Pacific Symphony Salutes the Pacific Chorale

Pacific Chorale 1

“Hallelujah!” This single word is one of the most recognized in Handel’s “Messiah,” a work that is equally well known throughout the masses since its premiere in 1741. But those fans of Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale would know that this lyric is also the beginning of long-time partnership between these two groups.

During Pacific Symphony’s 1983-84 season, Pacific Chorale joined the orchestra at Fullerton’s Plummer auditorium for Roger Wagner’s (founder-conductor of Los Angeles Master Chorale) legendary reading of Handel’s “Messiah.” Later in that season, Pacific Chorale broke bread, or rather shared apple pie for dessert, with Pacific Symphony musicians and the community members in a picnic hosted during the intermission of “American Music and Apple Pie,” a concert that featured the works of Copland, Barber, Harris and Erb in the new home of the Symphony (at that time) at the Santa Ana High School auditorium.

Pacific Symphony continued this glorious partnership, with many performances of “Messiah” over the years.

2001 marked the first ever joint recording of Richard Danielpour’s “An American Requiem” after performing the world premiere four days earlier on Nov. 14 with conductor Carl St.Clair. Now, they can be heard on seven additional recordings together, including Pacific Chorale’s recording of “Voices” by Stephen Paulus featuring Pacific Symphony. Earlier this year, Pacific Chorale joined the Symphony in New York’s Carnegie Hall to perform Philip Glass’ “Passion of Ramakrishna” for the composer’s 80th birthday celebration.

Founded in 1968, Pacific Chorale originated as a group of singers rehearsing for a performance of Mendelsohn’s “Elijah” at the University of California, Irvine, conducted by Dr. Maurice Allard, later becoming the Irvine Master Chorale. Eventually John Alexander, artistic director emeritus, would take over for a remarkable 45 seasons from 1972-2017. Along the way, the Chorale changed its name to Pacific Chorale to reflect “Orange County’s (and California’s) identity as a coastal community taking part in the rich network of cultures and traditions that encompass Earth’s largest ocean.”

Pacific Chorale comprises 140 professional and volunteer musicians, led by Robert Istad who took over for John Alexander in the 50th season (2017-18), after being assistant conductor since 2004. Like Alexander from 1996-2006, Istad is also the director of choral studies at CSUF. Additionally, he serves as a music professor, and the leader of the University Singers and the Women’s Choir.

Pacific Chorale 'Tis the Season

Like Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale takes pride in their education programs for youth and forbringing lifelong learning opportunities to surrounding communities. These programs include the Choral Academy for elementary students, the Choral Camp, in association with CSUF, to provide music theory and vocal production training for high school students, and annual summer event of a free Choral Festival, and Intro to the Arts and Passage to Arts programs that partner with organizations and high school chorale directors to bring free Pacific Chorale concerts to at-risk and low-income children.

For these education programs, they have been awarded the 2005 Educational Outreach Award and the 2015 Education/ Community Engagement Award. Pacific Chorale also has been recognized with the “Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Chorale Excellence” from Chorus America, the service organization for North American choral groups.

This year Pacific Chorale will sing “Hallelujah” again during Pacific Symphony’s 40th anniversary season in their shared home, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, on Sunday, Dec. 9. It promises to be a stirring performance!

Erica Sharp is a Cal State Fullerton alum with a degree in Print Journalism. She is currently the public relations and marketing intern for Pacific Symphony. She also has played double bass in Pacific Symphony Youth Symphony Orchestra and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings.

Pacific Chorale Names Its New President and CEO

Andrew Brown

Longtime collaborator and partner of the Symphony, Pacific Chorale, recently announced the appointment of Andrew Brown as its new president and chief executive officer, replacing Elizabeth Pearson, who left earlier this year.

Prior to joining the Chorale, Brown spent 17 years with the Los Angeles Master Chorale where he started as an administrative assistant and eventually became the chief operating officer. Most recently, he facilitated the Master Chorale’s appearance as the featured chorus on John Williams’ score of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

In an interview with Voice of OC, Brown said, “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this leadership role with the Pacific Chorale, an institution with a rich Southern California legacy and recognized for its leadership in the national choral community.”

Pacific Symphony congratulates Pacific Chorale on entering their next exciting phase of their artistic development! The Chorale will be featured in Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” in “Bernstein @ 100,” our concert celebrating the great American conductor and composer’s legacy for his centennial.

You can read more at Voice of OC, or the Orange County Business Journal.

Reviews: Opening Weekend

As our 40th Anniversary season kicks into high-gear, we’re back, and prouder than ever to share with you some of the highlights of reviews from Opening Weekend.

The concert’s program included a newly-extended version of former Composer-in-Residence Frank Ticheli’s “Shooting Stars”; Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring returning guest pianist Olga Kern; Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, which highlights our new concertmaster Dennis Kim and Principal Voilist Meredith Crawford; and ends with the spectacular finale: Ravel’s serpentine “Boléro.”


Pacific Symphony Celebrates Its Past and Welcomes Some New Faces in Season Opener

— The Orange County Register

Two of the orchestra’s members made their solo debuts with the Pacific Symphony a successful one. Dennis Kim, the newest concertmaster, and Meredith Crawford, in her second year as principal violist, were featured in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra.  … In all these situations, Kim and Crawford excelled with the utmost professionalism and resolve, their interplay most impressive.

Kim played the 1701 Stradivarius with a clear, concise sound and dexterity that was very expressive, while Crawford produced a very rich tone full of warmth in her instrument.


Pacific Symphony Turns 40 With a Bang and a Big Party

— Voice of OC

Violist Meredith Crawford was the big surprise of the evening. The Maine native has been playing with Pacific Symphony for a few years, and she was promoted to principal viola last year. Crawford has a big, warm, inviting tone that’s reminiscent of master violist Donald McInnes. …

All in all, Thursday was the 40thbirthday party the orchestra deserved. Now that this ensemble is in is prime, and a new concertmaster is in place, it’s time to climb some higher mountains.


Pacific Symphony’s Opening Concert Has Glam, Fun and Poetry

— Classical Voice

Who would have known 40 years ago that a new local band named “Pacific Chamber Orchestra” would one day become Orange County’s important culture ambassador around the world? …

Listening to her gentle, poetic treatment of the second subject in the long virtuoso cadenza, I was more convinced than ever that Olga Kern is one of the finest pianists of our time. (Someone please tell me why she has not played at the Disney Hall!)   Under maestro St. Clair, the orchestra accompanied her impeccably in fine Russian style – a mixture of fire, melancholy, but no tears.


The PSO’s Ambitious 40th Season Makes a Starry Start

— LA Opus

What made the performance [of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante] so special, however, were the soloists Dennis Kim and Meredith Crawford, respectively the PSO’s new Concertmaster and viola section Principal. Searching around for a metaphor to describe their playing and interaction, to me they seemed perhaps like a pair of probably new but already very good friends, enthusiastically exploring and discussing an inexhaustible range of ideas in common, and finding nothing to disagree about.
Their playing was muscular, joyful, quietly plangent by turns as the mood of the music demanded, both players always acutely aware of and responding to what the other was doing. It was a performance to treasure.

A note on classical music terms and usage

“Rumors about the impending exit have swirled for months, reaching a crescendo in recent days.” – Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2013.

Awhile back I commented on music critic Scott Cantrell’s non-use of the word “crescendo,” his contention being that the word is too technical for a general circulation newspaper. I disagreed, asserting that it’s a perfectly good word, found in Webster’s no less, and an easy concept to understand.

Along comes Kingsley Amis. In his “The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage,” he has this typically curmudgeonly thing to say on the word “crescendo”:

“Once a musical term meaning ‘(passage played) with increasing volume’ and a derived figurative term meaning ‘progress towards a climax.’ For many years now taken to be a fancy synonym for ‘climax’ as in ‘the gunfire reached a crescendo’ or ‘the chorus of vilification rose to a crescendo’ and rendered useable only by the unwary or vulgar. Outside of a strictly musical context, that is.”

Yes. The important distinction to remember is that a crescendo is not a particular point in a musical composition, but a process therein, i.e. a process of getting louder. The musical marking for it is quite simple and illustrative, consisting of an elongated “lesser than” sign (as used in mathematics) placed directly under the passage for which the composer wants a gradual (or fairly sudden, but never instantaneous) increase in volume. A crescendo sign varies in length, depending upon the length of the crescendo desired.

Continue reading

Interviewing the talent


The stories behind the stories: I won’t assert that they are more interesting than the stories themselves, but they’re not without interest. I’ve learned a lot about classical musicians, both individually and as a group, interviewing them through the years. Composers, to my mind, are the best interviewees. They’re smart, they work alone and they seem to enjoy the opportunity to talk about their craft. Singers tend to live up to their reputation for shallowness and flightiness, I’m not sure why.

You never know what you’re going to get, phoning up or sitting down with a classical musician for the first time. It can be nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what to expect when I phoned the great pianist, intellect, essayist and poet Alfred Brendel. He was one of the all-time best scowlers on stage, glaring at coughers, barely breaking a smile in response to thunderous applause. I was intimidated. It turned out he was an absolute delight, funny, easy to laugh, spilling his tea (and laughing at that), willing and interested to talk and reflect about everything, even his inner self. “Well, I don’t think I’m really driven,” he said. “I’m not a fanatic, I dread fanatics. Fanaticism is something that frightens me. So I have given myself the appearance, or the idea, that I do what I do out of my own free will.” And then he laughed.

Pianist Ivo Pogorelich didn’t laugh at all. He was difficult. I sat down with him for a radio interview once and he didn’t like the microphone the engineer gave him. It fit on his head; he apparently didn’t want to muss his hair. Pogorelich told us that unless he got another microphone, one that sat on the table, he was going to walk, quite the diva. We found a table microphone for him and I proceeded with the interview, delicately.

Oh, I’m sure, dear reader, you want to know what they’re all like. Cecilia Bartoli? Adorable. Riccardo Muti? Exceedingly charming, humble, a gentleman. Philip Glass? Friendly, bright, a real talker, the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind having a beer with. Pierre Boulez? Gracious, and so intelligent in response to my questions I felt brilliant for asking them. Daniel Barenboim? Gritty, philosophical, committed.

Continue reading