Nowruz: Welcoming the Arrival of Spring

A Haft Sîn display.
Credit: Farhang Foundation.

The 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. Even Google has celebrated this holiday of rebirth and renewal with a special doodle depicting spring flowers and nature. 

This year, Pacific Symphony in collaboration with the Farhang Foundation, presents an intriguing concert conducted by Carl St.Clair on March 26 at 8 p.m. The program will feature classical works as well as traditional Iranian music.

The evening’s special guest artist will be Alireza Ghorbani, who is part of the new generation of Iranian singers of classical Persian music. Iran’s media consider Ghorbani to be one of the most important singers in the country: “Alireza Ghorbani is a professional and humble singer who, along with all of these traits, perseveres with exemplary work. He has collaborated with many leading composers. His eternal learning spirit has allowed him to step up calmly and confidently in leading the way forward for Iranian music.” 

Anoosheh 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 again 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 connect East and West musically with a special Nowruz concert onstage.” 

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.”

Are you joining us? Let us know in the comments below! To learn more about the show and get tickets, please click here.

Happy Birthday, Maestro John Williams!

Maestro John Williams with Music Director Carl St.Clair.

In the 1980s, Carl St.Clair was an assistant conductor to Music Director Seiji Ozawa at the Boston Symphony Orchestra while John Williams was conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. St.Clair wasn’t even aware of the Orange County-based orchestra until Williams came back from a guest conducting trip in Spring 1989, told him that the orchestra was looking for a music director, encouraged his colleague to apply and put in a good word for him with management. St.Clair flew out to Southern California in Jan. 1990 and the rest, as they say, is history.  

2022 is a milestone year. Not only are we celebrating Maestro Williams’ 90th birthday, but it also marks the 70th anniversary of the first film score he ever worked on after he was reassigned to the 596th Air Force Band at Pepperell in Newfoundland, Canada. The short film was called “You Are Welcome.” You can learn more about that story here. Since then, he has become one of the world’s most beloved composers and artistic leaders.  

Even though it has been a while since Maestro Williams has been on the podium at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, his impact is still felt today. His work continues to be an important part of our programming. Whether that’s in the concert hall, at one of our summer venues or as part of one of our education and community engagement programs. He was previously the Class Act Composer of the Year for a couple of seasons.

Did you know that several Pacific Symphony musicians have been a part of several of Williams’ original soundtrack recordings as well? You can hear Principal Tuba Jim Self on The Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Home Alone and Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins and Principal Flute Benjamin Smolen on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for example. Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman also met Williams for the first time while working on Jaws as a violinist 

Later this month, we’re excited to invite you and your family to our next Family Musical Mornings concerts, Feb. 19. This superhero-themed performance is a fun and fascinating 45-minute concert designed especially for children 5-11. Williams’ Liberty Fanfare and March from Superman are featured in the program. Pacific Symphony will also be joined by Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra in this very special side-by-side performance. They will be led by Assistant Conductor Dr. Jacob Sustaita.  

Kids can come dressed as their favorite superhero. To learn more about the show and get tickets, please click here. To learn more about our commitment to the safety of our audiences, please click here. 

We know it’s hard, but if you had to choose, what’s your favorite John Williams’ piece? Let us know in the comments below! Happy birthday, Maestro!  

Watch The Langston Hughes Project by Ron McCurdy Trailer

In celebration of Black History Month, Pacific Symphony is presenting Langston Hughes’ Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. PST. Featured artists include narrator Terrence A. Carson, Ron McCurdy Quartet and Pacific Symphony led by Maestro Carl St.Clair. The event will take place at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Thank you to our Board Members Maurice Murray and Scharrell Jackson for their support. This concert is generously sponsored by the Irvine Barclay Theatre, J.P.Morgan Chase & Co., Lendistry, Inc., PIMCO, PepsiCo, MarshMcLennan and Board Members Susan & Sam Anderson and Ginny Davies. 

Born on Feb. 1, 1901 in Joplin, Missouri, Langston Hughes was one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. His first poem was published in 1921 and his first book was published in 1926. In addition to his creative work, he was also an activist. To learn more about his story and legacy, please click here.

One of the early innovators of jazz poetry, Hughes started writing the 12-part poem in segments at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island in 1960. This would be Hughes’ homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s. Did you know that one of the original dedicatees was Louis Armstrong?

The evening’s program will consist of 12 different moods: Cultural Exchange, Ride Red Ride, Shade of Pigmeat, Ode To Dinah, Blues in Stereo, Horn of Plenty, Gospel Cha Cha, Is It True, Ask Your Mama, Bird in Orbit, Jazztet Muted and Show Fare, Please. The multimedia presentation features a jazz quartet, spoken-word and images from the Harlem Renaissance. The orchestral version of The Langston Hughes Project premiered in 2008 with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and rapper and television actor, Ice-T.

Watch the trailer:

To learn more about The Langston Hughes Project, please click here.

Meet Alessio Bax

Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve.

Pacific Symphony has postponed the “Cathedrals of Sound” program, which was to have featured Pacific Chorale prominently. Because vocalists are unable to rehearse and perform wearing masks, the concert has been rescheduled to next season. In its place, Carl St.Clair will conduct a program entitled “Beethoven and Rachmaninoff” (Feb. 17-19), which features Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Italian pianist Alessio Bax as soloist. He will be making his Pacific Symphony debut at these concerts. Read more about this remarkable artist.

Alessio Bax combines exceptional lyricism and insight with consummate technique. He is without a doubt “among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone). He catapulted to prominence with First Prize wins at both the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions, and is now a familiar face on five continents, not only as a recitalist and chamber musician, but also as a concerto soloist who has appeared with more than 100 orchestras, including the London, Royal and St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestras, the Boston, Dallas, Sydney and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras and the NHK Symphony in Japan, collaborating with such eminent conductors as Marin Alsop, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Simon Rattle, Yuri Temirkanov and Jaap van Zweden.

Bax recently made a debut with the Milwaukee Symphony, where he performed Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto under Han-Na Chang, and the same composer’s Fourth Concerto and Choral Fantasy took him to the Santa Barbara Symphony. Placing special focus on long-term collaborative projects, Bax undertook Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS).

Bax is a staple on the international summer festival circuit, and has performed at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland; the Aldeburgh Festival, Bath Festival, and Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series in England; the Risør Festival in Norway; the Salon-de- Provence Festival in France; the Moritzburg Festival, Ruhr Klavier-Festival, and Beethovenfest Bonn in Germany; and Le Pont International Music Festival in Japan. In the U.S., he makes regular appearances at Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and New York’s Bard Music Festival. As a chamber musician, Bax has collaborated with Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Ian Bostridge, Lucille Chung, Sol Gabetta, Steven Isserlis, Daishin Kashimoto, Emmanuel Pahud, Lawrence Power, Paul Watkins, Jörg Widmann and the Emerson String Quartet, among many others.

Alessio Bax graduated with top honors at the record age of 14 from the conservatory of Bari, his hometown in Italy, where his teacher was Angela Montemurro. He studied in France with Francois-Joël Thiollier and attended the Chigiana Academy in Siena under Joaquín Achúcarro. In 1994 he moved to Dallas to continue his studies with Achúcarro at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. In fall 2019, Bax joined the piano faculty of Boston’s New England Conservatory. A Steinway Artist, he lives in New York City with Lucille Chung and their five-year-old daughter, Mila.

Welcome, Garrett Collins!

Photo Credit: Allison Maginn Photography.

Pacific Symphony President and Chief Executive Officer John Forsyte has announced the appointment of Garrett Collins to the position of Vice President of Marketing and Communications. Collins joins Pacific Symphony from Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit theatre companies, where he was Marketing Strategy Director.

“We’re very excited to welcome Garrett to Pacific Symphony,” commented John Forsyte. “His passion for orchestral music, extensive experience in planning and execution in the areas of advertising, sales, communications, audience stewardship and visitor experience ideally qualify him to lead the Symphony’s integrated marketing and communications team. He will lead efforts to engage current supporters and develop new audiences for the orchestra during this time of recovery and renewal.”

Garrett Collins assumed his new position on Jan. 31, 2022. His responsibilities will include the leadership and management of all marketing, communications and sales operations for the organization, reporting to Forsyte. 

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing success of Pacific Symphony, a dynamic and ambitious organization,” said Collins. “I’m especially excited to support and guide strategies that make the orchestra accessible to as many people as possible through marketing and communications campaigns that energize an appreciation of orchestral music and are relevant to communities throughout Orange County and Southern California. Collaborating with the musicians, staff, board and, of course, Carl St.Clair will be a great honor.”

Garrett Collins has been with Center Theatre Group, where he was responsible for leading marketing initiatives, since 2014. He has a proven track record for shaping organizational and marketing strategies to achieve $45M+ in annual ticket sales. He has also been recognized for his work in patron retention strategies, digital innovation and initiatives that deepen diversity, equity, inclusion and access.

Prior to his tenure with Center Theatre Group, Collins held marketing and community engagement positions at LA Opera and UCLA and was a 2013 fellow in OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive program. A native of Gilroy, California, Collins holds a Master of Arts in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music (flute performance) from University of California, Los Angeles (magna cum laude).

arts-X-press Summer 2022 Applications Are Now Available

Thank you to our arts-X-press team for the photo!  

Self-expression. Confidence. Community. Imagine a place where budding young artists and creative thinkers come together to explore the arts, nourish their sense of self and making lasting friendship. That’s what our arts-X-press immersive program is all about.  

We’re excited to announce that the application period for the five-day Summer 2022 program is now available as of Tuesday, Feb. 1.  

When you sign up, you can also sign up to register for our monthly virtual workshops, running Feb. through June. Led by arts-X-press staff and counselors, our workshops explore creative expression through a different art form each month. Open to any 6th and 7th grader interested in getting a taste of the arts-X-press summer program, our virtual workshop series is a great way to meet staff, counselors, alumni and other campers without having to wait until July! 

“Since I joined the arts-X-press team, I’ve been continually amazed by how impactful the program has been for so many students. We’ve heard from alumni who share that arts-X-press was a pivotal moment in their lives, nurturing their love for the arts and boosting their confidence,” says Arts Engagement Manager Eileen Regullano.   

Do you know a student who loves the arts? Nominate them for arts-X-press! We can’t wait to welcome everyone later this year.  

To learn more about the application process and financial aid opportunities, please click here.