Centennial Celebration

By Steven A. Blum   |   April 9, 2024
The Granada’s Centennial Festival celebrates all eras of the historic entertainment house (photo courtesy of The Granada Celebrating 100 Years of the Arts in Santa Barbara)

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow worked well as a title for a 1990s greatest hits album by Santa Barbara’s still thriving singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins, and no reason why it shouldn’t serve superbly as a way to celebrate the Granada Theater’s big anniversary over a single weekend April 12-14.

Looking back at the iconic venue’s history, pausing to take note of the present and looking forward to the future through a variety of entertainments and performances; that is the idea behind the Granada’s Centennial Festival Weekend: Celebrating 100 Years of the Arts in Santa Barbara. 

“This building has such a valuable history to Santa Barbara and the region, and at the same time it’s very vibrant as the much sought-after performance venue for local arts organizations as well as out-of-town producers,” said Jill Seltzer, Vice President of Advancement for the Granada, who has spearheaded a year-long effort to put together the 100th anniversary events series. “We wanted to pay homage to its roots as both a movie palace and a performance space, give attention to the kind of venue we are now, and look toward Santa Barbara’s young talent as where we might be going.” 

Act 1 on April 12 focuses on the theater’s role as a film palace through a double feature, including the silent film Sherlock Jr., the Buster Keaton classic that screened the year the Granada opened in 1924, and then a singular sensation from five decades later with Star Wars: A New Hope, the first film in the space epic series, the 70mm version that ran for 15 weeks at the end of 1977. Both will be presented in fully restored 4K, and local pianist Michael Mortilla will improvise live for Sherlock Jr.

“He actually listens to how the audience is engaging with the film, ramping up or pulling back depending on how they’re reacting,” Seltzer said. “And there’s something about the shared experience of seeing Star Wars on the big screen.”

The performance picked for Saturday night’s “Experience the Present” actually breaks some new ground for the Granada, bringing a rare evening of jazz to the venue with the Pacific Jazz Orchestra, a new 40-piece ensemble conducted by its founder, seven-time Grammy-nominated Chris Walden, whose work includes arranging for the Oscars. Special guests include singer Katharine McPhee, veteran jazz singer-songwriter Billy Valentine, song stylist Sheléa and vocalist Adam Aejaye Jackson

“The sheer spectacle of 40 jazz musicians on stage will be amazing, and hopefully people will now think of the Granada and jazz together,” Seltzer said. 

Sunday’s “Imagine the Future” show puts the spotlight squarely on young performers who call Santa Barbara home, starting with three of our most gifted solo artists in their 20s or younger in Jackson Gillies, Hunter Hawkins, and Rachel La Commare, up-and-comers who may just turn into the next household names with local roots. The evening culminates with a single fully-produced number each from upcoming musicals from Dos Pueblos (Anything Goes), San Marcos (Singin’ in the Rain) and Santa Barbara (A Chorus Line) high schools, plus a nine-minute medley of songs from Sweeney Todd by the local competitive youth choir called Euphony, taking advantage of the timing to turn our attention to the bevy of talented teens. 

Making everything accessible to everyone was a huge factor for the events, Seltzer said. The nearly nominal admission prices reflect the past-present-future theme: $19.24 on Friday, $20.24 on Saturday and $21.24 on Sunday, which ends with a free Granada Centennial Festival Block Party, featuring Spencer the Gardener, on State Street. Additional 100th anniversary events are planned monthly through the end of the year. Visit www.granadasb.org.


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