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.

Pacific Symphony Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins Featured In “Inauguration Fanfare For Joe And Kamala”

Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins has been invited to represent Pacific Symphony in the Hope & Harmony Ensemble, formed by concert tour company Classical Movements in honor of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Led by world-renowned conductor Marin Alsop, the 14 musicians represent the Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Peabody Institute, South Asian Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and Utah Symphony.

At a time when the orchestra world has been virtually silenced by the pandemic, Classical Movements has made a deliberate effort to bring together orchestras from every part of our country and to reflect the diversity of our people. Reflecting a desire for national unity and inclusiveness, half of the performing musicians are women and six are musicians of color.

The Music
The performance features two masterpieces of American classical music that perfectly represent our president- and vice president-elect:

  • Aaron Copland’s iconic “Fanfare for the Common Man” to celebrate the American people and in honor of Joe Biden; and
  • Joan Tower’s dynamic “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” for Kamala Harris, our remarkable and “uncommon” first female vice president.

An Unprecedented Show of Unity within the Orchestra Industry
Barry Perkins commented, “Having classical music involved in any presidential event is especially significant to me. Our highest level of government deserves a distinguished high level of music. As this orchestra is comprised of representatives from orchestras from all around the United States, I am so honored to be representing my particular region.”

In addition to footage of each musician, recorded in their homes and on site across the country, the presentation incorporates photographs and video illustrating “America the Beautiful” and the context of the struggle for civil rights and equality for women in the United States.

You can view the virtual “Fanfare for Joe and Kamala” on Pacific Symphony’s Facebook page or here on YouTube. You can read more about the project here.

Celebrating Diversity During the Holidays

Last month, AXP@Home, the online version of the Symphony’s acclaimed arts-X-press summer program, invited students to connect remotely to celebrate the holidays in song. They also enjoyed an in-depth discussion of the values of cultural tradition. This Holiday Diversity Celebration was the third workshop in the AXP@Home alumni workshop series.

Leslie Benjamin, choral music director at Savanna High School in Anaheim and arts-X-press vocal music instructor, led the workshop. He presented students with an array of traditional vocal songs and led group discussions about the importance of diversity. He stressed the value of recognizing the traditions associated with seasonal festivals and celebrations from different cultures. 

From the Christian holiday season of Advent to the celebration of Diwali in Hinduism, students connected to various faiths and their respective traditions through an overarching theme of serving the less fortunate. Students sang traditional folk songs, “To Love is Good,” “Be a Candle of Hope” and “Shalom Chaverim,” all of which symbolize community and the need for hope in a time of hardship. 

In these particular times of seclusion and uncertainty, students and counselors spoke about how becoming a “candle of hope” for others can encourage positivity both for ourselves and entire communities:

  • Counselor Julia noted how we can “celebrate our differences and diversity to really make it become our true strength through times of adversity.” 
  • AXP alumna Brooke noted diversity as “an important as a way to include everyone while also understanding everyone’s culture. You can celebrate everyone as a whole and avoid people feeling unwelcome or unaccepted.”

Mr. Benjamin pointed out that focusing on the similarities among different faiths can be an important step towards fostering a culture of acceptance and optimism. He encouraged students to find joy through the shared characteristics of different faiths, especially through central practices that encourage a hospitable and inclusive lifestyle. 

“Make sure that we bring hope to people; you not only bring joy to them, but you can also bring joy to yourself,” Leslie expressed to our group. “As you go out, shed some light – show people that you care by spreading positive emotions and peace. As we are separated and in different places, it’s a great way to bring and sustain a community.”

The focus on vocal music helped to communicate these timely ideas. Music continues to serve as a captivating approach for people of all ages, cultures and circumstances to unite through a universal artistic expression. In these pressing times, it becomes especially necessary to look beyond the lyrics and melody for the deeper cultural values that can connect us all. 

The next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series—“New Beginnings”—will be a visual-arts-centered workshop taking place on Weds., Jan. 27, 2021.

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