Composer Note: “To the New World” (World Premiere)

A huge thank-you to composer Michael Daugherty for giving us some insight into this world premiere. “To the New World” was commissioned by Pacific Symphony, and was written in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the historic Moon landing by the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969. You can find more information, and purchase tickets, at our website here.


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Michael Daugherty

On Sept. 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech, “We choose to go to the Moon!” launched America’s race to become the first country to land a human on the Moon. On July 16, 1969, a massive Saturn V rocket propelled the crew of Apollo 11—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collin—from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida into outer space. Like the rocket, which separated in three stages after lift-off, and the spacecraft, which was divided into three modules, my 22-minute composition is in three movements. I have created otherworldly music, evoking the sense of awe and trepidation that the Apollo 11 astronauts must have felt as they traveled to the new world.

“Moonrise,” the first movement, takes its title and inspiration from the 1917 Imagist moon.jpgpoem by the poet Hilda Doolittle: “O flight, / Bring her swiftly to our song.” Neil Armstrong, the commander of the Apollo 11 mission crew, played euphonium during his college days and was a lifelong music enthusiast. For his historic trip to the Moon, Neil Armstrong brought along cassette tape recordings of his favorite music, including Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, subtitled “From the New World,” and Les Baxter’s “Music Out of the Moon,” a mixture of lounge jazz and exotic music featuring a theremin. A favorite instrument of Neil Armstrong, the theremin was a microtonal electronic musical instrument often used in 1950s science fiction film soundtracks. In a tip of the hat to Neil Armstong, I have added a solo euphonium to the brass section and a soprano vocalist, singing and glissing like a theremin. I also interweave musical fragments and chords from the second movement of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 with atmospheric cluster chords and atonal punctuations, performed by the harp, celesta and mallet instruments. On July 20, with only 25 seconds of fuel left, Neil Armstrong landed the “Eagle” lunar module on the Moon’s surface, in an area known as the “Sea of Tranquility.”

The second movement, “One Small Step,” is inspired by his memorable words, beamed back to Earth as he became the first human to walk on the surface of the Moon: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” I have rhythmically translated these words into a repeated, syncopated rhythmic pattern (ostinato) that is first heard in the marimba. To dramatize the unearthly sensation of Armstrong’s moonwalk, this movement features an amplified soprano vocalist singing an eerie wordless melody, accompanied by a waterphone (an inharmonic acoustic percussion instrument, which creates sound by bowing a stainless-steel resonator filled with water).

Cropped Earth.jpgAfter completing their mission on the moon, the astronauts returned in a command module streaking into the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 25,000 miles per hour. They safely splashed down into the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, and were greeted to a hero’s welcome around the world. In “Splashdown,” the third and final movement, I celebrate the return of Apollo 11 in a dance rhythm composed in a recurring musical motif of 11 beats. This motif, first heard in the double basses and cellos, moves at lightning speed through the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion of the orchestra. I also create polyrhythms by superimposing the 11-beat motif over a four-beat pulse. To heighten suspense, I feature flexatones that create strange glissando effects in the percussion section. A spirited coda brings our celebration of the historic first landing on the Moon and “a giant leap for mankind” to a rousing conclusion. But before the final triumphant chord, the glockenspiel, harp and celesta softly play an ascending scale, as I imagine the three astronauts glancing back at the Moon one last time.


Michael Daugherty is an multiple GRAMMY award-winning American composer,
pianist and teacher. One of the most widely performed American concert music composers, he was Composer-in-Residence with Pacific Symphony during the 2010-11 season. As part of the residency, Pacific Symphony commissioned and recorded Daugherty’s “Mount Rushmore” for orchestra and chorus for the Naxos label.

Assistant Concertmaster Chair Now Endowed!

A  Message from Pacific Symphony President, John Forsyte

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Judy Whitmore,     Board Member

I am so pleased to announce the newest endowment of a Pacific Symphony musician’s chair. Board of Director member Judy Whitmore has agreed to endow, in perpetuity, the Assistant Concertmaster Chair, held by the distinguished violinist Jeanne Skrocki. Judy’s family history aligns so beautifully with this gift as her grandfather was the great Hollywood studio violinist Sam Fiedler. Sam’s father and grandfather were both violinists in Poland. This multi-generational history of violinists aligned with Jeanne’s own family history. It’s a wonderful story best summed up by the quote Jeanne provided:

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Jeanne Skrocki,                Assistant Concertmaster

“I am both proud and honored to occupy the newly endowed Arlene and Seymour Grubman Assistant Concertmaster Chair in Pacific Symphony. I feel many emotions, knowing that this has brought someone very special into my life, not just the life of Pacific Symphony—Judy Whitmore. I am so inspired by her passion and enthusiasm for Pacific Symphony and especially her love of the violin. This endowment is personally meaningful as we have become acquainted and have realized how many similarities we have in our lives—I am the middle of three generations of violinists, and Judy has three generations of violinists on her mother’s side. We both have our pilot’s license. We have both pursued other careers besides music. We even grew up in the same geographical area, the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles! I look forward to a lasting and meaningful relationship, both personally and for Pacific Symphony.”

You may recall that Judy has a multi-faceted career: real estate management, jet pilot, cabaret singer, theatrical producer and best-selling author! Judy was thrilled to learn about all the remarkable qualities and history that Jeanne possesses. We, therefore, announce the creation of The Arlene and Seymour Grubman Assistant Concertmaster Chair.

If you don’t know Jeanne’s history, she has been in the orchestra for 27 years and 26 as Assistant Concertmaster. Her bio on the Pacific Symphony website can be found here.

We extend congratulations to Jeanne and a heartfelt THANK YOU to Judy!

~ John Forsyte

Pacific Symphony Presents: “The Music Man” In Concert!

“Please observe him if you will.
He’s Professor Harold Hill,
And he’s here to organize a River City boys band!”

MusicMan logo on whiteProfessor Harold Hill, the all-American conniver at the heart of Meredith Willson’s signature work The Music Man, is the most celebrated example of a cherished archetype: the charming huckster. Ever since he hit Broadway in the 1950s, his irresistible mixture of guile, charm and ingenuity has made him the model for ramblin’ rogues in generations of novels, plays and movies. As we see in the musical’s key opening scene, which evokes the rhythmic motion of a train through a proto-rap routine, cadres of corporate-backed product salesmen once rode the rails and the roads to hawk anything from vacuum cleaners to encyclopedias. There were thousands of them, precursors of Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman, getting by on a shoeshine and a smile. For them it was a tough life made all the tougher by shady characters like Hill, who would often skip town after collecting a down payment. If you’re trying to cadge an honest living and a shady character like Hill gets there before you, it’s like the man says: you’ve got trouble, my friend. And yet, with his lightning-fast patter and crafty evasions, it’s hard not to like him.

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Jeremy Stolle as “Professor Harold Hill”

The Music Man is generally described as an affectionate evocation of a more innocent time in America. But this is, at best, half true; more accurately, Willson cast a sharp, appreciative eye on an America with growing pains. The action takes place early in the 20th century, with the Civil War still a living memory. Transcontinental rail and telegraph services were new. Everything was changing, unsettled, raw—especially in the territories that had recently achieved statehood, as Meredith Willson’s home state of Iowa had in 1846. In a time and place like that, people yearning for domestic stability were prime targets for a man like Harold Hill.

Willson’s fondness for the people of The Music Man was real, and he even modeled the estimable Marian on his wife, whom he both admired and adored. But he also understood his characters’ shortcomings, which are astutely rendered in the book and music. He depicts bedrock Iowans as comically provincial; they’re narrow-minded, grouchy, skeptical of new ideas and suspicious of strangers. Engrossed in their intolerant gossip, the nosy ladies of River City become a bunch of pecking hens. The Midwestern salesmen who complain about the scurrilous Hill are so unimaginative that they unthinkingly chant the same lines over and over. Even the local barbershop quartet betokens lack of imagination. Does any other musical genre so clearly say “don’t go outside the lines”?

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Elena Shaddow as “Marian Paroo”

As for Hill himself, we may love the guy, but Willson forces us to think twice about him. He’s so practiced a liar that his dissembling seems as natural as breathing, though more energetic. Willson warns us with Professor Hill’s false credentials: “Gary Indiana Conservatory of Music, class of ‘05.” As if! The 1967 movie The Flim-Flam Man tips its cap to Hill with the character Mordecai C. Jones, M.B.S, C.S., D.D.—“master of back-stabbing, cork-screwing and dirty dealing.”

Do these guys ever spare a thought for those they’ve hurt? Sometimes not. Consider the case of Harry Lime, the fictional black marketeer that Orson Welles portrayed in the 1949 cinema noir thriller The Third Man, written by Graham Greene. Harry could be Harold’s evil twin: a suave, witty, good-looking liar and master of the narrow escape. But in ravaged post-World War II Vienna, Harry’s antics aren’t so endearing. They include selling fake penicillin to treat wounded children, and he is content to let his best friends think he’s dead—which he soon is.

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Jacob Keith Watson as “Marcellus Washburn”

But once Harold Hill sets his sights on the appealing yet formidable Marian Paroo, he’s different. Though Harold, like Harry, has put a vulnerable child at risk—Marion’s 10-year-old brother, Winthrop—she falls for him against her better judgment. But if his transformation starts with a single person, it’s someone far less likely: his former partner in crime, worldly-wise Marcellus Washburn. Very much a fish out of water in River City, Marcellus astonishes Harold by saying he likes the folks there. What’s more, likes sharing their way of life. In the course of The Music Man, we do too.

Ultimately, the power of art and the willingness to dream save River City, and River City saves Harold Hill. Each has something the other needs: Harold needs a reason to choose decency, and a way to be decent. River City, a town of steady habits and tight-wound neighbors, needs to get a glimpse of art and of wider possibility. Once they’ve seen Professor Hill’s glorious marching band, nothing can ever be the same. What about actually learning to make music? That can come later.

You’ll have a chance to witness this lovable huckster and the townspeople of River City onstage at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at 8 p.m. on May 31 & June 1, rounding out Pacific Symphony’s 18-19 Pops series. Jeremy Stolle performs the lead “Professor” Harold Hill, while Elena Shaddow portrays the leading woman Marian Paroo in this semi-staged production of Meredith Willson’s charming The Music Man, backed by Pacific Symphony’s orchestra. Tickets here. 

Carl St.Clair interviews André Previn

André_Previn.jpgIn light of André Previn’s recent passing, we’d like to share an interview between him and Carl St.Clair in front of an American Composers Festival audience from 2015. The two discuss his pieces “Owls” and “Honey and Rue,” the latter a song-cycle performed that night by soprano Elizabeth Caballero.

St.Clair asks the late Previn about the the story behind “Owls,” the difference between conducting one’s own works, and hearing them performed as an audience member. Previn finishes the interview by complementing Pacific Symphony, saying, “That’s a wonderful orchestra. You should be extremely proud of them.”

Previn’s comments are deeply meaningful to us. Please enjoy this brilliant composer’s interview with our Music Director.

 

André Previn (1929-2019)

André Previn was a celebrated German-American pianist, composer, arranger, and conductor. His career started by arranging and composing Hollywood film scores for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Previn was involved in the music for over 50 films over his entire career. He won four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings (and one more for his Lifetime Achievement). He was also the music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Oslo Philharmonic, as well as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In jazz, Previn was a pianist-interpreter and arranger of songs from the Great American Songbook, was piano-accompanist to singers of jazz standards, and was trio pianist.

“Dreaming In Color” at the Hilbert Museum!

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Pacific Symphony Principal second violinist Bridget Dolkas leads a string quartet in an immersive program inspired by dreams. As part of INTERPLAY, a collaboration with Chapman University’s College of Performing Arts, in collaboration with Anna Leahy and the Chapman MFA in Creative Writing Department, the performance brings together live readings of student poetry and curated texts to explore the concept of “universal dreams” through music and words. California wine and cheese reception to follow the performance. Grab your FREE tickets on Chapman’s website here!

ARTISTS:
Bridget Dolkas (violin), Agnes Gottschewski (violin), Joshua Newburger (viola),            John Acosta (cello)

SPEAKERS:
Zoe Wilber, Reagan Shrum, Grace Papish, Elizabeth Gimple, Mariam Said (poet), Sam Risak (poet), Sierra Ellison (poet)

PROGRAM INCLUDES:
Terry Riley: Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector
Arvo Pärt: Summa
Erik Satie: Gnossienne No. 1
Zoltán Kodály: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 2 (Selections)
Claude Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, Op.10 (Selections)


FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Seating is limited and will be first-come, first-served with limited standing room for latecomers.
FREE PARKING is available in the Chapman University West Campus Structure at 230 N. Cypress St. or in the Palm Lot at 538 W. Palm Avenue in Orange.

 

Enjoy a Founder’s Fizz at the Leslie Odom, Jr. Show

Leslie_Odom20338_2You might not have noticed that this season, Pacific Symphony has featured signature cocktails at classical and pops programs. Opening weekend, concertgoers toasted the Symphony’s 40th season with the “Ruby Anniversary Sparkler,” a bubbly libation of champagne, St. Germaine and Chambord.  For Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, they enjoyed “Lenny’s Manhattan,” which was technically a “Rob Roy” since it featured Bernstein’s favorite scotch, Ballentine’s. For the recent Kenny G show, the cocktail of choice was “Sax on the Beach,” a delightful cocktail of vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and orange juice.

Leslie Odom–”Hamilton’s” Aaron Burr–makes his Pacific Symphony debut this month (March 15 & 16). As you’ll recall, “Hamilton” is the hit Broadway musical that tells the story of America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton with a musical score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway–musical genres in which Leslie Odom excels as a performer. For his Symphony debut Odom will recap numerous hits from “Hamilton” along with Broadway and classic American pop songs.

The signature cocktail for the must-see Leslie Odom shows will be the famous Founder’s Fizz, the official “Hamilton” cocktail. It’s a twist on a classic gin fizz composed of such simple ingredients as gin, lime juice, sugar and seltzer. You might want to try making it yourself with the recipe below and then compare your results with what Patina’s master mixologists whip up at the Leslie Odom concert! Tickets here.

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Hamilton’s Founder’s Fizz
Serves: 1

Combine 1.5 oz. gin, 1 oz. simple syrup, a splash of lime juice and ice in a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake vigorously. Strain into highball glass filled with ice and fill with seltzer.

 

HAPPY NOWRUZ 2019!

Everything you need to know about the Iranian New Year in Orange County

DSC_8533.jpgThe famous poet Rumi wrote, “Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” And certainly no season stirs the soul more than spring. March 21 marks the first day of spring, but for millions of people around the world it’s also the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Nowruz, which means “new day” in Persian, has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years. And last year, Google celebrated this holiday of rebirth and renewal with a special doodle that depicted spring flowers and nature.

_DSC2261.jpgThis year, Pacific Symphony in collaboration with the Farhang Foundation presents an intriguing concert featuring prominent Iranian composers and performers with Music Director Carl St.Clair leading the orchestra and soloists on March 24 at 7 p.m. The program will feature works of Khachaturian, Dvorák as well as traditional Iranian music. Guest artists include the internationally acclaimed Persian conductor and composer Shardad Rohani, popular singer and crossover artist Homayoun Shajarian, along with instrumentalists Sohrab Pournazeri and Tahmoures Pournazeri, key members of the popular Iranian group the Shamss Ensemble.

Oskouian, Anoosheh 2Anoosheh Oskouian, who serves as a trustee of the Farhang Foundation and as a board member of Pacific Symphony, commented, “I am so pleased that the Farhang Foundation will partner with Pacific Symphony to celebrate Nowruz, which marks the arrival of spring and rebirth of nature.” She continued, “It has been my dream to bring this special Nowruz concert onstage to connect East and West musically.”

Carl St.Clair said, “Pacific Symphony values its position as a cultural resource and leader and we embrace Orange County’s rich and diverse communities through contextual programming. This is a way to connect on a more personal level and also reflects my own wish to enrich lives through the beauty and power of music.”

 

PROGRAM

DVOŘÁK: Carnival Overture
KHACHATURIAN: “Sabre Dance”
ROHANI: Dance of Spring
Freedom
   Persian Garden for Violin and Orchestra
   Beauty of Love
   Medley in Isfahan Scale

~ Intermission ~

Traditional Persian music by Homayoun Shajarian, Tahmoures Pournazeri and Sohrab Pournazeri


Article written by Jeanne Quill, reprinted with permission by KUDOS Newport Beach Magazine (March 2019 issue).