Mason Bates’ New Commission for San Diego Symphony Rady Shell Opening
San Diego Gets Its Answer to the Hollywood Bowl, Just in Time
By Adam Nagourney
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, a billowing white sail of an outdoor concert hall along the San Diego Bay, was planned as this city’s answer to the Hollywood Bowl: an $85 million summertime stage for the San Diego Symphony, a project of such architectural and acoustical distinction that it would distinguish San Diego on any national cultural map.
But now, its arrival — it opened with a sold-out gala performance Friday night — has turned out to be welcome for an additional reason. With the stop-and-start coursing of the Covid pandemic, the symphony, finally playing before a full audience again, is planning to extend its stay in its new summer home at least through November. It won’t be returning to its regular venue, the downtown Copley Symphony Hall, for a while.
The opening fanfare was commissioned from the composer Mason Bates, and it signaled — loudly and dramatically — the musical and sonic ambitions of the San Diego Symphony and the yearning of this city to move on from the pandemic.
The opening fanfare by Bates, “Soundcheck in C Major” — with the composer, 44, sitting in the percussion section, playing an Akai drum machine and two MacBook Pros — was cinematic and bracing. It was composed with this sound system in mind, Bates said in an interview, and written to evoke Wagner, Pink Floyd and Techno beats (he is a D.J. as well as a composer). The whirl of electronic sounds he generated flew out across the audience, ricocheting among the sound-and-light towers.