Voice of OC Features Symphony on the Go!

Symphony on the Go! concert at Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center in July 2021. Photo by Eric Simonson.  

Since June 2021, we’ve had the honor of bringing light chamber music to cities across Orange County. From the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center in June to San Juan Capistrano this month, it has been an incredibly fun road trip.  

Recently, Symphony on the Go! was featured in the Voice of OC. To see the full article written by Richard Chang, please click here. Thank you for the mention!  

What is a Symphony on the Go! concert? A Symphony on the Go! concert is a free outdoor event that typically features a string quartet or a woodwind or brass quintet on a pop-up mobile stage. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. Our mobile stage is a special gift from philanthropists and Pacific Symphony-lovers Jerry and Terri Kohl. All concerts are weather permitting.  

If this is something you’d still like experience, there are a few more concerts left before the season comes to an end. You can learn more about upcoming events here. Craving more concerts? You can learn more about our 2021-22 season here.  

Thank you for joining us this season, everyone!  

Composer Frank Ticheli’s “All the World’s a Stage” Receives World Premiere Oct. 14 – 16  

Composer Frank Ticheli at the piano.

Specially commissioned for Carl St.Clair’s 30th anniversary career milestone as Pacific Symphony’s Music Director, Frank Ticheli’s All the World’s a Stage will receive its world premiere next week.  

A gift for orchestra and audience, this unique piece will encourage everyone in the concert hall to participate. From making air sounds to playing whirlies and even singing, the tasks will add an interactive element to the evening. Something like this hasn’t been done at the concert hall before.  

For those of you who may be wary, don’t worry, Carl St.Clair will teach you everything you need to know beforehand. You’ll only be joining the Symphony at the beginning and end of the piece. No prior music training required. Carl St.Clair will cue you when it’s time for you to join the orchestra.  

Formerly Pacific Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence from 1991–1998, Ticheli has a decades-long friendship with our community and also teaches composition at USC’s Thornton School of Music. Named after one of Shakespeare’s famous lines from the play As You Like It, Ticheli’s 10-minute piece is sure to be a memorable experience for all of us.  

We don’t want to give too much away, but if you would like to get a sneak peek and hear from the composer, don’t forget to catch this conversation with our Assistant Conductor Jacob Sustaita and Frank Ticheli below. We can’t wait to see everyone in action soon.  

A virtual conversation with Assistant Conductor Jacob Sustaita and Composer Frank Ticheli.

To learn more about our Beethoven’s “Eroica” concerts, please click here.  

Welcome! Live Music is Back!

From the Desk of John Forsyte

Please join me for the opening weekend of what will surely be an emotional return to classical music performances by Pacific Symphony at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Music Director and Conductor Carl St.Clair has a wonderful program planned including the world premiere of a fantastic work by Juilliard-based composer, Wayne Oquin. The work is described by the composer as the “ongoing aspect of urban city life: the construction of modern skyscrapers.” It features virtuosic and colorful writing for the entire orchestra and for solo clarinet.

One of the great legends in classical music is pianist Emanuel Ax who has had a distinguished solo and recording career and has been a close collaborator with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and so many other luminaries. Mr. Ax will perform the sparkling Mozart Piano Concerto No. 17. To close the concert, we will hear the sweeping drama of Tchaikovsky’s most beloved Symphony No. 5.

Concerts take place Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. (Sunday is Tchaikovsky only). To learn more, please click here: www.pacificsymphony.org.

Video message from Music Director Carl St.Clair

Paul Musco—A Tribute

Paul Musco receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2018. Left to right: Chairman of Ellis Island Honors Society Nasser J. Kazeminy, Marybelle Musco and S. Paul Musco and Jo Ellen Chatham. 

Orange County has lost a beloved man, breathtaking entrepreneur, volunteer leader and meteoric philanthropic figure who transformed many institutions while inspiring people with his joyous sense of humor, his amazing life stories and wisdom. His love for his beautiful wife, Marybelle, and family was clearly boundless. 

For Pacific Symphony, he was a catalytic investor in the relaunch of professional opera productions in Orange County.

“Opera is what results when an astounding number of things fail to go wrong.” This somewhat whimsical statement, oft quoted in the worldwide opera community, might be modified in Orange County to say “Opera is what happens when Paul Musco gets involved.” When viewed more metaphorically, “opera,” for Paul, signified a broader meaning. For him, it was a vehicle to better understand the human condition, to nurture talents and change lives.

Throughout Paul’s lifetime, and more especially in the latter half of his long and impactful life, Paul was the consummate definition of a philanthropist—a “person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” The list of worthy not-for-profits who have benefitted from Paul and Marybelle Muscos’ investments is long and varied. In some cases, they would make a modest gift to encourage a smaller organization or jump-start a fledgling project. Other times, they made a public and major commitment, which would vault a building campaign, endowment or major project that would challenge other donors to join him in reaching the fundraising goal, be it modest or seemingly beyond wildest imagination.

While Paul’s and Marybelle’s generosity was felt in many areas, they had a special interest in education and the arts. He sought ways to increase the impact of his gifts, and sometimes in less-than-obvious ways. Carl St.Clair, Music Director of Pacific Symphony, recalls a gift Musco told him about several years ago. “Paul was a strong champion of the Opera Program at Chapman University for many years,” St.Clair said.

“He felt it was illogical for the University to have an opera program without a strong program in the study of Italian. The result: the Musco Endowed Chair in Italian Studies and the Musco Endowment for Travel Courses in Italian Studies. For Paul, it was simply unimaginable not to have Italian as a focus. Great opera meant Italian operas. He loved them all, but Italian opera touched him deeply. His most favorite was Rigoletto. It was an opera he loved his whole life. He was generous, but extremely practical. Those two characteristics, combined with a real ‘hands-on’ approach allowed his many gifts to have maximum impact on the institutions and programs he supported.”

The strong commitment to giving by Paul and Marybelle addressed short-term needs as well as ambitious vision for future generations in Orange County. Whether it be a gift to fund a specific project, an endowment to help future generations of worthy students or a building that would showcase talented performers from around the world at Chapman University, Paul took great joy in giving, and shared that enthusiasm with others. He once said “I want to give away as much as I can while I am alive, so that I can enjoy the impact of those gifts.” That attitude allowed the Orange County community to acknowledge his kindness in the latter part of his life through the awarding of numerous awards and citations to both Paul and Marybelle.

The Muscos’ commitment to the performing arts is evidenced by their generosity to a number of major Southern California institutions. In the last decade of his life, major gifts to Chapman University, Los Angeles Opera and the Orange County High School for the Arts enabled those organizations to initiate major programs and shape new facilities that influence the lives of thousands, and will continue to do so for future generations. 

Pacific Symphony was among many to benefit from Paul’s giving and leadership. Carl St.Clair commented, “The orchestra began a new program of ‘semi-staged’ opera in 2012. I recalled being nervous about the scale of financial investment required, and, of course, everyone suggested we ‘go see Paul.’ I recall that meeting very well. We were allowed to dream about possibilities, but required to commit that our business model for presenting opera was strong, and that other donors were prepared to join us. That meeting resulted in an initial three-year pledge from Paul, and Pacific Symphony’s opera program was off and running. As a result, it is now an integral part of the Pacific Symphony season, and our annual operas are among the most eagerly anticipated weeks of the entire concert season.”

Carl St.Clair added “Without a doubt, Paul’s commitment to our Opera Initiative filled a huge void in Orange County’s cultural infrastructure. Through the Muscos’ support, we are able to introduce the most famous works from this body of repertoire to an eager public. In fact, the performance of even standard repertoire from the opera canon is new for some of our musicians. The addition of opera to our seasons has been a huge factor in the development of Pacific Symphony—a real game-changer.”

In the history of every institution, certain events and individuals stand-out as pivotal catalysts of change. Paul Musco is, uniquely, one of those individuals. His influence will be ongoing, whether it be to the entire Orange County community or to a single student. Pacific Symphony has been truly blessed to call Paul Musco a valued member of our Board of Directors, a generous supporter of our programs, a sage counsel, and—most of all—a valued friend.

Paul will be missed greatly.

An opera begins long begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” —Maria Callas

Dan Brown’s “Wild Symphony” Introduces Kids to Symphonic Music  

VIDEO: Dan Brown and team members in a recording session for “Wild Symphony” with Zagreb Festival Orchestra.

International best-selling author Dan Brown released his first children’s book, “Wild Symphony,” last fall. The story follows Maestro Mouse as he recruits his musical friends to play in his orchestra. In true Dan Brown fashion, there is also an anagram on each page. Don’t forget to look out for the hidden letters that come together to spell out an instrument as you flip through. 

Primarily known for his novels “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol,” Dan Brown’s interest in music began as a kid. His parents were trained musicians and they didn’t have a TV so he started playing the piano. His interest in and passion for the art form grew from there. Music was his sanctuary and he still plays today.  

“Wild Symphony” features 21-tracks composed by Brown and performed by Zagreb Festival Orchestra based in Croatia. In addition to the book, there’s a free app that lets readers scan over the page to play the right song for the right character. You can also listen to the music separately. The book is illustrated by Susan Batori.  

Have you read “Wild Symphony” before? What did you think? What does music mean to you? Let us know in the comments below! You can learn more about the project here.  

Arts & Culture Events To Enjoy In Orange County This Fall

Image Description: Pacific Symphony led by Maestro Carl St.Clair on the performance platform at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, CA.

Orange County’s arts and culture scene provides a lot to look forward to this fall and Voice of OC has a great run down of everything going on. There truly is something for everyone, and we hope you get a chance experience the best our community has to offer. You can take a look at the piece written by Richard Chang, Kristina Garcia, Timothy Mangan, Eric Marchcese, Anne Marie Panoringan and Kaitlin Wright here

Mentioned in the article is our classical season opener, “Emanuel Ax Plays Mozart,” from Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. The show starts at 8 p.m. each night and tickets are still available. To learn more about the event, please click here. 

What events are you looking forward to going to this season? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for the shout out, Voice of OC!  

ICYMI: Pacific Symphony and Other Major OC Arts Venues Announce New Vaccination & Masking Policies

In March 2020, after the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the entire performing arts industry experienced an unprecedented shutdown. After a year and a half of adjusting to conditions, Pacific Symphony and several major Orange County arts venues are getting ready to welcome patrons back to concert halls once more.  

While we’re excited to see you in-person again, the success in reopening live performing arts venues will rely on all of us to work together. In case you missed the initial announcement last week, here are some highlights:  

  • These updates are in effect for all indoor performances.  
  • Masks must be worn at all times.  
  • Fully vaccinated 14 days after the first or second dose of receiving a covid-19 vaccine. 
  • Anyone without proof of being fully vaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to entering the theatre. 

As we continue to monitor industry and government guidelines, we will keep you updated as much as we can. Places where you’ll find reminders include (but are not limited to) our main website and social media and email communication channels.  

We know it has been a very challenging time but we want to take this moment to thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we move forward with upcoming 2021-22 concert season.   

Please save this link for future reference: https://bit.ly/PSVaccinationMaskUpdate.  

A note on classical music terms and usage

“Rumors about the impending exit have swirled for months, reaching a crescendo in recent days.” – Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2013.

Awhile back I commented on music critic Scott Cantrell’s non-use of the word “crescendo,” his contention being that the word is too technical for a general circulation newspaper. I disagreed, asserting that it’s a perfectly good word, found in Webster’s no less, and an easy concept to understand.

Along comes Kingsley Amis. In his “The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage,” he has this typically curmudgeonly thing to say on the word “crescendo”:

“Once a musical term meaning ‘(passage played) with increasing volume’ and a derived figurative term meaning ‘progress towards a climax.’ For many years now taken to be a fancy synonym for ‘climax’ as in ‘the gunfire reached a crescendo’ or ‘the chorus of vilification rose to a crescendo’ and rendered useable only by the unwary or vulgar. Outside of a strictly musical context, that is.”

Yes. The important distinction to remember is that a crescendo is not a particular point in a musical composition, but a process therein, i.e. a process of getting louder. The musical marking for it is quite simple and illustrative, consisting of an elongated “lesser than” sign (as used in mathematics) placed directly under the passage for which the composer wants a gradual (or fairly sudden, but never instantaneous) increase in volume. A crescendo sign varies in length, depending upon the length of the crescendo desired.

Continue reading

Interviewing the talent


The stories behind the stories: I won’t assert that they are more interesting than the stories themselves, but they’re not without interest. I’ve learned a lot about classical musicians, both individually and as a group, interviewing them through the years. Composers, to my mind, are the best interviewees. They’re smart, they work alone and they seem to enjoy the opportunity to talk about their craft. Singers tend to live up to their reputation for shallowness and flightiness, I’m not sure why.

You never know what you’re going to get, phoning up or sitting down with a classical musician for the first time. It can be nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what to expect when I phoned the great pianist, intellect, essayist and poet Alfred Brendel. He was one of the all-time best scowlers on stage, glaring at coughers, barely breaking a smile in response to thunderous applause. I was intimidated. It turned out he was an absolute delight, funny, easy to laugh, spilling his tea (and laughing at that), willing and interested to talk and reflect about everything, even his inner self. “Well, I don’t think I’m really driven,” he said. “I’m not a fanatic, I dread fanatics. Fanaticism is something that frightens me. So I have given myself the appearance, or the idea, that I do what I do out of my own free will.” And then he laughed.

Pianist Ivo Pogorelich didn’t laugh at all. He was difficult. I sat down with him for a radio interview once and he didn’t like the microphone the engineer gave him. It fit on his head; he apparently didn’t want to muss his hair. Pogorelich told us that unless he got another microphone, one that sat on the table, he was going to walk, quite the diva. We found a table microphone for him and I proceeded with the interview, delicately.

Oh, I’m sure, dear reader, you want to know what they’re all like. Cecilia Bartoli? Adorable. Riccardo Muti? Exceedingly charming, humble, a gentleman. Philip Glass? Friendly, bright, a real talker, the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind having a beer with. Pierre Boulez? Gracious, and so intelligent in response to my questions I felt brilliant for asking them. Daniel Barenboim? Gritty, philosophical, committed.

Continue reading

Pacific Overtures: September

Here’s the latest edition of my newsletter.


  1. September Concerts Roundup
  2. Interview: Dennis Kim
  3. Interview: Meredith Crawford
  4. Listen to This: Boléro
  5. Single Tickets
  6. Connections Series Renamed
  7. Video: Festive Overture
  8. Essential Books (4)
  9. Miscellany

Pacific Overtures. September, 2018.