Celebrating the Year of the Pig!

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Photo Credit: James Pan

Quick, what time is it? What about today’s date? A millennium or two before the cell phone came along, you couldn’t just reach into your pocket for a reminder. It took some figuring, and the first step was to look upward.

Like a daily calendar in the night sky, the changing phases of the moon provided a luminous diagram of the moon’s repeating cycle. Most early cultures tracked the changing seasons according to lunar phases. Our English word “month” shares its origin with the word “moon,” and can be traced back to that practice. If it sounds simple, it wasn’t: with about 12.4 lunar cycles in a given year, marking the end of one year and the beginning of another took some fancy figuring.

The modern Gregorian calendar ended much uncertainty and imprecision, but it certainly didn’t end the richness of the lunar calendar traditions around the world. The lunar calendar of traditional Chinese culture gives rise to what is perhaps the world’s most popular celebration: Lunar New Year. When transferred to the modern Gregorian calendar, the date varies from one year to the next. This year, Tuesday, Feb. 5 marks the beginning of a period of revelry and ceremony designed to honor the past, propitiate good fortune and greet the new year with gaiety. The festivities officially last for 15 days and are filled with the sounds of music and fireworks. It’s estimated that around the world, more incendiaries are ignited during Lunar New Year than during the rest of the year combined.

In keeping with the Chinese zodiac, each year is keynoted by one of 12 animals whose traits help determine our fortunes. The coming year is a year of the pig, as were 2007, 1995, 1983 and so on. Persons born in these years are credited as good providers and problem-solvers who think logically and prosper in business. The rest of us should pay particular attention to these areas throughout the coming year.

While 15 days might seem like a long time to sustain a celebration, the festival is actually a multi-faceted event spanning many special moments. One of these is familiar to everyone lucky enough to live in a city where the flamboyant Dragon Parade takes place. Friends and neighbors from all over town (and of all ethnic backgrounds!) gather to witness the fantastically colorful, loud, winding procession as the dancing dragon—actually a jointed construction borne along in caterpillar fashion by concealed dancers—makes its way through the streets. More than just entertainment, the parade represents the dragon’s grace and strength, qualities we hope to learn by example.

In a time when we strive to value and celebrate diversity, the Dragon Parade has helped us meet and learn about each other. But other elements of the Lunar New Year are quieter, more contemplative and family-oriented. This spirit is embodied in shorter musical excerpts and songs. Their stories honor relatives, friends, ancestors, cultural heritage and national pride in music as they propitiate aspirations for the months to come.

Appropriately, we greet the lunar new year with compositions ancient, modern and in-between. For those of us less familiar with the traditions of Chinese music, its expressiveness is especially fascinating. It focuses on the sound of individual notes as they begin, bloom and fade, more than on melodic resolution. For experienced listeners, even the material of a Chinese musical instrument—any of seven categories including wood, stone, clay, gourd, bamboo, silk and hide—says something about the meaning of the music played on it.

Happy Lunar New Year!


Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor‑in‑chief for The Santa Fe Opera.


Pacific Symphony is presenting three concerts in celebration of the Lunar New Year, including an evening “Lunar New Year” classical concert, a morning “Lunar New Year for Kids” family concert and an all-day community celebration called “Lantern Festival.” Click the links to learn more, or purchase your tickets!

Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia Promoted to Associate Conductor!

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His contract has also been extended through August 31, 2020! Read excerpts from the press release below:

Pacific Symphony announces the promotion of Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia to the position of Associate Conductor as well as his contract extension through August 31, 2020. It’s been four years since the Symphony first announced Kalia as its second in command (under Music Director Carl St.Clair). Kalia’s position, endowed by The Mary E. Moore Family, began at the start of the 2015-16 season. In addition to assisting St.Clair with conducting duties, Kalia has played—and will continue to play—a vital role in the Symphony’s education initiatives. These include programming and conducting the Family Musical Mornings series presented by Farmers & Merchants Bank, which introduces children ages 5 to 11 to the exciting world of orchestral music through engaging and educational concerts.

“Roger has made important musical contributions to Pacific Symphony,” says Maestro St.Clair. “In just a little over three short years, he has gained the respect of the musicians and also the staff with whom he works very closely. Because of the wonderful job he has done, we were pleased to offer Roger this promotion to the position of Associate Conductor and also to extend his contract to August 31, 2020.”

Roger Kalia commented, “I am thrilled to have been promoted to Associate Conductor with Pacific Symphony. I am extremely grateful to Maestro St.Clair and the amazing musicians and staff of Pacific Symphony for their trust and support in me. It will be very special to be a part of Maestro St.Clair’s 30th anniversary as music director, which is a momentous occasion. I have made so many special memories with this organization—from the tours to Carnegie Hall and China to the PBS Great Performances broadcast. I look forward to continuing my work with the fantastic Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, and conducting Pacific Symphony in our Family Musical Mornings, Class Act Youth Concerts and other exciting projects.”


If you’d like to read the full press release, you can visit our press room here.

Review: “Chopin’s Piano Concerto”

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The Pacific Symphony’s intelligently planned first concert of 2019—Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, and Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony—was the perfect cleanser for any lingering holiday staleness. It was vividly played, insightfully conducted by guest David Danzmayr, and in Gabriela Martinez showcased a soloist who drew from the Segerstrom’s Steinway sounds that were an ideal blend of clarity and warmth.

When Ms. Martinez finally entered I did feel her opening solo statement in octaves of the first subject (Chopin in 1830 sticking to the Classical precedent of a second exposition led by the soloist) to be slightly underpowered—not quite the fortissimo he asks for. But then the crystalline beauty of her fingerwork was immediately in such exquisite contrast to the richness of the preceding orchestral tutti that to object would be churlish.

Throughout the performance, indeed, the most notable characteristic of her playing was a mellifluous songfulness that in the first movement really came into its own in the long passages where Chopin dwells on his second subject so much that it seems as if he cannot bear to leave it. Fine playing from first horn Keith Popejoy and principal bassoon Rose Corrigan of the passages where they counterpoint the piano line underlined how skillfully and sensitively Chopin could write for other instruments, and indeed the many felicities in the PSO’s fine account made me regret that Chopin composed so few works for orchestra.

 


This is an excerpt from the full review, which you can read on David J. Brown’s blog, LA Opus.

Interview: Gabriela Martinez

Genuine, charismatic and down to earth. Pianist Gabriela Martinez puts a smile on your face when you talk with her and grabs your attention when she plays. A truly gifted artist that the Symphony was honored to play with this past weekend.

Martinez performed Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, under the baton of David Danzmyer.