A 27-year old British-Italian tenor Freddie De Tommaso is being hailed as the next great tenor. Opera Now noted that De Tommaso “sounds like a youthful Italian Domingo with a gorgeous baritonal quality to the lower end, building up to a heart-rending top,” BR Klassik hailed his “bombshell voice” and Der Standard described him as a “Vocal Phenomenon.”
His debut album Passione (to be released in April) is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of the great Italian tenor Franco Corelli. In fact, 2021 will mark four important milestone centenaries in the “Year of the Tenor”: the births of Mario Lanza (Jan. 31), Franco Corelli (April 8), Giuseppe Di Stefano (July 24) and the death of the father of all modern tenors, Enrico Caruso (Aug. 2). De Tommaso’s recording Passione celebrates the songs they made famous and also explores the musical landscape of his father’s family from Italy’s deep south.
In addition, the album will feature three world premiere recordings: Respighi’s Nebbie, based on the composer’s original manuscript, and two rare Puccini songs, Mentia l’Avviso and Sole e Amore, all are specially orchestrated for this recording.
Curious? Take a listen and decide for yourself. And then leave a reply and tell us what you think.
The Lantern Festival, which can be traced back 2,000 years, takes place 15 days after the Lunar New Year—on the first full moon night in the lunar calendar—and marks the return of spring, representing the reunion of family. The act of lighting and appreciating lanterns is a way for people to let go of the burdens of their old selves and express their best wishes for themselves and their families for the future.
You’ll have the opportunity to create your very own lantern, be inspired by traditional Chinese music and dance, and even have the opportunity to win a special ox lantern.
The event is free on Pacific Symphony’s YouTube and Facebook pages. Artists include: South Coast Chinese Orchestra, Irvine Chinese Choir 華聲, American Feel Young Chorus 飛楊, Evangelical Valley Children’s Choir 東安兒童合唱團, Orange County Ladies Chorus 橙縣女聲, Eastern Taiwan Women’s Ensemble 知音合唱團, Hua-Lien Yi-Chung Middle School Wind Ensemble 花蓮宜昌國中管樂,Hua-Lien Dancing School 花蓮舞蹈劇, Chinese Dance Company of Southern California, and members of Pacific Symphony and Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles.
You’ll enjoy participating in paper lantern making, riddles and a calligraphy demo. You’ll have a chance to win prizes, and you won’t want to miss the dragon dance!
Co-hosted with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/ Irvine Chinese School, this event is made possible through the generous support of the James Irvine Foundation.
Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins has been invited to represent Pacific Symphony in the Hope & Harmony Ensemble, formed by concert tour company Classical Movements in honor of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Led by world-renowned conductor Marin Alsop, the 14 musicians represent the Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Peabody Institute, South Asian Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and Utah Symphony.
At a time when the orchestra world has been virtually silenced by the pandemic, Classical Movements has made a deliberate effort to bring together orchestras from every part of our country and to reflect the diversity of our people. Reflecting a desire for national unity and inclusiveness, half of the performing musicians are women and six are musicians of color.
The Music The performance features two masterpieces of American classical music that perfectly represent our president- and vice president-elect:
Aaron Copland’s iconic “Fanfare for the Common Man” to celebrate the American people and in honor of Joe Biden; and
Joan Tower’s dynamic “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” for Kamala Harris, our remarkable and “uncommon” first female vice president.
An Unprecedented Show of Unity within the Orchestra Industry Barry Perkins commented, “Having classical music involved in any presidential event is especially significant to me. Our highest level of government deserves a distinguished high level of music. As this orchestra is comprised of representatives from orchestras from all around the United States, I am so honored to be representing my particular region.”
In addition to footage of each musician, recorded in their homes and on site across the country, the presentation incorporates photographs and video illustrating “America the Beautiful” and the context of the struggle for civil rights and equality for women in the United States.
You can view the virtual “Fanfare for Joe and Kamala” on Pacific Symphony’s Facebook page or here on YouTube. You can read more about the project here.
Last month, AXP@Home, the online version of the Symphony’s acclaimed arts-X-press summer program, invited students to connect remotely to celebrate the holidays in song. They also enjoyed an in-depth discussion of the values of cultural tradition. This Holiday Diversity Celebration was the third workshop in the AXP@Home alumni workshop series.
Leslie Benjamin, choral music director at Savanna High School in Anaheim and arts-X-press vocal music instructor, led the workshop. He presented students with an array of traditional vocal songs and led group discussions about the importance of diversity. He stressed the value of recognizing the traditions associated with seasonal festivals and celebrations from different cultures.
From the Christian holiday season of Advent to the celebration of Diwali in Hinduism, students connected to various faiths and their respective traditions through an overarching theme of serving the less fortunate. Students sang traditional folk songs, “To Love is Good,” “Be a Candle of Hope” and “Shalom Chaverim,” all of which symbolize community and the need for hope in a time of hardship.
In these particular times of seclusion and uncertainty, students and counselors spoke about how becoming a “candle of hope” for others can encourage positivity both for ourselves and entire communities:
Counselor Julia noted how we can “celebrate our differences and diversity to really make it become our true strength through times of adversity.”
AXP alumna Brooke noted diversity as “an important as a way to include everyone while also understanding everyone’s culture. You can celebrate everyone as a whole and avoid people feeling unwelcome or unaccepted.”
Mr. Benjamin pointed out that focusing on the similarities among different faiths can be an important step towards fostering a culture of acceptance and optimism. He encouraged students to find joy through the shared characteristics of different faiths, especially through central practices that encourage a hospitable and inclusive lifestyle.
“Make sure that we bring hope to people; you not only bring joy to them, but you can also bring joy to yourself,” Leslie expressed to our group. “As you go out, shed some light – show people that you care by spreading positive emotions and peace. As we are separated and in different places, it’s a great way to bring and sustain a community.”
The focus on vocal music helped to communicate these timely ideas. Music continues to serve as a captivating approach for people of all ages, cultures and circumstances to unite through a universal artistic expression. In these pressing times, it becomes especially necessary to look beyond the lyrics and melody for the deeper cultural values that can connect us all.
The next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series—“New Beginnings”—will be a visual-arts-centered workshop taking place on Weds., Jan. 27, 2021.
Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on news and content!
This year, the staff of Pacific Symphony celebrates the holiday season the best way we know how – by celebrating the incredible music that warms our hearts, inspires us, and reminds us of the season. Here are some Symphony staff’s holiday favorites!
Abby Edmunds, Director of Volunteer Services Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus from “Messiah”
Abby chose Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus Orchestra, which she feels is a song of hope for the holidays and the new year to come. She likes this virtual, socially distanced performance by the Chorus of the Royal Opera House, London.
Chris Adriance, Marketing & Loyalty Campaigns Manager Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” – Act II: Pantomime
“I’m partial to ‘Hänsel und Gretel’ because I performed it in the pit orchestra back in college but everything about it feels festive and cheery (except that evil witch). The melodies are memorable, grand and filled with the kind of fantasy you’d expect from a Disney movie. I can’t help but picture a cozy German cottage in the middle of winter. Some neat trivia: The opera was first performed on December 23, 1893, conducted by none other than Richard Strauss!”
Jean Oelrich, Director of Marketing & Communications VOCES8 singing Gustav Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”
“Since moving from Chicago to Southern California, I have developed a deep appreciation of winter … watching it in the movies and on the Weather Channel, but not having to worry about physically dealing with snow and sub-zero temperatures. My favorite carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ reminds me of many chilly Christmases in the Windy City. The lyrics by the 19th century English poet Christina Rosetti perfectly evoke the season: ‘Frosty wind made moan; Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter long ago.’ My favorite rendition of this carol is by the vocal group VOCES8. They’re an a capella octet from the United Kingdom, who have recorded a lot of wonderful holiday music. Here they perform the piece in an arrangement by the brilliant young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.”
Kurt Mortensen, Director of Audience Engagement Prokofiev’s “Troika” from “Lieutenant Kijé”
“Though the Russian film Lieutenant Kijé, for which Prokofiev wrote the music, is a satire about bureaucratic incompetence and therefore nothing to do with Christmas, a section of music called ‘Troika’ has become associated as such for its musical depiction of a sleigh ride through the winter snow. A troika is a traditional Russian three-horse sleigh, and Prokofiev titled the piece to evoke this imagery, while using jingling bells and an infectious Christmas-like melody, resulting in an accidental Christmas favorite. Classic Rock fans will recognize this tune as the instrumental break in Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe In Father Christmas,’ which narrowly missed the number #1 spot on the singles chart upon release in 1975, beat out only by Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Ironically, this popular ‘Christmas song,’ still heard frequently during the holidays today, was a written as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas by the former King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer front man, becoming once again another accidental Christmas classic which has subsequently been covered by many others including: Vertical Horizon, U2, Toyah Willcox, Sarah Brightman, Susan Boyle and Robbie Williams.”
Ashlyn Ronkes, Box Circle & Governing Members Concierge Tchaikovsky’s “December: Christmas” from The Seasons
“In his The Seasons, a collection of twelve short pieces, Tchaikovsky reflects through his piano on the characters of the months of the year as he experienced them in Russia. His last piece of the collection is ‘December: Christmas.’ This carefree A-flat major waltz carries a simple, nostalgic and childlike innocence, and is a wonderful listen if you need to take a deep breath and a remind yourself of the joy that the season brings!”
Alexey Bonca, Public Relations & Social Media Manager Vitamin String Quartet’s arrangement of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
“One of my favorite Christmas songs comes from John Lennon, with his 1971 ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ – I chose the Vitamin String Quartet’s arrangement, from their 2010 Christmas album. While technically a protest song, Lennon’s original has an unbelievably powerful melody, and this arrangement gives his emotional performance its due. I hope we can all take the spirit of this piece with us into the New Year, and have an incredible 2021.”
Lorraine Caukin, Director of Sales Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” (Weihnachtsoratorium)
“I lived many years in Germany, which has provided us with many of our favorite Christmas traditions. In the performing arts, however, Germans differ from us somewhat with their holiday fare. While Americans flock every December to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ Germans are more likely to attend a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio.’ Bach’s six-part masterwork opens with soaring trumpets, thundering timpani and a joyful chorus that never fails to make my heart sing. This 1981 performance is led by conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one of the pioneers of the Early Music movement.”
In celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Pacific Symphony’s President John Forsyte lists some of the composer’s greatest hits in landmark recordings, all easily available on YouTube.
Symphony No. 5 Berlin Philharmonic | Wilhelm Furtwangler, conductor Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique | John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
For fun, listen to very contrasting recordings: the first is a 1954 recording of the legendary conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic. Furtwangler’s interpretations of Austro-Germanic masterworks were completely distinctive. Undoubtedly, this is a wonderful, urgent and dramatic reading, but our views of Beethoven interpretation have evolved, particularly about his tempo markings, which would suggest much faster readings.
And from 2016, a contemporary view of Beethoven’s tempos and sound world utilizing instruments more clearly matching the sonorities of the early 19th century, as conducted by John Elliott Gardiner.
Symphony No. 7 The Concertgebouw Orchestra | Carlos Kleiber, conductor
With this imaginative and expressive conductor, and a truly magnificent Dutch ensemble, it’s hard to imagine a more riveting performance.
Symphony No. 9 The Berlin Celebration Concert 1989 | Leonard Bernstein, conductor
This was perhaps the most important concert that Bernstein conducted, celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and performed on Christmas Day in 1989. Substituting the word “freiheit” (freedom) for “freude” (joy), this concert was known as the “Ode to Freedom” and captured the ecstatic reunification of the country and a time filled with optimism. The orchestra was comprised of musicians from East and West Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and the US.
Piano Concerto No. 4 Pianist Emil Gilels | Philharmonia Orchestra | Leopold Ludwig, conductor
This is a revered performance and, for me. It has the greatest range of expression and perfect pacing. The great Soviet pianist Gilels, recorded this work numerous times, but never better than this version in my opinion. While there is no video of the performance and the audio is relatively primitive by today’s standards, it is worth the journey! Listen to the contrast between orchestra and piano in the second movement, which I doubt has been rendered more poignantly.
Violin Concerto Movement I: Violinist Henryk Szeryng | Jorge Mester, conductor Movement II: Violinist Isaac Stern | Leonard Bernstein, conductor Movement III: Violinist Yehudi Menuhin | Wilhelm Furtwangler
As a violinist, I am going to tilt my selections to this masterwork, simply to explore the range of possibilities. There are so many great performances of the violin concerto from different generations: Heifetz, Oistrakh, Grumiaux, Ferras and Schneiderhan. Later Perlman, Chung, Mutter and today a whole group of wonderful violinists are reimagining their interpretations now. I have a personal attachment, however, to a few older performances.
First, I recommend this performance of a violinist who had a connection to my family. He was a neighbor of my Dad’s family in Warsaw before the war, and he performed in Chicago when I was a child, and I will never forget his performance of the Beethoven. It is filled with directness, nobility and beautiful tone. In the outdoor venue where I heard Henryk Szeryng, his sound really was luminous.
I also love another historic recording of Isaac Stern, with Bernstein conducting. The second movement is so poetic.
And another profound interpretation is that of Yehudi Menuhin, again with Furtwangler conducting:
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano, “Triple” David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sviatislov Richter Moscow Philharmnic Orchestra | Kirill Kondrashin, conductor
Simply put, these are my three musical heroes. David Oistrakh’s recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Ormandy was my first classical music recording and it captured my imagination as a 15-year-old. I was hooked on the classics! The three artists together were peerless. Try to set aside the poor video and listen to a perfect chamber trio in lockstep with a conductor they had long known.
Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 23, “Appassionata” Pianist Yuja Wang
So I don’t only offer orchestral masterworks, here is a non-orchestral work. This sonata is most moving to me, and feels like a personal “portal” into the private feelings of Beethoven. This is a video where it seems you have the privilege of sitting in a private room with one of the great pianists of our time, Yuja Wang.
Episode 4: Beethoven @ 250 – KCET broadcast: December 16 @ 8 p.m. – PBS So Cal broadcast: December 26 @ 7 p.m.
As the final episode of Southland Sessions approaches, we would like to invite all of our patrons to tune in to honor “classical music’s birthday boy,” as Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. This program concludes with the composer’s “great work to humanity,” Symphony No. 9, in a 2012 recording of the orchestra’s Plazacast at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. This four-program series aimed to showcase the vibrancy and resilience of creative minds across Southern California during the pandemic.
Symphony No. 5, Movement 1 | Sergei Prokofiev
Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony is considered to be one of the greatest orchestral works of the 20th century. Pacific Symphony last performed the work in January 2017. This symphony is the first of three that he would compose while living in the Soviet Union. Not long after the premiere, he wrote, “I regard the Fifth Symphony as the culmination of a long period of my creative life…I conceived of it as glorifying the grandeur of the human spirit…praising the free and happy man—his strength, his generosity, and the purity of his soul.”
“There Will Be Rest” | Frank Ticheli
“There Will Be Rest” is based on a poem by Sarah Teasdale, with the same title. Frank Ticheli set this to music originally for chorus and dedicated it to Pacific Chorale (1999) “in loving memory of Cole Carsan St.Clair, the son of my dear friends, conductor Carl St.Clair and his wife, Susan.” This performance features Pacific Chorale a capella in a recent mosaic video.
Symphony No. 9, Choral Finale | Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s Ninth is arguably the most popular piece of classical music in the world. Beethoven set the music to the poem “An die Freude” (Ode to Joy) by Friedrich Schiller, which addresses the unity of brotherhood, expresses a sense of community, and calls for people to change the world from a place of despair into one of joy, peace, and freedom. The phrase, “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (“All men will become brothers”) is probably the most significant line from the text because it embodies the struggle and the desire to change the world. With the introduction of the human voice into the symphony, the audience must have been stunned and since then would have left every composer admiring this new direction in composition. Beethoven paved a way for future composers and their grand works such as Franz Liszt’s symphonic poems, Richard Wagner’s melodramatic operas, Gustav Mahler’s drawn-out symphonies and countless other compositions.
Pacific Symphony invites you to enjoy an audio performance of “A Christmas Carol” presented by South Coast Repertory, our cultural colleague at Segerstrom Center, starting Dec. 15. Charles Dickens’ classic story made its debut in 1843 and has become a holiday favorite ever since. This month, join Tony Award-winning theatre group South Coast Repertory as they give you a chance to enjoy and stream the show for FREE from Dec. 15-31.
Southern California may be under a regional stay at home order but that doesn’t mean some holiday traditions can’t happen. When old time radio programming gained popularity in the early 20th century, it made theatre more accessible. Classic radio Christmas shows like Campbell’s Playhouse’s “A Christmas Carol” (1939) and Lux Radio Theater’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1947) were listened to by folks across the nation.
South Coast Repertory’s audio performance is a great way to escape for a couple of hours. If you’d like to enjoy a screenless night, just cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate and wrap yourself in a blanket by the fire. Turn on your Christmas tree and dim the lights. The holidays may look different this year but that’s okay. The festive spirit can still thrive safe at home.
This performance of Charles Dickens’ classic will be performed by actor Richard Doyle. It is directed by Hisa Takakuwa and adapted from the novella by John Glore. Original music and sound design is by David R. Molina. “A Christmas Carol” follows the story of businessman Ebenezer Scrooge as he goes on a transformative journey on Christmas Eve. Welcome back to Victorian Britain!
We’re proud to be one of South Coast Repertory’s community partners. To listen to this audio performance, click here!
I am truly saddened to share that our beloved William J. Gillespie has passed away.
I find that words don’t express the extraordinary qualities he possessed. Bill was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and unpretentious individuals I have encountered. Anyone who knew Bill, immediately experienced his enthusiasm for beauty, and his impeccable dress. He was a deeply loyal friend and was extremely close to Carl and Susan, and Carl shared his thoughts:
“Bill was loved and respected by everyone. All of the musicians and the Symphony family held Bill in the highest esteem. Throughout most of the life of the Symphony, Bill was always there—supporting us, cheering us on, celebrating with us, and enjoying the great music he loved so dearly. What an honor to hold the William J. Gillespie Music Director Chair for all these many decades. Bill’s passion for music was a powerful source of inspiration to me and to all of us on stage. Our friendship was a blessing and his spirit will fill the heart of the Pacific Symphony forever.”
In fact, Bill was our first honorary member of the orchestra. He was always welcomed on stage for a rehearsal.
Earlier in his life, Bill was a Marine and a Vietnam veteran. He was proud of his service and supported our Hail to the Heroes concert with immense pride. Carl shared that Bill was even a sheriff at one time. Later in life, Bill became a funeral director at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar, and he carefully and sensitively coordinated some of the most poignant and painful times for the Symphony family and countless community members. He was a wellspring of soulful and empathetic concern for people he loved.
As a very private person, perhaps Bill is best known in Orange County for his numerous philanthropic commitments that transformed the organizations he touched. These investments include the endowment of the William J. Gillespie Music Director Chair in 1995, the ABT William J. Gillespie School of Dance at the Segerstrom Center, the William J. Gillespie Organ in the concert hall, and immeasurable other donations to the arts. He was particularly fond of the Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony partnerships, and supported both organizations with generous sponsorships of great choral masterworks. He was also a major supporter of dance programming at UC Irvine, and served on the Board of the American Ballet Theater.
Bill shared with me that his college roommate was the renowned conductor Lawrence Foster, who taught him to appreciate classical music. He said it was classical listening day and night, and he developed a great affection for the highly spiritual works such as the Duruflé Requiem, Mahler’s Second and Eighth Symphonies, and other large orchestral works. It was always a joy for me to talk about repertoire with him, send him the latest recording…and he ALWAYS expressed appreciation for the gifts of artists.
I think few people realize that when Pacific Symphony was struggling to meet payrolls in the 1980s, he personally loaned the organization money and often forgave the loans. He was among the very first individuals to make an endowment gift to help solidify the early stages of our growth.
Bill was blessed to be able to use his family’s Farmers Insurance inheritance to launch a philanthropic foundation in 1994. The following year, he stunned the OC arts community by pledging $6.6 million to five cultural organizations, at the time the largest gift of its kind in Orange County history. Pacific Symphony received $1.2 million of that pledge.
In the early days of his philanthropic life, he had a sincere interest in Orange County’s cultural development. He was deeply worried about the arts and the resilience of the organizations as they developed. His dear friend, investment advisor, and long-time supporter of the Symphony, Rich Gadbois was quoted in 1995 as saying: “The idea is to immediately guarantee the future success of the organizations…There are no strings attached to this. This is cash coming in for immediate utilization.” Rich went on to say, “occasionally in life you run into angels who sort of are there when you need them, and Bill’s one of those.”
Bill Gillespie was a private person, but had a very loyal group of friends with whom he attended concerts and events. His loss is profound, but his legacy leaves an indelible imprint on his friends, family, and the cultural life of Orange County. My heart goes out to his dear friends, like Carl and Susan, Rich, Janice Johnson, and many others who I know are stricken with grief. We will miss him terribly and undoubtedly there will be a concert dedicated to his memory which we will announce.
To paraphrase England’s Queen Elizabeth: “2020 is not a year on which we shall look back with undiluted pleasure … it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis.’ ”
The Latin phrase meaning “horrible year” certainly seems to sum up this extraordinarily challenging year we’ve been living through. With year’s end approaching, Pacific Symphony can help you to explore a silver lining in the form of tax savings and possible income benefits.
Here is a handy checklist of some tax-wise year-end charitable gifts to Pacific Symphony that can provide you with tax savings and possible income benefits:
Make a direct gift of cash or appreciated assets If you can contribute cash or appreciated property, like securities or real estate, you could receive a charitable deduction for the current value of the asset, and pay no capital gains tax on the transfer.
Fund a charitable gift annuity If you would like to increase your financial security and create a stream of fixed payments you can never outlive … all while making an impactful gift to the work of Pacific Symphony, then the charitable gift annuity is a worthwhile option to consider.
Establish a charitable remainder trust Did you know that with a charitable remainder trust, you can transfer cash, an appreciated asset or other property to a special trust that is invested to generate income for you and any other beneficiaries you select? After all payments have been made, the balance of the trust passes to our organization.
Make a gift of life insurance Did you know you can make Pacific Symphony a beneficiary of life insurance policies and receive significant tax benefits?
If you’re interested in finding the silver lining in this “Annus Horribilis” and turning next year into an “Annus Mirabilis”—a year of miracles—contact Gary Good, Pacific Symphony’s Senior Executive for Legacy & Endowment Giving, by email at GGood@PacificSymphony.org or by phone at (321) 331-1344.