Atascadero celebrates a century with a symphony

Centennial Celebration Concert is Saturday at the Pavilion on the Lake

slinn@thetribunenews.comOctober 23, 2013 

As a sophomore at Fresno State University, Atascadero High School graduate Darin Alvord got the opportunity to speak with one of his idols.

Igor Stravinsky, the Russian-born composer best known for “The Firebird” and “The Rite of Spring,” told him two slightly contradictory things.

“(He told me) composition is an arrogant act. You expect a musician to play what you’ve written and, furthermore, you want the audience to listen to what they play,” Alvord recalled. But, Stravinsky added, “They want you to succeed.”

On Saturday, Alvord will attend the world premiere of his symphonic suite “Of Time’s Many Waters,” which he composed in celebration of Atascadero’s 100th birthday.

“Having pretty much given up on having public performances of any work, this is exciting for me,” said the composer, who lives in Clovis.

Two local groups

Saturday’s Atascadero Centennial Celebration Concert features performances by two North County groups: Cuesta College’s North County Chorus and Symphony of the Vines. Part of concert proceeds will be used to establish a music scholarship at Atascadero High in honor of local music educators Richard and Marty Baum and Lyle Stubson.

The first half of the program includes “The Tree of Peace” by East Coast composer Gwyneth Walker and “American Mass” by Bakersfield composer Ron Kean.

According to Cassandra Tarantino, North County Chorus director, “American Mass” blends the text from a traditional Latin Mass with tunes from American hymns and spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Shall We Gather at the River?” The chorus will perform three of four movements at Saturday’s concert; they’ll perform the full Mass at a joint concert in April 2014.

In addition to celebrating Atascadero’s centennial, the symphony will mark the 200th anniversary of composer Richard Wagner’s birth with a performance of “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” from Wagner’s famed Ring Cycle.

The second half of Saturday’s concert is dedicated to Alvord’s “Of Time’s Many Waters.”

Gregory Magie, founder and conductor of Symphony of the Vines, said the Atascadero-based symphony is thrilled to showcase a composer with hometown ties. (Symphony of the Vines will reprise “Of Time’s Many Waters” and “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” at Sunday’s “Celebrating Centennials” concert at the Templeton Performing Arts Center.)

“The recognition of someone who is from that area creating great art will help foster the pride of the region,” Magie said. “It’s a celebration not only of the fact the city has been around for 100 years, but (also that) they’re thriving in so many different ways.”

Alvord, whose parents moved to Atascadero in 1951, credits the Baum brothers with fostering his interest in music. Stubson, meanwhile, encouraged him to hone his composing skills at Atascadero High.

The first piece Alvord, then a high school junior, composed was a dissonant tribute to Stravinsky titled “The Chartreuse Nectophrynoides.”

Alvord spent one year at Cuesta College before transferring to Fresno State, where he studied under Wilson Coker. After graduating with a music degree, he went on tour with a rock band that covered songs by Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

“That was the end of my professional music career,” recalled Alvord, who went into the telecommunications field instead.

He’s currently the chief engineering officer and co-owner of Dispatch Direct, a Clovis-based network operator that provides dispatch communication services to businesses throughout Central California.

Still, Alvord said, his interest in composing never waned.

“I wrote many, many things that never saw the light of day,” he said.

Last May, a lifelong friend, Paso Robles City Council member Steve Martin, approached Alvord with the idea of writing a piece to celebrate Atascadero’s centennial.

“It took me a long time to decide,” joked Alvord. “I took three or four seconds and said, ‘I’d love to do that.’ ”

The composer spent about 10 months working on the piece, which he titled “Of Time’s Many Waters” in recognition of Atascadero’s name — which, depending on the translation, means either “mud hole” or “where many waters meet.”

The 25-minute piece features 15 different musical themes, Alvord said, “all designed to reflect the times from the perspective of one living in Atascadero.”

“No sooner than this town out West had begun, but world events began to shape changes in (Atascadero),” he explained.

Starting with the founding of Atascadero by E.G. Lewis and the arrival of World War I, “Of Time’s Many Waters” touches on several important moments in the 100-year history of the community, including the Great Depression, World War II and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Alvord charts each emotional high and low, from times of turbulence and tragedy to periods of hope, peace and prosperity.

Recalling Stravinsky’s advice to “take people where they want to go,” Alvord said his goal was to “create music that would reminisce about that period and would express the central feeling that people would have about that period.”

He hopes audience members will “see some of what they see in Atascadero in the piece.”

IF YOU GO

Atascadero Centennial Celebration Concert
7 p.m. Saturday
Pavilion on the Lake, 9315 Pismo Ave, Atascadero
$30
235-0687 or www.symphonyofthevines.com

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