summer concerts at various New York parks and performance venues.
“Cynthia Erivo and Common who were both part of a gala benefit at Carnegie Hall, which is how I came across them,” Slusher explained.
“So when we were planning Bayside Summer Night this year, they popped up immediately. And we have colleagues with other orchestras, who had done Common before, and we talked to them. Coming from a different institution on the East Coast has been really beneficial for me, as is seeing what we’ve done on the East Coast and Carnegie Hall is applicable to San Diego and for the opportunity to to bring in a different audience here.”
The upcoming Bayside Summer Nights season will feature a record seven nights of movies with live orchestral accompaniment, including the world premiere of “Galaxy Quest” in a musical setting. The 2019 edition of Bayside Summer Nights will also include the first “symphonic celebration” of the San Diego Padres, who this year celebrate their 50th anniversary.
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” performed as an orchestral fanfare is not usually in the batter’s box, so to speak. Neither is the teaming of Common with a symphony. And that, noted San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer, is exactly the point.
“There are artists who come back on a regular basis, who are very near and dear to our audiences,” Gilmer said. “And we try to have certain highly anticipated concerts each season, like ‘Star Spangled Pops,’ ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ and ‘1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular’...
“When we were programming this year’s season, we worked very hard to expand the Bayside audience to be more broad and diverse. So some people — who might not come to our ‘Broadway Hits’ concerts — will be there for Common. This is a great venue to host artists like Common and Chaka Khan — and doing so is anticipating the direction we’re going in as we prepare to open Bayside Performance Park.”
Bayside Performance Park will mark a $45 million expansion of Embarcadero Marina Park South, the symphony’s summer home for more than a decade.
Located just west of the San Diego Convention Center, the outdoor venue typically has a capacity of 2,900 people per concert. although that is sometimes increased to 4,000. As Bayside Performance Park, it will be transformed from a seasonal summer venue into a year-round concert and entertainment facility that — for several shows each year — will be able to accommodate audiences of up to 10,000.
Original plans called for Bayside Performance Park to open by next summer. That may be pushed back a year, according to Gilmer.
“The determination of whether the opening will be in 2020 or 2021 hasn’t been made yet, but everything is on track,” she said.
“It hinges on a lot of things, including design, and we’re working hard on funding. When can we be assured the best possible opening? We’ll know in the next couple of months.”
Ticket revenues for the 2018 Bayside Summer Nights season topped $3 million last season for the second consecutive year. Total attendance was 71,829. That was down from a record 77,000 in 2017, a dip partly attributed to the cancellation of at least one concert last year.
This year’s Bayside lineup will include three Thursday night concerts curated by trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, who is also the curator of the symphony’s poplar Jazz at the Jacobs series. Last year’s series had four.
Castellanos’ previous Bayside concerts mixed tributes to jazz legends with performances of original music by rising and established jazz artists. This year’s summer jazz concerts are all tributes to past greats, including Miles Davis, Nancy Wilson and — on July 25 — percussionists Mongo Santamaria and San Diego’s Jack “Mr. Bongo” Costanzo, who died here last year at the age of 98.
“I think we have found that the subscription focus has worked really well with audiences for jazz,” Gilmer said. “Even with this year’s Beatles’ tribute, this idea of recreating an album live — or doing a tribute concert — has been a niche that audiences really like, so we’re very responsive to our audience. It’s also a great way to listen to music in a concert setting.”
Rafael Payare, the San Diego Symphony’s incoming music director, will assume his new position here in the fall. Just how much the 2019 Bayside Summer Pops season helps to cultivate new listeners for the orchestra’s 2019/2020 season at downtown’s Copley Symphony Hall at Jacobs Music Center is unclear.
“By offering a wider range of music in the summer, does that then translate into bringing cross-pollinating between the summer and Copley Symphony Hall audience? Ultimately, that would be a great goal,” Gilmer said.
“Some people really like their concerts outdoors, some really like the enclosed intimacy of a concert hall, and some like both. So reaching more people is really a key goal. Then, having them come back would be great. Bayside Summer Nights is really a moment when we try to expand our audience. We know already, from some research, that there is some overlap. But we really do serve two audiences with the two venues and that is great for an orchestra to do.”
2019 Bayside Summer Nights concert lineup
Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29: “Star Spangled Pops,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Todd Ellison, featuring Ross Lekites and the San Diego Master Chorale
Sunday, June 30: “Play Ball: A Symphonic Celebration of the Padres at 50,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rob Fisher, featuring Ross Lekites and the San Diego Master Chorale
Thursday, July 4: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (7 p.m.)
Friday, July 5: “The Doo Wop Project,” featuring stars from the original Broadway casts of “Motown: The Musical” and “Jersey Boys”
Saturday, July 6: “The Midtown Men,” featuring stars from the original Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys”
Sunday, July 7: Dvorak’s New World Symphony, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Francesco Lecce-Chong, featuring Julian Rhee
Friday, July 12: “Legendary Women’s Voices: An Evening with Cynthia Erivo,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Steven Reineke
Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14: “Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince” in concert, with the San Diego Symphony
Friday, July 19: “Galaxy Quest” in concert, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by David Newman (this performance will be at Jacobs Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall)
Saturday, July 20: “Back to the Future” in concert, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by David Newman (this performance will be held at Jacobs Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall)
Thursday, July 25: “Congas and Bongos,” celebrating Mongo Santamaría and Jack “Mr. Bongo” Costanzo
Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27: “Hooray for Hollywood: A Night at the Oscars,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Ted Sperling
Sunday, July 28: Common, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Steven Reineke
Thursday, Aug. 1 & Friday, Aug. 2: “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” in concert, featuring the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Lawrence Loh
Saturday, Aug. 3: The B-52s
Sunday, Aug. 4: “Beethoven by the Bay,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Yaniv Dinur, and pianist Dominic Cheli
Thursday, Aug. 8: Nancy Wilson tribute concert, featuring Mary Stallings and Melissa Morgan
Friday, Aug. 9 and Saturday, Aug. 10: “Classic Albums Live Presents The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Stuart Chafetz
Friday, Aug. 16 and Saturday, Aug. 17: “Some Enchanted Evening: The Broadway Hits of Rodgers, Hammerstein & Hart,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rob Fisher, featuring Laura Osnes
Thursday, Aug. 22: “Miles Davis +19” tribute concert, with Gilbert Castellanos and the KSDS Jazz Orchestra
Friday, Aug. 23: “Singin’ in the Rain” in concert, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Richard Kaufman
Saturday, Aug. 24: Chaka Khan
Sunday, Aug. 25: The O’Jays, with The Commodores
Friday, Aug. 30, Saturday Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1: “1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Christopher Dragon
All Bayside Summer Nights concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. (unless otherwise noted). Gates open at 6 p.m. Fireworks follow the conclusion of most Friday and Saturday night concerts, as well as the Sunday night “Star Spangled Pops,” “Play Ball: A Symphonic Celebration of the Padres at 50” and “1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular” concerts.
Series tickets are now on sale; single tickets go on sale April 28. Single ticket prices currently range from $20 to $98. Beginning special concert prices currently range from $25 to $108. Series ticket packages are as follows:
Thursday Jazz (three concerts): $51-$195
Ultimate Friday (eight concerts): $152-$680
Ultimate Saturday (eight concerts): $192-$760
Bravo or Encore Friday (four concerts): $88-$360
Bravo or Encore Saturday (four concerts): $104-$392
Sunday Classical (three concerts): $66-$270
Phone: (619) 235-0804