Fireworks will once again light up the skies above Paso Robles when “Paso Pops” premieres this Independence Day weekend.
Sponsored by the Padrewski Festival, the new event features music by the San Luis Obispo Symphony, wine tasting, family-friendly activities and, yes, pyrotechnics. The fun starts Saturday evening at the Paso Robles Horse Park off Airport Road north of Highway 46.
“We’re trying to provide something for everybody,” said “Paso Pops” board president Steve Cass, owner of Cass Winery in Paso Robles and past president of the Paderewski Festival board of directors.
Cass said he was inspired to create “Paso Pops” after a free Fourth of July fireworks show in Paso Robles fizzled out last year due to adverse weather conditions. (Organizers in previous years also struggled with funding issues.) A new Independence Day event modeled after the “Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular” was in order, he said.
Cass’ search for the perfect venue led him to the Paso Robles Horse Park, which celebrated its grand opening in May 2015.
“Just from a practical perspective, access and parking make it so much better than any (other) venue that I know of around here,” he said. In addition to room for tables and chairs, he said, the horse park has a “large, perfectly maintained turf, perfect for young families who want to sit on the grass.”
Paso Robles actor and director Casey Biggs, star of the Paso Wine Man advertising campaign, will serve as master of ceremonies at “Paso Pops,” which kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday with a two-hour wine tasting session featuring more than 30 local wineries.
Wine, beer and food will be available for purchase during much of the event, which includes interactive arts, games and painting activities for children.
At 8 p.m., the San Luis Obispo Symphony takes the stage with members of the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony. Serving as conductor is Bruce Anthony Kiesling, music director of the Tulare County Symphony and the Adrian Symphony Orchestra in Michigan; he’s also the assistant conductor of the Pasadena Symphony.
The 90-minute patriotic program includes a mix of classical and pop favorites such as “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and “Feeling Good,” plus music from James Bond movies, “Charade” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
Daniel Ha, two-time winner of the Paderewski Festival Youth Piano Competition, will perform “Allegro appassionato” by Camille Saint-Saens. And Biggs will duet with singer Alodie Ayers on “Fly Me to the Moon.”
The concert concludes with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” featuring three cannons on loan from the U.S. National Guard. Cass said the thundering sound “will send shivers up and down people’s spines.”
A fireworks finale will finish out the night.
Net proceeds from “Paso Pops” will benefit the youth symphony, Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, Studios on the Park’s Youth Arts Program and the Padrewski Festival’s youth competition and cultural exchange program.
San Luis Obispo Symphony general manager Francie Levy said “Paso Pops” will give the orchestra more exposure north of the Cuesta Grade while appealing to “a lot of people who are not our typical audience.”
“You don’t necessarily have to love Mahler or Brahms to love a pops concert,” she said.
“Paso Pops” is just one of a few pops concerts in store for local music lovers in coming months.
Joining the musicians and singers on stage are four soloists: April Amante, Deanna Delore, Paul Osborne and Babatunde Akinboboye. (The latter will appear in Opera San Luis Obispo’s production of “La Boheme” in October.)
The “Symphony at Sunset” program combines patriotic tunes such as “America the Beautiful,” “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “76 Trombones” with music by the likes of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.
The San Luis Obispo Symphony, joined by conductor Warren Balfour, singer Dawn Lambeth and trumpet player Mitch Latting, will offer “A Salute to the Greatest Generation” on Aug. 14 at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. Concert goers are encouraged to wear their best 1940s finery as they watch swing dancers from SLO Dance sway to songs from the big band era.
“It’s the kind of music that everybody can tap their toes to and love,” Levy said, noting that the swing concert is “something new that we’ve never done (before) — fun, exciting, downtown.”
Orchestra Novo, led by former San Luis Obispo Symphony music director Michael Nowak, will present a pops concert on Labor Day weekend for the second year in a row. Guest singer Phyllis Madonna will join the orchestra for “Labor Day Weekend Pops” Sept. 4 at the Alex Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo.
Levy said the San Luis Obispo Symphony is not planning a Labor Day pops concert this year.
Last year, the nonprofit organization’s board of directors, staff and orchestra musicians decided to cancel “Pops by the Sea,” traditionally held Labor Day weekend at Avila Beach Golf Resort. At the time, then-symphony spokeswoman Lisa Nauful described the annual fundraiser as an expensive and labor-intensive event that was “no longer sustainable” when all costs were considered.
“A Salute to the Greatest Generation” should satisfy symphony fans, Levy said. Rather than “the possible heat and stickiness of Avila Beach, or the possible freezing fog,” she noted, the concert will be held in a temperature-controlled theater.
For those seeking outdoor entertainment, however, there’s “Paso Pops.”
Cass hopes Saturday’s event will help the Paderewski Festival, which celebrates Polish pianist, composer and statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski with five days of concerts and special events in Paso Robles in November, expand its reach.
Although Cass expects about 2,600 attendees at “Paso Pops” this year, he said attendance could eventually grow to 10,000.
“We’ve struggled with getting younger audiences and people who aren’t admirers of classical music to come to our events,” he acknowledged. “I’m hoping this (concert) will encourage people to give us a chance.”
8 p.m. Saturday concert, doors open at 5 p.m. for reserved seating and at
6 p.m. for lawn seating
Paso Robles Horse Park, 3801 Hughes Parkway, Paso Robles
$10 to $95 in advance, $15 to $105 at the gate; discounts for seniors, students and military; children 12 and under free
805-235-5409 or www.paderewskifest.com/pasopops
‘Symphony at Sunset’
7 p.m. July 31, doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles
1-800-745-3000 or www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com
‘A Salute to the Greatest Generation’
4 p.m. Aug. 14
Fremont Theatre, 1025 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo
$10 to $30
805-543-3533 or www.slosymphony.org
‘Labor Day Weekend Pops’
4 p.m. Sept. 4, doors open at 2:30 p.m.
Alex Madonna Expo Center, 100 Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo.
$35, $350 for a table of 10
805-441-6688 or www.orchestranovo.org