The Story Of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”


A manuscript of “Carmina Burana” from the 18th century, which Carl Orff utilized to inform his libretto

Everyone’s favorite classical music news and  meme-machine, Classic FM, released an article last year on the story of Carl Orff’s masterpiece, “Carmina Burana,” giving background and explanation of some of the more … interesting lyrical portions presented in the libretto of the omnipresent “O Fortuna” section. This piece, sitting on the second half of our Opening Night program (shameless ticket plug) will be presented with our longtime artistic partners, Pacific Chorale, as well as with the Southern California Children’s Chorus, and soloists: soprano Celena Shafer, tenor Christopher Pfund and baritone Hugh Russell.

Read the article to learn about the origins of the name of the piece, which stretch back to the 13th century, the libretto’s subject matter and how Carl Orff himself reacted to the triumphant premiere of the piece that cemented his compositional legacy.

While you’re still here, check out the famous “O Fortuna” section, conducted here by André Rieu live in Maastricht from 2012:

Check out the article for more context, and we can’t wait to see you at our Opening Night celebration, Sept. 26-28, Thurs. – Sat.  Thanks for reading, and we always appreciate you sharing our blog on your favorite social media platform!

PSYE Alumni Spotlight: Justin Lee – #HumansOfPacificSymphony

From professional orchestral musicians to our very own interns, our Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles alumni seem to be shaking up the world in various disciplines, but we can’t forget about our freshest batch of recently-graduated alumni!

Meet Justin Lee: starting this fall, he’ll be attending the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Biology! He was a clarinetist in Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble for 1 year and the Youth Orchestra for 3 years. We got to hear Justin’s fresh perspective on the Youth Ensembles program, having just graduated high school, and what he had to say about his own experience.

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PSYWE, joined by the IHSCC


At the top of your head, what’s your favorite memory from the Youth Ensembles?

Definitely my first youth orchestra concert. We played Saint-Saëns’s “Organ Symphony.” This was one of the first pieces I played with the orchestra, and the energy in the grand finale from the organ shook me! I didn’t know until then that music could really move me emotionally, and I started to enjoy sharing these emotions with the audiences. It was my motivation to continue music, even when there were a lot of other things in my life.

What have the Youth Ensembles taught you about music aside from just performing?

Through these three years in the orchestra, I learned that classical music is actually so entertaining, and by directly involving myself in the music, it was cool getting to share these feelings with other fellow musicians. The orchestra also taught me how to communicate, since in orchestra it’s important that we indirectly connect with other musicians by controlling and match our own sounds to create genuine music.

Do you think you’ve changed much since your time in the Youth Ensembles?

I think I haven’t changed a lot since then, as I really act the same and love same things that I have enjoyed during my entire high-school career things such as classical music. But I think I really have to see more of the changes during my college years—I’m only going to be a freshman!

Any words of wisdom for the students that are currently in the Ensembles?

Something I really want to say to the current PSYO musicians is that you guys are really lucky; you’ll learn so much in this prestigious, professional environment. I really wish I had a chance to play for one more season. Cherish all the memories from rehearsals, retreats, and concerts. Enjoy the musical moments, and appreciate what you have around you!


Associate Conductor and PSYO Music Director Roger Kalia leads the Youth Orchestra in its Spring Finale concert

If you’d like to learn more about our Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble, check out Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore’s interview about his position as the program’s Music Director!


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.

PSYE Alumni Spotlight: Daniele Liu – #HumansOfPacificSymphony

Danielle_violin.jpgEvery year, hundreds of young musicians from Southern California audition to be a part of the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles programs. While we often hear their musical talent at the Youth Ensembles concerts, we often lose track of the program’s alumni as they graduate and move all across the country to pursue work and higher education.

Luckily, we recently caught up with one of our alumni, Danielle Liu, and heard her reflect on her experience with PSYE. She just finished her first year at Chapman University, pursuing a double major in Health Sciences and Violin Performance. Outside of school, she teaches violin and piano while helping PSYE as their Youth Quartet Coordinator! As a former PSYE participant, she spent 3 years in Santiago Strings and 4 years in the Youth Orchestra. On top of that, she’s a 2-time PSYO Concerto Competition winner!
To start off, do you have any vivid memories from your time in the Youth Ensembles?

Ah, there’s so many… One memorable experience was when PSYO spent an afternoon on the Great Wall of China during our 2016 tour. You might envision an orchestra of high school students traipsing the Wall, sharing umbrellas, wearing drenched rain ponchos, hardly able to see two feet in front of them because of the water pouring from the sky. It was truly a bonding yet exhausting experience… I think we all ate and slept a lot that night!

How has your past involvement with the Youth Ensembles and their directors shaped your personal and/or musical self?

It taught me to put diligence and dedication to everything I do, from my studies to my music, while also understanding the importance of representing myself with professionalism and respect.

[Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings Music Director] Mrs. Kroesen inspired her students to be leaders, no matter where they sat in the orchestra. Maestro Gutierrez treated us as professionals, pushing us beyond our musical potential. [Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra Music Director] Maestro Kalia brought zeal and passion to the orchestra, always exploring a wide range of sound colors. When we had the opportunity to work with Maestro St.Clair, he turned the orchestra upside-down in the best way possible and showed us what it meant to make intimate music together. I’m forever grateful for all they’ve taught me.

Looking back, could you have ever imagined to be where you are today?

I graduated from the Youth Ensembles only a little over a year ago, but I couldn’t have imagined what life now would be like when I was a Youth Ensembles member. Now at Chapman as a double major, I am often in school all day. My mom drives me to school early in the morning, and I bounce from class to research to rehearsals to labs. Almost every day of the week, I don’t get home until 11 p.m., however, I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to study and pursue both of my passions.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the students that are currently in the Ensembles?

Maestro Gutierrez, the former director of PSYO, often said to us, “Enjoy the process.” A performance is the culmination of hours of practice and rehearsal, and it’s important to value the entire process from the first downbeat to the finishing note. This can apply to almost anything in life. We should think back to, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Regardless, what’s most important is living with joy, love, and compassion. Such things make life a lot sweeter!


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.


Exploring the Music of “Downton Abbey”

downton-abbey-movie-poster-1558426682With the new “Downton Abbey” film releasing today, derived from the smash-hit television period-drama of the same name, we thought you could relive some of the pieces of music that were released during 1927, when the film takes place.

For almost a decade now, the historical blockbuster TV series has been set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1926, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the era after King Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria. It’s dramatic, unflinching, raw and exceptionally well-produced.

Check out Nashville Public Radio’s article on the classics of classical music released during this year, and listen to it all here! From compositions such as Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite to Igor Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex,” and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to Béla Bartók’s “String Quartet No. 3,” there are pieces for every classical music taste here. After checking out the link, let us know what your favorite piece was in the comments.


The Evolving Sights and Sounds of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”

Fireworks, fanfares and cannons—oh my!

Pacific Symphony Summer Fest at the Pacific Amphitheatre.

Reigning as one of Tchaikovsky’s most iconic orchestral works, the “1812 Overture” is recognizable for typically acting as an accompaniment for 4th of July fireworks or making musical cameos in video games, movies and TV shows. It’s even the first musical snippet heard in the entire film of 2016’s La La Land.

Despite Tchaikovsky’s noted lack of enthusiasm for the piece, how did the “1812 Overture” rise to prominence in today’s popular culture? We can pinpoint its rise to fame through its history: from original composition to worldwide expansion.


Cathedral of Christ the Savior – Moscow

Originally, Tchaikovsky was tasked to compose a go-to celebratory piece for the opening of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow; in a matter of just 6 weeks, the work was brought to life, premiered under the baton of Russian conductor Ippolit Al’tani. The “1812 Overture” broke out from its European audience and expanded into America in 1891 with Tchaikovsky’s performance of the work to open Carnegie Hall in New York City. A century later, the piece accompanied 4th of July fireworks under the musical leadership of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, and thus, the musical July 4th tradition of pairing Tchaikovsky’s music and pyrotechnics was born.

The “1812 Overture” refused to stop growing there—the cannons were just not enough!  Musicians around the world adapted Tchaikovsky’s explosive work to test their creativity. For instance, one group of teachers worked with the Sydney Symphony to replace the cannon blasts with popping paper bags. In other cases, the Overture has been taken out of the traditional concert hall or summer amphitheater environment and thrown into a live, public flashmob!

So, while Tchaikovsky may have thought of the “1812 Overture” as a sort of disreputable, musical Frankenstein, the general population has found various ways to make the piece their own and treasure it with generations to come.

You, too, can be a part of the “1812 Overture” experience with Pacific Symphony when the Tchaikovsky Spectacular closes out our summer season with a bang on September 7 at 8 p.m. in Pacific Amphitheater. To learn more about the event or get tickets, please visit our website here!


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.

“The Right Man, at the Right Moment”


Senior Editor of Voice of OC Paul Hodgins recently interview Pacific Symphony’s President John Forsyte about Carl’s upcoming 30th Anniversary season. Here are some of our favorite highlights:

The right pairing of orchestra and conductor, like a successful marriage, can last for decades, the relationship deepening and becoming more meaningful as the years pass, trials and triumphs are shared, audiences grow increasingly dedicated and beloved repertoire is programmed a second, third or even fourth time.

It might surprise you to know that Orange County has one of the longest-serving conductors of any major North American orchestra. Carl St.Clair took the position in 1990. He’s about to start his 30th season with Pacific Symphony, which is barely over four decades old. (Voice of OC talked to St.Clair earlier this year about his time at Pacific Symphony and his plans for the upcoming season.)

“From what I heard, there were a number of things that happened in the audition process that solidified the decision for the musicians and the board. Not only was his audition concert extremely exciting, the wrong Mozart piece was on the stand. He gave he downbeat for ‘Magic Flute’ and they were playing ‘Marriage of Figaro’ or something else.” St.Clair quickly adapted and laughed off the screw-up. “The calm and ease and the personable quality he had was immediately evident,” Forsyte said.

St.Clair also came with some impressive recommendations. He had warm relationships with John Williams and Leonard Bernstein. “There were a number of things that said, ‘This guy is a meteor,’ Forsyte said. “They sensed that he would ignite the passion of the community, and he had the kinds of personality that could heal some of the wounds from the troubling situations that had occurred.”

Make sure to check out Carl St.Clair’s TEDxOrangeCounty talk on conducting – “Innovation Whispers”!

You can read Paul Hodgin’s full article on Voice of OC here.

Guest Conductor Spotlight: Colonel Arnald Gabriel

Among the many guest artists joining us for our “Hail to the Heroes” concert Sept. 8 is guest conductor Colonel Arnald Gabriel, who was the Commander and Conductor from the United States Air Force BandUnited States Air Force Symphony Orchestra, and Singing Sergeants from 1964 to 1985. In 1990, he was named the first Conductor Emeritus of the United States Air Force Band and the 29th Div. Band of the Virginia Army National Guard. Aside from his distinctly musical background with the armed forces, Col. Gabriel was a combat machine gunner with the United States Army’s famed 29th Infantry Division in Europe during WWII.


Colonel Arnald Gabriel and his wife Renee Channey attend his retirement ceremony

During “Hail to the Heroes,” Col. Gabriel will conduct William Steffe’s classic “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (arr. by Peter Wilhousky) and an Armed Forces Salute, both featuring our longtime artistic partners Pacific Chorale. He will then conduct John William’s beautiful Hymn to the Fallen, again featuring the Chorale, and finally, the military standard, Taps.

Here he is, conducting the Old Timers Band of Cortland, New York, as they perform the wonderful march, “Caderna”:

After leaving the Army, Col. Gabriel worked at a canning factory, unable to go to college. Everything changed, however, when his old high school band director decided that Gabriel was too talented to waste his days in a factory. The band director paid for the Colonel to attend Ithaca College in 1946, and he earned both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Music Education at Ithaca. Colonel Gabriel is also a Professor Emeritus of George Mason University. The rest, they say, is history.

We hope that you’ll join us for “Hail to the Heroes” Sept. 8, where we can all gather together to celebrate our veterans and first responders, the brave heroes who make our communities and this country truly great. Remember, there are FREE tickets for active-duty military, veterans and first responders! Call our Box Office at (714) 755-5799.