Behind the Scenes at TAKE FLIGHT

Against a background of programming modifications and cancellations by other Bay Area performing arts orgs, California Symphony staff and musicians worked together to give wings to January concerts, TAKE FLIGHT.

When All Negatives Add Up to a Positive

Musicians and staff followed stringent safety protocols

Over four days of rehearsals and performances and after many dozens of COVID tests, musicians, staff, and audiences alike were delighted when the TAKE FLIGHT concerts launched on schedule and with the full flight of programming, as originally advertised. 

A Flighty Collaboration 

Given the avian theme of the program, it was a no-brainer to work with Walnut Creek’s natural history museum and animal rescue center, the Lindsay Wildlife Experience. They readily agreed to host soloist Jennifer Cho for a mini recital before the holidays… 


In exchange, they loaned us the services of Houston the Barred Owl for selfies before Saturday evening’s concert. 

Houston and Jenny also traded social media takeovers during the week of the concert. 

Want to learn more about Houston and the other animal ambassadors at Lindsay Wildlife Experience? Make a plan to visit them soon!  

Q: What’s Houston’s favorite brand of car? 

A: An Owls-Mobile

Houston has some pretty impressive wheels, by the way.

The Lark Ascending and the Owl Arriving


We say it in every program and we really mean it: Clap when you hear something you like.  

We love it when the music speaks to you so much that you just have to let it out, as happened after the first movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 on Saturday night.

We’ll have what she’s having.

Jennifer Cho at Center Stage

You’ll usually find her at the front of the violin section and at Donato’s left side but on this program, Concertmaster Jennifer Cho was featured soloist in an achingly beautiful performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending.   

Showing her range and versatility, she followed it up with Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s foot-tapping “Louisiana Blues Strut” as her encore.  

Name sounds familiar? Perkinson was named after African-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  Perkinson arranged music for the likes of Marvin Gaye and Harry Belafonte, and co-founded the country’s first fully integrated professional symphony orchestra, the Symphony of the New World, in 1965. You can learn more about him here. 

Maestro in Motion 

Donato catches up with Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the LA Rams and the SF 49-ers

It’s no secret that Music Director Donato Cabrera roots for the home team. Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 was not the only score he was checking on Sunday afternoon.

 “Very unique, very new, and fabulous.”

Viet Cuong works with the Donato and the orchestra at the first rehearsal reading for his upcoming commission

In addition to rehearsing for TAKE FLIGHT, a portion of Thursday’s orchestra rehearsal was given over to Young American Composer-in-Residence Viet Cuong to try out ideas for his second commission for California Symphony. The piece is Viet’s follow up to his acclaimed Next Week’s Trees and will be premiered in the EPIC FINALE concerts, May 14 and 15, at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek.  

The chance to hear how things sound with a real orchestra months in advance of the performance is unique to this sought-after residency program. It’s also a valuable opportunity to get feedback and technical tips from Donato, Concertmaster Jennifer Cho, and the musicians.  

This thing you’ve created… it’s so phenomenal. It’s very unique, very new, and fabulous.  I love it.”

—Music Director Donato Cabrera’s response to extracts from Viet’s work. 

On The Arts’ David LaTulippe of KALW talked with Viet right before the reading and you can listen to the interview here.

Up Next… 

Our next concert, FRENCH IMPRESSIONS, March 26 & 27, features the world premiere of 2017-2020 Composer-in-Residence Katherine Balch’s Illuminate, which was originally slated to be performed in March of 2020. The piece was inspired by the French poet Rimbaud and joins three other French-themed pieces:  Thomas Adès’ Three Studies from Couperin, Debussy’s Danse, and Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye

Vive la Symphonie! 

Outside of the concert hall, we have a full raft of activities to stimulate and engage. 

  • Fresh Look Rewind – You told us how much you loved Fresh Look: The Symphony Exposed with award-winning Instructor Scott Foglesong so we brought it back. The 2021 course was expanded to five parts to make more room for Beethoven, and with updated music and composer selections, and recordings are available on demand now. 
  • Swing for the Symphony – The always popular annual luncheon fundraiser for music education returns this year with a swinging new title and a program that includes a silent auction, fashion show, and live music by Bay Area trio Jubilee Road—whose members include California Symphony’s own Marketing Director, Theresa Madeira! Swing for the Symphony takes place Saturday, March 5 at Crow Canyon Country Club and reservations are required by February 19. Reserve a ticket or bring friends and buy a table of eight here
  • Symphony Royale – Please save the date the date for the return of our end-of-season special event and fundraiser, Saturday, June 18. Sweden’s Queen of Swing Gunhild Carling joins forces with members of California Symphony for Symphony Royale—an unforgettable evening of vintage glamor, jazz, and swing-filled entertainment, set in the sumptuous ballroom of Bay Area landmark the Scottish Rite Center. Tables are available now. Pre-sale for subscribers, donors, and past attendees starts Friday, February 4, and tickets go on sale to the public on February 11.
  • River Cruise 2022 – We still have a final few cabins open for this summer’s cruise down the Rhine River from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland on the luxurious AmaStella with Music Director Donato Cabrera as your guide. For a limited time, you can also take advantage of a $750 per person discount through our friends at Orinda Travel. Click here for more info and to book your spot.

Join Us 

We love our California Symphony family of donors and patrons and we invite you to join us! 

Please call the office at 925.280.2490 Ext 1, or email us at to learn more about any of these groups: 

  • The California Symphony Alliance welcomes new members and volunteers to help with their fundraising events and music education work with local children.  
  • The Rossmoor California Symphony Society presents five lectures per year—each one about 10 days before concert weekend—featuring Scott Foglesong, who is San Francisco Conservatory of Music Faculty Chair and California Symphony instructor and program notes annotator. Per Rossmoor bylaws, a limited number of non-residents can join.

Pictures from this Weekend

And finally, a few snaps from concert weekend! Feel free to email us yours to add to the album at

We hope to see you again soon!


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