The Modesto Symphony Orchestra wants you to come out to enjoy some red red wine. Or some white white wine. Rosé is fine, too.
No matter your wine preference, the orchestra is betting it will pair well with the music of Neil Diamond to kick off its season of “Picnic at the Pops.” The 20th annual season opening concert brings in Neil Diamond tribute group Super Diamond on Sept. 6 on the E.&J. Gallo Winery grounds.
Over the years the show, which regularly draws crowds of around 4,000 to enjoy music in the park-like outdoor setting, has featured a range of guest performers to play with the symphony orchestra. Last year, a Beatles tribute act appeared, and in other years there have been celebrations of Broadway, Motown and even Swedish pop sensation ABBA.
San Francisco-based tribute act Super Diamond has been performing the work of the famed pop singer for 22 years. Its lead singer, Randy Cordeiro – known as “Surreal Neil” onstage – said the group has played with a handful of symphony orchestras in the past, including ones in San Diego and Utah. For the Modesto show, the group will play up the performer’s ballads to take advantage of the full orchestra, they said.
“There are a lot of parts already in the music that are there and work (with an orchestra). It works really well because they are well-crafted pop songs,” he said. “It’s a regular Super Diamond show, but instead of a six-piece band we’re a 70-piece band.”
The show will feature more than 20 of Diamond’s greatest hits from “Sweet Caroline” to “Solitary Man,” “I’m a Believer” to “America” and, yes, “Red Red Wine.”
Cordeiro said Super Diamond brings the same high energy to its symphony shows as its solo outings. But instead of being straight impersonators, the group takes a more alternative approach to Diamond’s music. He said they bring a psychedelic, sometimes even hard-rock edge to the songs.
“We don’t just try to be like him so much,” he said. “We do some mash-ups, but mainly we do little riffs. We’re not like a lot of tributes where they try to be exactly like the artist. We have fun with a lot of the general Neil Diamond themes and mix it with KISS, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin. We just have fun with it.”
The group has played across the country and been featured on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Comedy Central and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” The band also has appeared with the man himself twice while on stage at the House of Blues in Hollywood.
Rounding out the band are Matt Tidmarsh on bass guitar, Rama Kolesnikow and James Terris on keyboards, Chris Collins on guitar and Vince Littleton on drums.
The group is happy to take Diamond’s enduring music to the masses.
“You know, that’s pretty much our job,” Cordeiro said. “We travel across the country all year-round, spreading the good word of Neil.”
Super Diamond and the orchestra will be led by Modesto Symphony associate conductor Ryan Murray, who also serves as music director for the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra and Townsend Opera.
Murray has spent August in Austria for the prestigious Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors. The fellowship allows him to study at the Salzburg Festival in residency with the Vienna Philharmonic. The fellowship selects one promising American conductor under 30 to attend the event each year.
The Picnic at the Pops concert will be his first show with the orchestra since returning from the fellowship.
As in years past, attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner to the event, but outside alcohol is prohibited. Wine, soda, coffee and water will be available for purchase at the concerts with proceeds going to the orchestra. Catered boxed meals may be pre-ordered for the event as well from O’Brien’s Market, Green’s Market or Tressetti’s World Cafe.
The winery grounds will open at 4 p.m., with the concert commencing at 7:30 p.m. The show concludes with a fireworks finale.