The popular PacificSymphony+ streaming concerts promise more engaging programming continuing in July. But in addition, the orchestra will begin appearing live with the first SummerFest program of the season (July 4 Spectacular: The Elton John Tribute) and Symphony on the Go concerts featuring our new mobile concert stage experience.
Pacific Symphony presented “Fandango: An Evening in Early California” on Saturday, June 12 at Oso Viejo Park in Mission Viejo. One of the premier philanthropic events in the Southland, the Symphony’s Gala Benefit honored Richard Kaufman’s 30 seasons as principal pops conductor and celebrated Ling and Charlie Zhang for their unprecedented support and leadership of Pacific Symphony. The festive evening featured a reception set in a picturesque village square, gourmet dinner of cuisine associated with the ranchos of early California and a lively auction of luxury items and experiences. Pacific Symphony—performing live for the first time in 15 months—presented an entertaining program of classic and popular favorites under the direction of Music Director Carl St.Clair and Richard Kaufman. This was the first time that both conductors shared the podium for a historic evening. The event finished to the sounds of the Jump Start dance band with late-night dancing under the stars. The sold-out event, attended by 356 guests, raised a record $2,009,325 (net) to benefit Pacific Symphony’s education and community engagement programs and artistic programming.
Gala Benefit Co-Chairs Joann Leatherby and Leona Aronoff-Sadacca commented: “What makes a perfect evening? A beautiful park, a setting reminiscent of Old California, food offerings inspired by the indigenous people and the ranchers, beautiful music provided by the Pacific Symphony and people anxious to be together. This year’s Pacific Symphony’s Annual Gala, Fandango!”
Gala-goers arriving at Oso Viejo Park found themselves transported back in time to the days of Zorro and the California ranchos as they entered a colorful village square flanked by market booths, complete with an old Spanish mission, haciendas and a ranch corral, all artfully draped with bougainvillea and roses in pink, crimson and coral. Costumed as caballeros, señoritas and señoras, they enjoyed pre-dinner entertainment that included the nation’s premier Mexican folk dance company, Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles accompanied by Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuellar. Vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) twirling their lassos thrilled the crowd with daring rodeo rope tricks. Pedro and Sweet Pea, two docile shaggy burros garlanded with multi-colored flowers, stood by patiently to participate in on-demand photo ops.
Co-chairs Joann Leatherby and Leona Aronoff-Sadacca welcomed guests to dinner. “This evening is incredibly special as it is not only the first Pacific Symphony live performance in 15 months, but also the first time the Symphony has performed at a Gala,” said Aronoff-Sadacca. “Tonight we have the distinct pleasure to honor Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman’s 30th anniversary with our Pacific Symphony Pops—not to mention his 17th season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—what a terrific achievement! And we are so grateful to celebrate and honor our dear friends, Charlie and Ling Zhang, who have continued to transform and enrich Pacific Symphony with astounding philanthropy and leadership.”
Joann Leatherby added, “I want to take a moment to thank the amazing leadership of the City of Mission Viejo for their generosity in hosting us this evening at this beautiful park, which provides a romantic backdrop for our ‘Fandango.’ Pacific Symphony has performed in this park for tens of thousands of people over the years, and we love performing for this city. Our good friends here in the city have provided the park, security and facilities at no cost.”
To honor the people who lived in Southern California long before the first fandango, Leona Aronoff-Sadacca introduced Jacque Tahuka-Nunez, a tribal member of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation. Tahuka-Nunez burned sage and chanted to bless the evening as part of the land acknowledgement ceremony with the audience at rapt attention.
Pacific Symphony President and CEO John Forsyte thanked the many donors who had provided generous support during the difficult past year, singling out John and Mary Tu for providing a million-dollar challenge grant. He commented, “It is nothing short of remarkable to consider the achievements of the musicians, staff and board of the orchestra. Over 200 video productions were seen in 50 countries a far as South Korea, Singapore, India and Australia as well as all of our cities here in Orange County.” He went on to recount the extraordinary efforts of the Symphony’s production and education teams for generating so much digital activity that created continuity of service for the many people who craved connection and enrichment during the pandemic.
Board chairman John Evans took the podium to introduce the first honorees of the evening, Ling and Charlie Zhang. He said, “Winston Churchill wrote: ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ In Ling and Charlie Zhang, we observe the ultimate example of building a beautiful life through purpose-driven work. Not only do Charlie and Ling give so generously of their wealth, they set a high bar for hard work and accomplishments, challenging artists, board and staff of Pacific Symphony to push through barriers to better serve our community through inspiring music.” He introduced a tribute video honoring the Zhangs.
Forsyte welcomed Ling and Charlie Zhang to the stage and presented them with flowers and a photo album with a personal message from Carl St.Clair. The Zhangs acknowledged the audience’s applause and expressed their gratitude.
For its first Gala performance, Pacific Symphony played a program that featured music one might associate with the Spanish and Latin American heritage of Southern California: Marquez’ Danzon No. 2, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with guitarist Mak Grgic, James Horner’s “Mask of Zorro,” Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe” with Jessica Pearlman as soloist and “Malambo” from Ginastera’s “Estancia.” Carl St.Clair and Richard Kaufman traded podium duties throughout the program, finishing with Kaufman conducting “Fandango” by classic film composer Dmitri Tiomkin. Carl St.Clair introduced a video celebrating Richard Kaufman’s 30-year tenure as Pacific Symphony’s principal pops conductor and presented him with monogrammed briefcase.
To complete this “Evening in Early California,” guests fandangoed the night away to the dance band sounds of Jump Start.
Last Year’s Postponed Concert Rescheduled for Sept. 3 and 4
Last year’s postponed Pink Martini concert has been rescheduled for Sept. 3 and 4 at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The incredible musical stylings of cross-genre sensation Pink Martini will once again join Pacific Symphony musicians onstage for the fourth time since 2010 as Andy Einhorn conducts! Pink Martini is part big band, part classical ensemble, part salsa troupe and all fun! The energetic and enthusiastic “little orchestra” finds its musical inspiration from cultures around the world, easily jumping from genres like pop, jazz and classical to establish its own unique blend of music. Formed in Portland, Ore., the 12-member ensemble has been a popular favorite in many countries for more than a decade with its revitalization of vintage Big Band sound, in combination with 1940s jazz, cross-cultural rhythms and much more!
“Pink martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure… if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”
– Thomas Lauderdale, bandleader/pianist
Featuring a dozen musicians with songs in 25 languages, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998 under the direction of Norman Leyden. Since then, the band has gone on to play with more than 70 orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London.
This exciting act in Pacific Symphony’s Pops series takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $52. For more information, click here.
Elton John Tribute featuring Craig A. Meyer aka “Almost Elton John”with Pacific Symphony at Irvine’s Fivepoint Amphitheatre, July 4 at 8 p.m.
As the nation celebrates its independence, live music returns to the great outdoors when Pacific Symphony kicks off the OC summer concert season at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine. The Fourth of July Spectacular features an Elton John Tribute starring multi-award-winning, multi-talented singer/actor/pianist Craig A. Meyer as “Almost Elton John.” You’ll hear “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Rocket Man,” “Your Song,” and so many more iconic hits. Plus enjoy patriotic favorites, a salute to the U.S. armed forces and brilliant fireworks finale! For more information, go to PacificSymphony.org. Or to buy tickets visit Ticketmaster.
In a world filled with musical homages, there are tribute artists, cover bands and impersonators, but Craig A. Meyer’s “Almost Elton John” show is unlike anything else. “Really, I’m an illusionist,” says Meyer, who for the last 13 years has used smoke, mirrors, sequins and platform heels to convince audiences that he’s the next closest thing to the British pop superstar. “I lovingly call Almost Elton my ‘superhero’ alter ego,” he adds. “I step in a phone booth and walk out wearing a cape. I’m still Craig, but I’m also this other entity. It’s fun to step into somebody else’s heels for a while, if you will.” Barry Manilow said Meyer is “one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. He can do ANYTHING!.”
Meyer and his backing group, the Rocket Band will perform to the lush orchestral sounds of Pacific Symphony under the baton of Richard Kaufman, Hollywood’s quintessential “maestro of the movies.” Kaufman said, “As families and friends reunite and the country opens up this Fourth of July, we look forward to bringing you an exciting program that will make you feel glad to be alive again. There’s something for everyone. And it will be the perfect way to celebrate our country’s 245th birthday!”
Pacific Symphony SummerFest season sponsors include PBS SoCal, K-Earth 101, KPCC 89.3 FM and Classical KUSC 91.5. Avenue of the Arts Hotel in Costa Mesa is the official hotel of Pacific Symphony. The July 4th Spectacular is generously supported by Live Nation.
FivePoint Amphitheatre is located at 14800 Chinon in Irvine. For venue information, click here.
[Stage Director Bob] Neu and St.Clair started batting around some staging ideas, and possible solutions soon presented themselves. “The more we talked through it and the more we thought about it, the more we realized that the ‘less is more’ concept could work,” Neu said. “There’s very little that the chorus sings that’s absolutely necessary to tell the story. They’re mostly adding atmosphere and commenting on things.”
Other aspects of “La Traviata” make it suitable for stripped-down adaptation, Neu surmised.
“It has one central story. There’s no subplot, there’s no, you know, gypsies throwing babies into fires or anything like that – just three characters who are essential to telling the stories. So when those things all kind of became clear for us, we really became convinced it could work.”
Thanks to Paul Hodgins for the excellent coverage in Voice of OC!
We hope you enjoy this clip of the incredible soprano, Cecilia Violetta Lopez, in her starring role as “Violetta” in “La Traviata,” performing the heart-breaking “Addio, del passato.”
Our virtual production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” debuts Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m. PDT. You can buy tickets here.
AXP@Home’s latest online spring workshop—Raise Your Voice—recently took place, allowing students to explore how music can strengthen social bonds and inspire collective progress.
Arts-X-Press vocal music instructor Stephanie Coghlan led our group through interactive vocal music collaboration with a recital of Ashford & Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This classic Motown hit reflected the group discussion of celebrating relationships, overcoming obstacles of self-doubt and empowering ourselves to accomplish goals through making the most of our passions.
Pacific Symphony Violist Cheryl Gates also joined our workshop to play a number of riveting musical pieces from distinguished female composers throughout history: Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, and Rebecca Clarke.
“In that time period, women composers were not as accepted as [their male counterparts],” Ms. Gates told our students. “These three female composers were dynamic in their time and really fought to get their voices heard.” She discussed how finding your passion can also help lift your voice in all areas of life, much like the hardships that these composers overcame with their determination that is reflected in their music. “As you’re listening, think about the emotions the music evokes in you!”
Though online media can help us stay connected to our friends, families and the passions that we share, constantly maintaining an online image can sometimes be overwhelming. We are seemingly forced to engage in constant judgment—both of each other and ourselves. Additionally, comparing our images to that of others can sometimes lead to feelings of uncertainty within ourselves.
With inspiration from Selena Gomez’s “Who Says,” students also completed a prompt designed to inspire self-empowerment. To overcome moments of self-doubt, it can be especially helpful to harness positive thinking into self-affirmations that serve to build confidence and maximize our passions.
“We all have negative thoughts that go through our heads—these tapes that we play in our heads about not measuring up to what we should do or that we’re not good enough,” Instructor Stephanie expressed to AXP@Home students. “We want to give you something positive to replace those tapes with and change the narrative for yourself.”
The next event in the AXP@Home Spring Workshop series—“Celebrate Summer, Celebrate YOU!”—will focus on theatre arts ahead of the summer season and will take place on Wednesday, June. 16th, 2021.