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A full summer classical season


When conductor Michael Berkowitz leads the Santa Rosa Symphony Pops orchestra in concert July 4 at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center, it'll be a special occasion for a many reasons.

The concert marks the return of the traditional Independence Day pops concert and fireworks show, originally presented on the Rohnert Park campus from 2000 to 2007. And it opens the Green Music Center's first summer concert series.

The concert also kicks off the classical-music summer season, which includes the Mendocino Music Festival, Midsummer Mozart concerts in Sonoma and two Napa Valley concert series — Festival del Sol?and Music in the Vineyards.

And for Berkowitz, who will start his ninth season with Santa Rosa Symphony Pops this fall at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, the July 4 show will be his first performance at the Green Music Center.

The conductor is confident a good time will be had by all.

"On a Fourth of July program, you start with some patriotic music, like 'America the Beautiful' and 'God Bless America,' and we're doing an armed forces tribute," Berkowitz said.

"We're also playing some classic Broadway music, and some swing," he added. "We have two great singers, Doug LaBrecque and Lisa Vroman, who both did 'Phantom of the Opera' for years. We're going to do 'Sing, Sing, Sing,' and I'll play a drum solo on that."

As if the program weren't varied enough already, Berkowitz is also throwing in some movie music: the main theme from "Back to the Future."

"Then, on top of that, there's fireworks," Berkowitz said. "You can't beat that."

The show, which will begin at 7:30 p.m., costs $25-$45 for outdoor seating and $45-$85 for indoor seating.

The Green Music Center's 1,400-seat Weill Hall will open its back wall during its summer series, for an additional 6,000 patrons to picnic on the lawn and at tables.

Other highlights of the center's nine-concert MasterCard Performance Series include retro-pop orchestra Pink Martini on July 14, classical-bluegrass band The Goat Rodeo Sessions with cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Aug. 23, and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti on Aug. 25. 866-955-6040, gmc.sonoma.edu.

Here are some other classical music choices for summer:

<strong>July 12-21 — Festival del Sol?</strong> The 10-day festival presents nationally and internationally known classical musicians performing at a variety of venues, including wineries, mostly in the Napa Valley. But this year, the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park also gets into the act. Festival del Sol?will present violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, with the Russian National Orchestra, at 6:30 p.m. July 16 in the center's Weill Hall. Other highlights include a sold-out opening night performance July 12 by Tony Award-winning singer Audra McDonald at the Castello di Amorosa winery in Calistoga, and the closing-night "Opera Gala" at 5 p.m. July 21, with singers Ekaterina Scherbachenko and Raymond Aceto and the Russian National Orchestra, at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. Single ticket prices range from $45 to $150. <a href="http://festivaldelsole.org" target="_blank">festivaldelsole.org</a>, 888-337-6272.

<strong>July 13-27 — The Mendocino Music Festival</strong> presents 15 days of classical concerts, as well as jazz, world and bluegrass performances, at its festival tent on the Mendocino Headlands and other venues. Highlights include rock and roots guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, at 8 p.m. July 14, and the Calder Quartet classical string foursome with pianist Gloria Cheng at 8 p.m. July 23. For tickets, full schedule and other information: <a href="http://mendocinomusic.org" target="_blank">mendocinomusic.org</a>, 937-4041.

<strong>July 18-29 — The Midsummer Mozart</strong> series plays two concerts each at four venues around the greater Bay Area, including two performances outdoors at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma. Soprano Rebecca Davis and pianist Audrey Vardanega will perform there July 20, and violinist Mayuko Kamio appears July 27. Both concerts start at 6 p.m. $20-$65. <a href="http://gunbun.com" target="_blank">gunbun.com</a>, 938-5277.

<strong>Aug. 7-25 — Music in the Vineyards,</strong> Napa Valley's annual chamber music festival, will present top classical musicians at nine wineries.

This year, the program also includes a fully staged version of Igor Stravinsky's opera, "The Soldier's Tale," at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15-16. Single tickets cost $50. <a href="http://musicinthevineyards.org" target="_blank">musicinthevineyards.org</a>, 258-5559.

<em>You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>