The former Santa Ana United Presbyterian Church, and first “Pacific Symphony Center”
Sad news: this morning, a fire claimed a historic property in Santa Ana, which was formerly the home to Pacific Symphony’s offices, library and rehearsals. I fondly recall hearing my very first awesome sounds of Pacific Symphony in 1998 in that space with slanted floors, and I know many of our musicians also have both warm and humorous memories of what was a property adjacent to a fast-food restaurant. Many will not recall that Santa Ana was a savior for Pacific Symphony, underwriting the rent of this facility while also providing Community Development Block Grants to support our education programs. The city was undoubtedly one of the largest institutional supporters of Pacific Symphony and, by far, the largest public funder.
Photo Credit: Robert Schumitzky, Pacific Symphony violinist
Fortunately, the church was abandoned and no one was hurt, but it is a loss for our collective memories and historic preservation. John Evans, who was on the Board in the days when it served as our home, recalls: “I have substantial memories there … board meetings in the basement with founding board members who were my friends, now gone, rehearsals, and the vote enabling us to bring in Carl as music director. All in that building, all remaining vividly in my mind. I hope they will rebuild.”
Photo Credit: Robert Schumitzky
Carl shared, “This makes me really sad! Honestly! Seeing our former home in flames this morning in the newspaper hit me hard. Like John Evans intimated, so much of our, of my, history with Pacific Symphony was born in that Church. My first meeting and rehearsal with the Orchestra: Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Mozart! I can still hear the words of Lou (Spisto, first Executive Director) introducing me to the Orchestra. I see the faces of the musicians so clearly. Mahler’s Eighth was rehearsed in that Church!
“So many memories!” Carl continued, “So many moments of great music making all mixed in with the aroma of over and re-used grease from French fries wafting into the Church from the fast food restaurant on the corner. Playing on a slanted floor. And then there was the Saturday morning Mariachi Bands on the Santa Ana streets blending in with the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth, creating a musical cornucopia, a sound collage Charles Ives would have loved! Maybe, Gustav would have too? Oh, and then there were the rats scurrying overhead in the rafters adding delicate percussion notes to Debussy’s ‘La Mer.’ Sharing our home with the OC Crazies improv theater troupe somehow made it all seem really normal.”
Jim Medvetz, former vice president of strategic planning and special projects for Pacific Symphony, also shared some memories of his time at the old Santa Ana location. “What a tragedy! This building was the first place Pacific Symphony could call ‘home.’ Not the best acoustics by far, even with some effort by an acoustician to improve the situation, but the orchestra had a consistent space to rehearse which helped provide some stability to artistic preparation. So many great performances were rehearsed there.”
“It was quite an amazing building,” Jim continued, “All wood construction and was one of only several large buildings in Santa Ana the survived the famous 1933. earthquake. The Symphony had it as its home for 20 years – until the opening of the Concert Hall. So much of the major evolution of the Orchestra occurred there. Too many tales to tell. While it is physically reduced to rubble and ashes we fortunately have many pictures of the old building with the ‘Pacific Symphony Center’ marquee emblazoned on it. So much history, so much music, so much time spent there – lives on in our memories. A time well spent.”
Here is some official video of this sudden and immense fire, via Twitter.