World-class music returns to Burton Chace Park as the Marina del Rey Summer Concerts Series’ eighth season kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10th, with Maestro Frank Fetta conducting and featuring Polish cellist Marek Szpakiewicz as a soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor.

The weekly event began in 2000 when “my boss, Dusty Crane, wanted to do a small concert series for people coming home from work,” says producer Virginia Bortin. “We did a trial concert and it was the worst night — it was freezing cold, so damp, and we didn’t have all that many people, but there were enough people that came up afterward and said if you hold a whole series of concerts, then we’d definitely come.”

It was Crane’s desire for an icon event, “something that could be identified with the Marina,” that prompted her decision to follow through after that first concert. With County Supervisor Don Knabe’s help getting the first year’s series off the ground, Bortin says they were inspired to continue a set of classical concerts Thursday nights and pop concerts on Saturdays.

“In the beginning we were getting bigger crowds for the pop concerts but they’re getting balanced out,” Crane says. “Some people are walking around, some are on the other side of the hill with their kids, and that was always another aspect, we wanted a casual element to the concerts.”

Led by Fetta, the Culver City Orchestra is also set to perform Symphonic Metamorphosis by Paul Hindemith, Lis Biches Suite by Francis Poulenc, and Ma Mere L’Oye by Maurice Ravel.

“So many of the German composers of the earlier periods are played all over and so we think during the summer it’s nicer for audiences to hear selections that aren’t played everywhere,” Bortin says. “We try to play music that fits the setting, because we think we have the most beautiful setting in the world.”

“I’ve done waterside concerts before, but not where the water is so present,” Fetta says. “I think it has a certain extraordinary nature about it, first of all, where can you get, at such a bargain, such world-class music going on, but I don’t know of any venue like this.”

Fetta’s vast experience with conducting orchestras has led him around the world, from London to Japan, and across the United States from New York to Honolulu. But the long-term ties and the supportive base in Marina del Rey have made the concert series an unequaled venue for his music.

“I went to get a bottle of water at a grocery store in the Marina, and a father said to his daughter, ‘That’s the Maestro!'” Fetta says. “When a classical musician will get recognized, to know that their public is there, it feels good.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I was working late in my office across the channel, but I could hear the music coming from Chace Park.’ How do you put that experience in words?”

The classical concert series runs every Thursday night, and there are pop concerts on Saturdays, through August 30th, at Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey.

Concerts are free.

Information, (310) 305-9545, marinadel rey.lacounty.gov/.

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