Balboa concert draws a crowd

by David Dixon

Those who did not go to Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion on Cinco de Mayo missed a wonderful event. Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of San Diego and the San Diego State School of Music and Dance, Concert in the Park is an event where talented students from SDSU perform a free show for the public.

The concert opened with SDSU’s Aztec Warrior taking to the stage to get the crowd excited by blowing his conch and yelling, “Let’s Go Aztecs!” As was to be expected, this led to thunderous applause from the largely enthusiastic audience.

The first half of the program was mostly devoted to the SDSU Jazz Ensemble, led by conductor Bill Yeager. The opening song, “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way),” had the band’s musicians singing their mighty hearts out.

The second number was “Manha de Carnival (Black Orpheus),” a horn-heavy tune with an energetic tone. It was clear the show was running smoothly when Yeager bobbed his head along to the upbeat rhythms.

After the ensemble played “Montuno Azul,” which included a big solo from percussionist Larry Grano, Master of Ceremonies Bryan Main said the ensemble was “not bad at all.” That was a low-key way of saying it was absolutely amazing.

It was then time for the SDSU Chamber Choir, conducted by Dr. Patrick Walders, to sing several songs perfect for the festive holiday. “Sway (¿Quien Sera?)” was a great introduction for the choir. The group sang beautifully, and there was even time to showcase a sizzling dance between a choir member and a dance student.

The Chamber Choir’s renditions of “Son de Camaguey” as well as “Besame Mucho” were mellow fun, and in a way, maybe the most relaxing part of the lively evening. The night ended with the choir and jazz ensemble joining together to perform a Chick Corea and Joaquin Rodrigo medley. For a few seconds, it seemed like Concert in the Park was going to end on a melancholy note, because the beginning of the final piece featured a sad interpretation from the choir. However, the music became more upbeat as the saxophonists, trombonists and trumpet players turned it into a celebratory anthem. After the melody, the main groups played a brief encore of “Spain,” which strongly concluded this year’s “Concert in the Park.”

It is unbelievable how terrific the acoustics are in the outdoor Spreckels Organ Pavilion. No matter where one sits, the sound quality is excellent. Unlike some indoor concerts, the sound never becomes overwhelmingly deafening.

“Concert in the Park” is a very successful show, yet it deserves to be even more popular. While there were plenty of older attendees, there were not many SDSU students in attendance.

Hopefully, this account will encourage college readers to check this highlight out next year, right before Cinco de Mayo abruptly turns into Drinko de Mayo. It also doesn’t hurt that it costs a total of zero dollars for admission.

Information for “Concert in the Park” can be found at

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