Fallbrook, the Beautiful

“I believe that in the history of the Fallbrook Music Society you would find a group of people who moved here, who enjoyed music and arts, and thought, ‘Boy, it’s a pain to have to drive to Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego to hear really good music,’” says Bob Leonard, executive director of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce.

The Fallbrook Music Society was founded 30 years ago when the town’s population was less than 15,000 (today it is 40,000). To raise the funds needed to schedule the first three concerts ($21,000 in 1978), founders spent two months calling every person in the Fallbrook phone book to ask for contributions. “They actually had to wait until after their work — one was a real estate agent, the other a financial adviser,” says Brenda Montiel, president of the society.

On Sunday, May 25, the Fallbrook Music Society presents the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, which will perform “America the Beautiful,” highlighting the works of great American composers. As part of the performance, Jon Robertson, conductor and music director of the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, will also perform Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the orchestra.

The Bob Burton Center for the Performing Arts in Fallbrook seats 532. “This is a theater that was built on the campus of Fallbrook High School, so it became part of the district, but it was voted to be the community theater as well as the theater used by the school,” says Montiel. “When they built this theater, they brought in an acoustician.”

Montiel says that acoustic curtains and the curvature of the structure enhance the sound of the performance. “What it does is it allows the performers on stage to hear one another. Often [in theaters with poor acoustics], when a group will perform you get a large sound from the orchestra, but you don’t hear what’s happening with some of the inner voices, like flutes and trombones.”

The Fallbrook Music Society provides lodging for musicians in one of Fallbrook’s three small hotels. For one recent performance, 30 of one hotel’s 50 rooms went to members of a symphony. “All these groups are major performing groups that may perform in Carnegie Hall in New York and then fly out here to Fallbrook,” says Montiel. Some past and upcoming groups to perform for the society are the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra from Budapest, the Orchestra of Camerata Ireland, and the Aulos Ensemble from New York.

Attendance averages around 450 people and is growing. About 75 percent of the audience is from Fallbrook; most of the remainder are from San Diego County.

According to Leonard, the archetypal resident of Fallbrook is a VP of a major corporation who, drawn to the climate and rural scenery, decides to build a house, buy an avocado grove, and retire in the area, supplementing his retirement funds with revenues gleaned from the grove. The 2005 census shows more than 32 percent of all households reported annual incomes of over $100,000. Leonard says that the typical resident and spouse were most likely supporters of the arts in the larger city from which they came.

Art creators, he says, are drawn to the area because of the supportive community. “Eight or ten years ago somebody asked, ‘Hey, has anybody noticed that we have 250 artists living here?’ and the response was, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if they had a place here in town to display some of their works?’” Ten galleries are listed in downtown Fallbrook. Leonard mentions that one artist routinely sells paintings from his home for upwards of $50,000.

The Redlands Symphony Orchestra has been performing in Fallbrook for seven years. Conductor Jon Robertson, who has performed in theaters across four continents, looks forward to returning to Fallbrook. “The acoustics are excellent, and the audience is very receptive and actually quite knowledgeable,” says Robertson. “For one thing, they don’t clap between movements, which is a major sign that they’re used to these kinds of performances.”

— Barbarella

Redlands Symphony Orchestra presents “America the Beautiful”
Sunday, May 25
3 p.m.
Bob Burton Center for the Performing Arts
2400 S. Stage Coach Lane
Cost: $37 adults; $10 students
Info: 760-728-4056 or www.fallbrookmusicsociety.org

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