Did You Miss Our Town Hall?

Recently, Music Director Carl St.Clair joined Pacific Symphony President & CEO John Forsyte for a virtual town hall. They presented a roadmap to recovery from the pandemic, exciting news about our virtual concerts, updates on the status of the Symphony, plans for reopening and how we continue to educate, engage and connect with the greater community. Watch it here:

To the Rescue: Upping the Symphony’s Streaming Game

With attending live performances sidelined for the time being due to the pandemic, virtual concerts are the primary way Pacific Symphony can perform for audiences. In the past, orchestra concerts were filmed largely just to document the performance for the Symphony archives.

As Pacific Symphony management planned presenting concerts online, they wanted to create a visual experience closer to the current production values of film and television that audiences have come to expect. They knew they would need to upgrade to state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting equipment.

Enter Janet Curci to the rescue. A well-known philanthropist in the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa area and an active supporter of Pacific Symphony (especially its opera programs), she made a generous gift to the orchestra from the Janet Curci Family Foundation, and the Symphony was able to purchase all new equipment. With video cameras that are able to connect to the internet, powerful computers, high-end microphones, high-definition monitors and so much more, the Symphony has a whole new system for filming and streaming concerts.

And the results are sure to please Symphony audiences. They will see concerts in a whole new way from new and unusual angles provided by 12 video cameras: close ups of individual musicians, interaction between musicians and the ever-changing musical expressions on conductor Carl St.Clair’s face at close range.

As you watch PacificSymphony+ virtual concerts, remember the generous woman who made it all possible, Janet Curci!

For more on PacificSymphony+, click here.

Download Our App For A Chance To Win Amazon Gift Cards!

Pacific Symphony will be hosting the program notes for “Thursdays @ 7,” our virtual concert series, exclusively on our very own app! Free to download in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and working for both iOS and Android devices, our Pacific Symphony app streamlines the concert-going experience for new and veteran Symphony audience members. Plus, when you download the app, you may be one of four lucky winners each week who will receive a $25 Amazon gift card!

How To Win:

  • Simply go to your app store and search “Pacific Symphony” and download
  • Click the first card at the top “Win an Amazon Gift Card” – this will bring up a Google Form
  • Fill out your name and email address in the Google Form, and voilà, you’ve been entered to win! Winners will be emailed, and announced on social media on Fridays

In the app, you’ll be able to find program notes for that evening’s virtual concert, see upcoming concerts, check out our social media and blog feeds, and find all the info you need about the performers.

For example, you can read the program notes to tonight’s first-ever “Thursdays @ 7” virtual concert, “Strauss & Tchaikovsky” while you watch the performance tonight at 7 – streaming free on Facebook and YouTube! The app is the perfect companion for the virtual Pacific Symphony experience.

Meet PacificSymphony+, A Digital Concert Hall For The Orchestra’s Streaming Content

Pacific Symphony has returned to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall stage after an absence of nearly one year, due to the uncertainty caused by coronavirus. After an in-depth collaboration with UCI’s Department of Public Health to develop Covid protocols in order to ensure the health and safety of the musicians, the Symphony has been given permission from the OC Health Officer to begin recording new content.

PacificSymphony+ is a new way to experience your Symphony online and on-demand, so you can enjoy the magic of music whenever and wherever you can. Starting Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., newly recorded footage from the Concert Hall will be premiered every Thursday, beginning with Classical events and eventually including Pops, Family and chamber programming. Many of the programs will be free of charge. The classical offerings are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation. Their ongoing support is greatly appreciated. A generous gift from the Janet Curci Family Foundation helped the Symphony to upgrade its video cameras and internet streaming equipment to enhance the online presentation of these concerts. The Feb. 25 concert is sponsored by Mike and Ellie Gordon. 

Music Director Carl St.Clair planned the repertoire for these online concerts in such a way that each piece can be performed by a smaller ensemble rather than the full orchestra. This allows the orchestra to be properly socially-distanced on stage and assures that everyone is safe. Last weekend, for example, Richard Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Winds and the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings were recorded.

The following week’s concert on March 4 will feature the Symphony’s brilliant brass section in two works: Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” and Daugherty’s “Asclepius.” Other highlights of the upcoming Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Foundation Virtual Classical Series on subsequent Thursdays at 7 p.m. will include: Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” Suite and Suite from “The Firebird;” Mozart’s “Serenata Notturna;” Gounod’s “Petite Symphonie for Winds” (finale only); selections from Ravel’s “Mother Goose;” Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 3;” and a number of Bach concertos. Symphony Thursdays @ 7 will be streamed on Pacific Symphony’s YouTube channel, Facebook page and on the Symphony’s website. Individual events will remain available for online viewing for 30 days. Additional programming will be announced as it becomes available.

AXP@Home Students Celebrate New Beginnings with Paint-to-Music Workshop

“The ultimate currency in human existence is time—and how you spend it. It’s being spent every second of your life, and you can never get it back.”

Music Director Carl St.Clair

With 2020 came a collective anxiety, as the pandemic quickly shirted our routines, work schedules and social lives.  Despite the challenges of adjusting to this new normal, the arts-X-press team found a way to carry on their tradition of summer fun by introducing AXP@Home, the remote format of Pacific Symphony’s immersive arts summer camp. With the success of last summer’s virtual camp, AXP@Home has since been expanded through alumni workshops that focus on a different art form each month. 

With the dawn of the New Year, AXP@Home invited students back to celebrate new beginnings and explore how the fusion of instrumental music and visual art can inspire creative expression. 

Jennise Hwang, Pacific Symphony ‘s principal second violinist, joined the workshop as a special guest to play a collection of her favorite pieces that represent the excitement and optimism of a fresh start.

While listening to the pieces played by Jennise, AXP@Home students reflected on the music in real-time through drawing and painting, with guidance from visual arts instructor Allison Chatman Trujillo. Using an array of different colors, patterns and movement styles, students explored the language of music through their own visual interpretation of Jennise’s solo violin renditions of Jules Massenet’s Méditation from Thaïs, “A Whole New World” from Disney’s “Aladdin” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Allison led students through exercises and provided a brief history of the connection between the visual arts and music. She emphasized that listening to music “can bring back a memory or trigger emotions, whether it’s happy, sad or uplifting. There is no right or wrong way to describe what you feel or see when you listen to music.” 

Upon listening to “A Whole New World,” Counselor Kayla described her corresponding art piece as a representation of legato style, or long and flowing sound. “I took colors that reminded me of the night to go with the mood and memories of the song.” 

In reflecting “The Star Spangled Banner,” AXP alumna Brooke “blended a large range of colors with shading dynamics in order to visualize the meaning of togetherness from the piece.” 

AXP alumna Sophia noted how she communicated emotion in her painting by using “both light and dark colors to symbolize the parts in the piece that were happier than others.” 

Prior to beginning the creative exercise, Carl St.Clair, music director of Pacific Symphony and arts-X-press co-founder, joined students in discussion to reflect on the opportunities of the new year and their individual meanings of success. 

“Just to be able to live a happy life would be [my own personal definition of success], AXP alumnus Ryan expressed. “I don’t think money necessarily differentiates success from failure, as long as you’re happy in your life overall.” 

St.Clair encouraged students to maximize their opportunities for success by being aware of how they spend their time. “The ultimate currency in human existence is time—and how you spend it. It’s being spent every second of your life, and you can never get it back.” 

These moments of reflection showcase how the arts can continue to push us beyond adversity and help us embrace new opportunities as part of our creative processes. Furthermore, exhibiting the close relationship between music and visual art can also expand our artistic interpretations and allow us to perceive the world in a different light. 

St.Clair emphasized how “the happiness and joy we get out of our personal accomplishments” can always define our success. Regardless of the challenges we face individually or the afflictions that overwhelm our world, it remains important to center ourselves with what brings us meaningful enjoyment and connects us to fresh perspectives. 

The next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series—“Building Confidence & Embracing Quality”—will be a dance-centered workshop taking place on Weds., Feb. 24, 2021. 

Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on news and content!

Celebrate a Valentine’s Day Spectacular with Exquisite Chamber Music

Feb. 14 | 1-2:30 p.m. | In Your Living Room

For centuries, love has inspired some of the greatest music ever written. Whether you’re a die-hard romantic or a stone-cold skeptic, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to pull out all the stops and bask in the sounds of beautiful music.

Long Beach Block x Block—an exceptional ensemble of Pacific Symphony virtuosi—invite you to celebrate the holiday with a digital concert of musical arrangements they have written and lovingly curated. The program will feature all new, original selections of music relating to all aspects of love. You can revel in everything from Vivaldi to klezmer, waltzes to tangos. The Valentine’s Day Spectacular will take place Sun., Feb. 14 from 1–2:30 p.m. on Zoom. (Ticket buyers will receive a link to the event upon purchase.) The members of Block x Block will be on hand hosting, answering questions and offering unsolicited relationship advice.

Violist Meredith Crawford commented, “The exciting thing about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a holiday centered around love, and love is a subject that’s inspired so much incredible music throughout the ages—our group basically had endless choices when deciding how to program this show. Love is also a very versatile topic: we can talk about playful love, serious love, love lost, love found, romantic love, platonic love, fiery passionate love, chaste love, unrequited love … the list goes on!

“I’m personally very excited to show people what a Block x Block Valentine’s Day looks like,” Crawford added. “I think we’ve come up with a truly unique and fun event for everyone to enjoy in celebration of the holiday.” 

Flutist Ben Smolen shared his thoughts on the program, “One of my favorite new arrangements we’ll be presenting is violinist Christine Frank’s arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s famously fiery Libertango; I dare you not to end up twirling around the room by the end!”

Tickets for Block x Block’s Valentine’s Day Spectacular start at $25 and can be purchased at various levels. Perks for various tiers include holiday treats by MaddieCakes in Newport Beach; BxB-branded masks, shirts and mugs; custom videos; and even deluxe, hand-knit woolen hats by Ben Smolen! If you purchase at the $50 level or above, you will get access to an archival recording of the event to watch on-demand after February 14. Please note: if your ticket order includes baked goods, they can be picked up locally (Long Beach or Orange County) on February 13.

To order tickets, click here.

About Block x Block
After the pandemic forced all performing arts organizations to cease producing live concerts, many musicians were getting stir crazy and missing the connection that exists between performer and audience. Six Pacific Symphony musicians who live in Long Beach decided in early May to begin producing outdoor, socially distanced chamber music concerts in various yards and open spaces around town. The concerts were an immediate success, and the group’s biggest problem was keeping them secret enough to manage crowd sizes! They have been humbled and honored to be able to say that during 2020, when live music came to a standstill around the world, Block x Block was able to produce 84 safe, socially distanced concerts. 

One of the aspects of Block x Block that makes it interesting for the musicians and fun for audiences is that they perform a huge variety of music. Because they create all of our own arrangements, the music they play reflects the personal musical tastes of each member of the group. The result is concert programs that might include classical music, Appalachian fiddle tunes, Nordic folk music, pop and klezmer all in a single show. They are constantly creating new arrangements, and every show’s program is unique. 

Read more about Block x Block at their website.

Celebrate Lunar New Year on Feb. 12

Pacific Symphony’s popular annual “Lunar New Year” is usually a sell-out. Traditionally, it’s an evening concert filled with rich, colorful and festive music and dance to welcome the Lunar New Year. This year, due to the pandemic, the Symphony’s “Lunar New Year” concert will be a virtual experience.

Ushering in the “Year of the Ox” (according to the Chinese zodiac), Music Director Carl St.Clair will lead the orchestra in archival footage of past concerts of music that intertwines Eastern and Western cultures. The “Lunar New Year” concert takes place Friday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m., and is available for free streaming on Pacific Symphony’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Left to right: Fei-Fei Dong, Min Xiao-Fen

Music Director Carl St.Clair and actor Ron Banks will be the hosts for the brief program, which will feature archival footage of favorite works from past concerts. Guests will include the renowned pipa soloist, vocalist and composer Min Xiao-Fen, acclaimed pianist Fei-Fei Dong and concertmaster Dennis Kim will also appear.

Concert Sponsors
Charlie and Ling Zhang

Corporate Sponsor
East West Bank

Longtime Pacific Symphony Supporters Ling & Charlie Zhang Donate $6.2 Million Office Building

Pacific Symphony is proud to announce that longtime supporters Ling and Charlie Zhang have donated to the orchestra the $6.16-million building that houses the organization’s administrative headquarters. Because of this donation, the Symphony projects it will save at least $150,000 per year on the 15,399-square-foot space. Located at 17620 Fitch, Irvine, the Class A office building was named for the couple in 2017.

Charlie Zhang commented: “On behalf of Ling and myself, we are pleased to be able to present this building as a gift to Pacific Symphony. The orchestra has meant so much to both of us, and we are proud to be able to support all the amazing artists of this wonderful orchestra.”

Pacific Symphony’s administrative offices are next to Orange County Music and Dance, an adjacent parcel that was previously gifted by the Zhangs to OCMD. They joined Doug Freeman in founding the leading non-profit community music and dance school. Symphony President John Forsyte sits on the board of directors of the school, helping create close coordination with the orchestra’s nationally recognized education and community engagement programs. Expanding upon the vision that Pacific Symphony’s administrative home would be a cultural center, Charlie and Ling Zhang welcomed two important cultural institutions to the Zhang Center: Arts Orange County and the Southern California Children’s Chorus.

Symphony President John Forstye continued: “Charlie Zhang is a visionary, both as a businessman and a philanthropist. With his wife Ling, they have transformed the landscape of Orange County philanthropy. While they do not seek attention for their gifts, they do hope that their philanthropy inspires others to join them. We are grateful for his generous support of Pacific Symphony and the building which bears his and his wife’s name. They have catalyzed dramatic change for our region and have given us all a gift that will transcend generations.”

Music Director Carl St.Clair recalled the Symphony’s early days when its offices were in a church basement in Santa Ana. “We have definitely come a long, long way. The reason for that is because we’ve never stopped dreaming. And Ling and Charlie’s presence here has shown us that there is no reason for Pacific Symphony to ever stop dreaming about our orchestra and its bright future. I want to personally express our deepest heartfelt gratitude for their exceptional generosity.”

The Next Great Tenor? You Be the Judge

Tenor Freddie De Tommaso (photo: Craig Gibson)

A 27-year old British-Italian tenor Freddie De Tommaso is being hailed as the next great tenor. Opera Now noted that De Tommaso “sounds like a youthful Italian Domingo with a gorgeous baritonal quality to the lower end, building up to a heart-rending top,” BR Klassik hailed his “bombshell voice” and Der Standard described him as a “Vocal Phenomenon.”

His debut album Passione (to be released in April) is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of the great Italian tenor Franco Corelli. In fact, 2021 will mark four important milestone centenaries in the “Year of the Tenor”: the births of Mario Lanza (Jan. 31), Franco Corelli (April 8), Giuseppe Di Stefano (July 24) and the death of the father of all modern tenors, Enrico Caruso (Aug. 2). De Tommaso’s recording Passione celebrates the songs they made famous and also explores the musical landscape of his father’s family from Italy’s deep south.

Clockwise from top-left: Mario Lanza, Franco Corelli, Giuseppe Di Stefano, and Enrico Caruso

In addition, the album will feature three world premiere recordings: Respighi’s Nebbie, based on the composer’s original manuscript, and two rare Puccini songs, Mentia l’Avviso and Sole e Amore, all are specially orchestrated for this recording.

Curious? Take a listen and decide for yourself. And then leave a reply and tell us what you think.

Celebrate The Year of the Ox at Pacific Symphony’s Virtual Lantern Festival

The entire family can join Pacific Symphony for its annual Lantern Festival, which is being offered virtually for the first time. The event is free and takes place online on February 27, from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

The Lantern Festival, which can be traced back 2,000 years, takes place 15 days after the Lunar New Year—on the first full moon night in the lunar calendar—and marks the return of spring, representing the reunion of family. The act of lighting and appreciating lanterns is a way for people to let go of the burdens of their old selves and express their best wishes for themselves and their families for the future.

Pacific Symphony and South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/ Irvine Chinese School join forces in presenting this family-friendly virtual festival to commemorate the end of the Lunar New Year celebration with music, dance, demonstrations and riddles.

You’ll have the opportunity to create your very own lantern, be inspired by traditional Chinese music and dance, and even have the opportunity to win a special ox lantern. 

The event is free on Pacific Symphony’s YouTube and Facebook pages. Artists include: South Coast Chinese Orchestra, Irvine Chinese Choir 華聲, American Feel Young Chorus 飛楊, Evangelical Valley Children’s Choir 東安兒童合唱團, Orange County Ladies Chorus 橙縣女聲, Eastern Taiwan Women’s Ensemble 知音合唱團, Hua-Lien Yi-Chung Middle School Wind Ensemble 花蓮宜昌國中管樂,Hua-Lien Dancing  School 花蓮舞蹈劇, Chinese Dance Company of Southern California, and members of Pacific Symphony and Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles.

You’ll enjoy participating in paper lantern making, riddles and a calligraphy demo. You’ll have a chance to win prizes, and you won’t want to miss the dragon dance!

Co-hosted with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/ Irvine Chinese School, this event is made possible through the generous support of the James Irvine Foundation.