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SLO Symphony features Elizabeth Pitcairn and her famous 'red violin' at Cal Poly's Christopher Cohan Center 

Red all about it

In 1720, the famed instrument artisan Antonio Stradivari fashioned one of his impeccable violins. In total, he is estimated to have made well over a thousand of these prized instruments. But, for more than 200 years, the location and owner of this mysterious, 1720 violin remained unknown. In the late 20th century, mentions of the violin began to surface. It was owned by descendants of the composer Felix Mendelssohn, then purchased by a prominent New York industrialist. In 1990, the instrument, known as the “Red Mendelssohn,” was auctioned at Christie’s in New York for a reported $1.7 million to a silent buyer

Seven years later, the French-Canadian director François Girard adapted this story of shrouded history and the endurance of music into the Academy Award-winning film, The Red Violin. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, the movie follows an instrument very similar to the “Red Mendelssohn” as it travels from person to person across three centuries. Eventually, the real-life silent buyer was revealed to be the young violin soloist, Elizabeth Pitcairn. Since, she has emerged as a celebrated violinist.

You can watch Elizabeth Pitcairn play the red violin on Oct. 4, at Cal Poly’s Christopher Cohan Center in SLO. Tickets range from $20 to $80. And, on Oct. 1, the Palm Theatre will screen The Red Violin at 7 p.m. For more information, visit

Money talks

On Nov. 4, citizens of the United States will take to the voting booths for the 2014 midterm election. With income inequality as its highest in years, health-care coverage still contentious, and political partisanship only increasing in its polarity, it’s a critical time for the state of the union. The recent release of films like Citizen Koch and Robert Reich’s Inequality for All speak to how dire the situation is. A new documentary, Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes, continues in this vein.

Directed by John Wellington Ennis (Free For All!, Money Talks: Patients Before Patient Safety), the film examines the controversial intersection between big business and government. Interviews with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Noam Chomsky, and Reich, Ennis highlights the dangers that corporate money, heavy campaign donations, and lobbying inflict on the democratic process.

Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes screens at the SLO Grange Hall, at 7 p.m., on Oct. 2, with a discussion after the film. The SLO Grange Hall is located at 2880 Broad St. in SLO. For more info, call 762-4848.

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