Pacific Overtures

Here’s our new monthly newsletter, Pacific Overtures. It is written and curated by yours truly. Much of this month’s content has appeared on this blog, but every month will be a little different in that regard. Click on the link below.

Pacific Overtures. October, 2017.

‘Harry Potter’ comes to O.C. courtesy of home-grown conductor

Justin Freer conducts “Harry Potter” in Royal Albert Hall

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Only a handful of people will know the answer to the following bit of extreme trivia: Who is the only musician born and raised in Orange County to have conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra, just to name a few? The answer is — Justin Freer. Never heard of him? Get in line.

Freer, 37, a native of Huntington Beach, is co-founder of a company called CineConcerts, which, as the name implies, produces live concert performances of film scores synchronized with screenings of the films. He conducts these performances in darkened concert halls around the globe as audiences watch beloved movies, not him. These screenings with live music are something of a rage these days in the world of symphonic orchestras. CineConcerts currently offers such titles as “It’s a Wonderful Life” (music by Dimitri Tiomkin), “The Godfather” (music by Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola) and the “Harry Potter” series (music by John Williams and others).

We wondered about the rage, about why someone would spend $50 and up on such presentations when they could just as well stream the movie at home on a giant flatscreen with good sound.

“I think the first thing is that it’s not the same as viewing it at home, or listening to it at home, or even in a movie theater,” Freer says, seated in his glassed-walled office at company headquarters in Burbank. “It’s so radically different. People are coming to a concert. Ultimately, that’s what separates this from seeing it at home or from another concert.”

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Top six posts on Pacific Symphony Blog

Catch up on the ones you missed or enjoy the thrill of reading them again.

Concert etiquette for beginners. June 13, 2017.

A swan song and a ‘Resurrection’: John Alexander takes the next step in a long career. June 5, 2017.

Pacific Symphony assistant conductor wins Solti award. June 1, 2017.

Thoughts While Attending the First Symphony in the Series My Wife Want to Buy. July 19, 2017.

Video: Yuja Wang plays ‘Tritsch-Tratsch Polka.’ August 1.

Van Cliburn gold medalist brings Rachmaninoff for his debut with Pacific Symphony. September 2.

Radio: ‘On stage with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’

A radio piece, in which I am interviewed, about what it sounds like on stage playing in a symphony orchestra. Gideon Brower produced.

On stage with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Public Radio International, Studio 360, Sept. 21, 2017.

5 Tips on How to Listen to Classical Music

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

It has come to my attention that some people – friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, folks met at parties – don’t know how to listen to classical music. They are interested in getting into it (some of them), and they would like to try, but they don’t seem to have the slightest idea about where to begin. Maybe their intention to listen to classical music is along the lines of eating more broccoli (i.e. they’ll never do it), but the intention is there. They are usually a little intimidated by the prospect.

I’d like to help. And so, with no small trepidation, I offer the following hints. Call them common sense. Those who already know how to listen to classical music are dismissed.

1. Quiet

The first thing you have to know about listening to classical music, and probably the single most important, is that it demands your full attention, like reading a book or watching a movie. People aren’t used to listening to music this way anymore; our lives are busy, fractured and portable. We listen in the car, at the gym, on a walk, at work (while doing something else), as we wash the dishes or talk to someone. That is, we don’t really listen; we use music as soundtrack, or as background to multitasking, or as motivational beat to exercise.

But classical music, to be understood and appreciated, must be foreground. (Some people even find it irritating as background.) It is a narrative in notes. You must follow it, to hear what happens; you must participate in the experience. The best way to listen to it, therefore, is live (when you are more or less forced to), or in a quiet room, alone or with someone who knows not to talk. Turning out the lights doesn’t hurt. Your brain will do most of the rest, whether you know a lot about classical music or nothing at all.

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After Eight Lessons: The Recording

For those of you who are interested, here’s the recording I made after eight piano lessons at OC Music and Dance community arts school in Irvine.

Eight Lessons Later: The Recording. OC Music and Dance Blog, Sept. 18, 2017.

Van Cliburn gold medalist brings Rachmaninoff for his debut with Pacific Symphony

June 7, 2017. Yekwon Sunwoo  performs with the Brentano String Quartet in the final round of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Ralph Lauer)

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Yekwon Sunwoo showed up on Skype at the appointed time recently, or rather his voice did. He initially preferred not to appear on screen — 24 hours of travel from Poland to Aspen the day before had left him disheveled, he implied — but soon enough he came on camera, his thick black hair slightly tousled perhaps, but otherwise looking fresh and fit in a pair of Clark Kent glasses and a light cardigan sweater.

Sunwoo is otherwise a superman. In June, he became the first Korean to win the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, doing it with a series of knucklebusters that included Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata and Prokofiev’s Sixth, Ravel’s “La Valse” and, in the finals, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (all of which can be seen and heard online at the competition’s website.) Since then, life has been a whirlwind for the 28-year-old musician.

“It’s been hectic,” Sunwoo says. “Like right after winning, for about a week I had some meetings, and a photo session which went about four hours straight. Everything was happening kind of quickly and they already had concerts lined up. I had to decide everything pretty much all at once, in a short time.

“The concert tour started in the middle of July, I went to Steamboat Springs (Colorado), the Grand Teton Music Festival, which was wonderful, and the Spencer Theater in Roswell, New Mexico. Then I was in Italy for concerts, Germany, Poland. I’m really enjoying it. I’ve kind of been waiting for this moment and I love performing for the audiences. It’s just a great thing. So it’s been busy but I’m very happy about it.”

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