Cabrillo Festival will present its 60th anniversary season from July 24 through August 7 with a return to live, in-person performances and timely, topical and thought-provoking new music. Led by Grammy Award-winning Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru, this year’s Festival offers a bold program of orchestral works, reflecting on recent and historical cultural and political divisions while staying rooted in hope for change, transformation, and peace.

Jessie Montgomery (L) and Lara Downes (R)
Jessie Montgomery (L) and Lara Downes (R) Credit: Jiyang Cheng / Cabrillo Music Festival

On Saturday, July 30, two works reflect on voting rights and celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment: Stacy Garrop’s The Battle for the Ballot (featuring the Bay Area’s own Valerie Joi as narrator), and Paola Prestini’s Let Me See the Sun (with the renowned Lara Downes on piano). The Battle of Ballot was commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival to commemorate the centenary of women’s suffrage in America and received its virtual premiere in 2020. The work incorporates the words of seven prominent Black and white suffragists, and this live orchestral premiere will feature Santa Cruz’s beloved vocalist, arranger, choral director, scholar, and activist Valerie Joi as narrator.

Paola Prestini (L) and Iván Enrique Rodríguez (R)
Paola Prestini (L) and Iván Enrique Rodríguez (R) Credit: Caroline Tompkins / Alexander Sargent

Also on July 30, Billboard Chart-topping pianist, activist and NPR radio presenter Lara Downes will be the featured soloist in Italian-born Paola Prestini’s piano concerto Let Me See the Sun. The work is about what it means to struggle towards clarity and light—structured as a dialogue between piano and orchestra, at times contentious and at times unified. “An abstract work like this ultimately speaks for itself…at its core, it’s about being hopeful and active for a different future. Muses like Lara speak to the issues we are collectively passionate about through their art. Together, we can create a space for contemplating solutions—and a collective understanding of why things need to change and how we each can do our part.”

“It’s an absolute joy to bring this stunning new piece to Cabrillo. Working with Paola is an exercise in creative exploration, shared mission and artistic vision, and sisterhood. Let Me See the Sun speaks to our collaboration, to the times we live in, and to the future we imagine—a colorful, profoundly personal reflection on freedom and self-expression. What better place than Cabrillo to share this new work in a spirit of discovery and celebration?” — Lara Downes, featured soloist

Stacy Garrop (L) and Valerie Joi (R)
Stacy Garrop (L) and Valerie Joi (R) Credit: Joe Francavilla Photography / Devi Pride Photography

Two works that speak directly to ongoing equality issues in the United States will receive their West Coast premieres at this summer’s Cabrillo Festival. Iván Enrique Rodríguez’s A Metaphor for Power, to be performed on July 30, holds the contemporary Latinx experience as its central thesis, sparked by the composer’s own journey as a Puerto Rican artist in America. On Friday, July 29, the Festival Orchestra performs Jessie Montgomery’s Soul Force—a powerful work that gives voice to the oppressed.

“(Soul Force) attempts to portray the notion of a voice that struggles to be heard beyond the shackles of oppression. The music takes on the form of a march which begins with a single voice and gains mass as it rises to a triumphant goal.” — Jessie Montgomery, composer

The Festival’s 60th season concludes on August 7 with a moving and profound Festival commission: the full orchestral version of Guggenheim Fellow Jake Heggie’s INTONATIONS: Songs from the Violins of Hope, with texts by Gene Scheer, featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Benjamin Beilman as guest artists. Written in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, INTONATIONS is a celebration of the resilience of the human spirit. The work is inspired by the Violins of Hope collection—instruments that were played by Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust and subsequently recovered and meticulously restored by Israeli violinmakers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein.

“When they tell us not to pray, Tell us to forget, When they tell us not to hope, We will play these violins.” — Excerpt from INTONATIONS libretto by Gene Scheer

Join the Cabrillo Festival this July 24 through August 7 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium for an incredible season of meaningful and timely works by twelve American composers, with a stunning roster of soloists, three world premiere commissions, and seven West Coast premieres. Open Rehearsals are free and open to the public and will include a livestreaming option. Visit our website for schedule, tickets, and more information.

Please note: Cabrillo Festival will adhere to Covid-19 public health and safety guidelines for all events. Masks will be required indoors. Proof of vaccination and booster along with a photo ID will be required for entry. Policy subject to change.