A little twilight music

In Santa Barbara, picnic concerts make a summer night to remember
Leslie A. Westbrook

Santa Barbara suffers no shortage of wonderful ways to spend a summer evening. But the picnic concerts performed at the Music Academy of the West are the most lyrical.

Pleasure begins even before the music does, as concertgoers arrive with food to spread out on the lush grounds of a Spanish colonial revival estate, surely one of the most gorgeous picnic spots in Southern California. Tables, chairs, and umbrellas are provided; come early ― the grounds open at 5 p.m. ― for the best seats.

As for the music, the concerts are held inside the academy's Abravanel Hall, and this year's selections range from Mozart to Barber. The performers are talented young musicians from around the globe, participants in the academy's Summer School and Festival program. (Other summer-school events include chamber concerts, a fully staged opera, and weekday master classes, all open to the public.) Over its 58-year history, the academy has trained such musical luminaries as mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry; the current head of the voice department is also an alum, renowned mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne. Attending the picnic concerts has been a summer ritual for Santa Barbarans for decades. Attend one yourself and you'll understand why.

INFO: The Music Academy of the West Summer School and Festival's picnic concerts ($15; 1070 Fairway Rd.; www.musicacademy.org or 805/969-8787) are held Wed-Fri Jun 19-Aug 14.