Pacific Symphony Performs Mozart, Brahms

Haochen Zhang

Haochen Zhang will perform Mozart with the Pacific Symphony Nov. 13-15

A passionate journey the audience won’t soon forget will take play when they join the Pacific Symphony in welcoming guest pianist Haochen Zhang and guest conductor Rossen Milanov to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 13-15, continuing the 2014-15 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series.

Zhang will deliver Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in all its glory with the Pacific Symphony, which follows the pianist’s BBC Proms debut. Led by Bulgarian-born guest conductor Milanov, the orchestra then performs a work by Brahms, as the composer steps out of Beethoven’s shadow with his rich, ingenious Second Symphony.

“Mozart’s music is always very special to me, especially its delicacy and intimacy as well as its simplicity,” says pianist Zhang.

In the hands of Zhang, winner of the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition (and also the youngest contestant), Mozart’s Concerto No. 20 in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra, K. 466, is a deeply felt, intricately woven, brooding but in the end exultant masterpiece.

Milanov is the music director designate of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Princeton Symphony and principal conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (OSPA) in Spain, as well as Music Director of the nationally recognized training orchestra Symphony in C in New Jersey.

Milanov has established himself as a conductor with a considerable international presence, performing for major orchestras across the globe. He has also collaborated with some of the world’s preeminent artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and Midori, as well as with internationally esteemed vocalists. Noted for his versatility, Milanov is also a well-known figure in the worlds of opera and ballet. He was named Bulgaria’s Musician of the Year in 2005, was among the top 100 most influential people in New Jersey in 2014 and won an ASCAP award in 2011.

“This will be the first time I am leading Pacific Symphony,” says Milanov. “I am looking forward to meeting the musicians. The concert hall has an excellent reputation and I am excited to see how it frames the music being performed there—so there is a lot to look forward to.”

The cheery and almost pastoral mood of the piece often invites comparisons with Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Rounding out the versatile program of the night will be Thomas Adès’ “Three Studies from Couperin.”

Tickets for this concert are $25-$99. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

Opening Night At The Symphony With Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell opens the Pacific Symphony’s 2014-15 Season Sept. 25 – 27

Pacific Symphony launches Music Director Carl St.Clair’s landmark 25th-Anniversary “Season Of Giants” with classical music superstar, violinist Joshua Bell on Thurs through Sat, Sept. 25-27, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. This season opening event includes two orchestral showpieces, a West Coast premiere and festivities fit for the grand occasion.

Bell returns for his fifth performance with the Symphony (he last performed with the Symphony in May 2010) to celebrate the maestro and captivate audiences with the exciting, breakneck theme and stunning Romanticism of Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. The violinist’s artistry is exemplified in his new music directorship of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, his release of 40 CDs since the age of 18, multiple television appearances and countless accolades.

After intermission, St.Clair shines the spotlight on the orchestra in the form of two compelling, erotic tales: Richard Strauss’ decadent “Dance of the Seven Veils” from the opera, “Salome,” followed by Ravel’s masterpiece, the radiant Suite No. 2 from his ballet score “Daphnis and Chloé.” This year marks the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’ birthday. His opera “Salome” was based on a play by Oscar Wilde, which was a lustful, “modern” (in Wilde’s words) elaboration on the biblical tale. The opera changed everything for Strauss. Its sexual themes and innovative music caused so much controversy that it led to Strauss’ international fame. “Dance of the Seven Veils,” is a sensual dance by the king’s daughter done to convince her father to behead John the Baptist.

Inspired by the Greek myth, Ravel spent three years composing the score to “Daphnis and Chloé” for the Ballets Russes in Paris, and it was described by Stravinsky to be “not only Ravel’s best work but one of the most beautiful products in all of French music.” Suite No. 2 includes the final three movements: “Daybreak,” when the lovers are reunited at sunrise; “Pantomine,” which tells the story of the god Pan with a prominent flute solo; and “General Dance,” where Bacchanalian merriment and mounting excitement ensue.

A night honoring Maestro St.Clair, the Opening Night Celebration, “Carl St.Clair—25 Years on a Journey of Illumination,” takes place Thurs, Sept. 25. An elegant cocktail reception and pre-concert dinner begin at 5 p.m. on the Terrace Pavilion of The Westin South Coast Plaza. Entertainment and dessert immediately follow the concert in the same location. The event is co-chaired by long-time Symphony supporters Susan Anderson, Suzanne Chonette, Janice Johnson and Janice Smith. Tables range from $750-$25,000; individual seats are $500. Dress is black tie. For more information, please contact special events at (714) 876-2364 or .

The 2014-15 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series also bring to Orange County special performances with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

An Evening Under The Stars With Kenny G Joining Pacific Symphony

Kenny G

Kenny G joins the Pacific Symphony at Verizon Amphitheater Aug. 23

Pacific Symphony continues the Summer Festival, this time with a night full of the sultry sounds of Grammy-winner Kenny G which consist of saxophone elements of R&B, pop and Latin. The guest conductor Albert-George Schram will lead the night on Aug. 23 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Saxophone extraordinaire Kenny G has sold over 75 million records worldwide and has topped Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart more than a dozen times. He has a reputation as the premier artist in contemporary jazz by mixing elements of R&B, pop and Latin into his smooth jazz foundation – which is why after debuting with Pacific Symphony in 2013 he is returning to take the stage with them again alongside Maestro Schram. “He played sax. I played trombone in the jazz band. He was phenomenal. I wasn’t. Clearly, he made it much further on his sax than I did on my trombone. I love his endlessly flowing music. He is also a very dear man,” explains Maestro Schram.

The first half of the show will start off with Giocchino Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville” – one of the best and most recognized pieces in the classical/opera repertoire. Continuing with several other well-known pieces such as Joseph Hellmesberger’s intriguing dance piece “ Danse Diabolique in D minor,” Victor Vanacore’s mambo medley “Viva El Mambo,” the incredibly famous “Born To Hand Jive” from the musical “Grease,” and several other famous pieces.

“First and foremost, I picked repertoire that will be real fun for the audience,” says Schram. “Secondly, I really wanted Pacific Symphony to shine. It is such a fine orchestra filled with world-class musicians. It is always an honor to work with them. This will be my first time in the outdoor amphitheater and I look forward to being there with the great Pacific Symphony and my man Kenny G.”

Kenny G is known for favorites such as “Midnight Motion” and “Songbird,” many say you can’t think of the saxophone without Kenny G coming to mind. He is also known for holding the record for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone – and E-flat for 45 minutes and 12 seconds! All of his works have gained him an incredible international audience plus has led to him working with greats such as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Michael Bolton and Natalie Cole. Some more recent works that he’s done is performed with Foster The People on SNL and appeared in Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” music video.

Maestro Schram has worked with pop artist such as James Taylor, Art Garfunkel, Chris Botti, LeAnn Rimes, Boyz II Men, Olivia Newton-John, Chicago, Aretha Franklin and many others. For more information and to purchase tickets to this and other Pacific Symphony’s Concerts Under The Stars series check out the symphony’s website at or call (714) 755-5799.

Bring The Family For A Night Of Disney Fun With Pacific Symphony


Disney’s classic film Fantasia joins the Pacific Symphony at Verizon Amphitheater Aug. 9

Continuing the Pacific Symphony’s Summer Festival fun, Disney’s “Fantasia” live in concert comes to Irvine for a night of an incredible blend of music and animation. Principal Pops Conductor, Richard Kaufman is leading the Pacific Symphony in recreating the classic music from this famous Disney production. So grab a picnic basket and enjoy this magical night under the stars on Aug. 9 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Maestro Kaufman will feature the iconic Mickey Mouse as he was in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and will include various other Disney characters like Donald and Daisy Duck. All the iconic music from the film is being performed as well, which according to Kaufman, “(the film) contains some of history’s most beloved pieces.”

The Pacific Symphony will also perform selections from Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies that includes “The Nutcracker Suite,” “Carnival of the Animals,” “Firebird,” “Pines of Rome,” “Claire de Lune” and “Dance of the Hours.” Along with that there will be amazing visuals matching the music, almost like you’re watching the film unfold in front of you.

The American Film Institute considers Disney’s “Fantasia” the fifth greatest animated movie of all time. The music in the film was recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra – who were personally picked by Walt Disney himself. The show will also feature music from “Fantasia 2000” which was created by Disney’s nephew as a sequel.

Maestro Kaufman has received two Emmy nominations for his work on the series “The Pink Panther” and “All Dogs Go To Heaven” – but his music has also been featured in “Jaws,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Animal House” and more.

For more information and to purchase tickets to this and other Pacific Symphony’s Concerts Under The Stars series check the symphony’s website at or call (714) 755-5799.

Tales Of Love And Loss Take Over The Pacific Symphony

Rolando Sanz

Rolando Sanz and Elizabeth Caballero are ill-fated lovers in the Opera La Traviata at Pacific Symphony starting Feb. 20

Composer Giuseppe Verdi’s passionate story of a doomed love affair highlights the third season of Pacific Symphony’s “Symphonic Voices” initiative. Opera returns to Orange County as Music Director Carl St. Clair puts Verdi’s glorious works center stage. La Traviata will be performing Thurs, Feb. 20; Sat, Feb. 22; and Tues, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Guest vocalists joining the Pacific Symphony’s rendition of this Verdi classic piece include Tenor Rolando Sanz as Alfredo Germont and soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Violetta Valéry. Sanz and Caballero have been performing La Traviata around the country as part of the Opera’s 200th Anniversary in 2013.

“This is such a touching Opera of romance, love and loss that gives the performers a range of emotion to display through music and song,” said Sanz. “I looking forward to collaborating with Maestro St. Clair and the musicians of Pacific Symphony through this classic piece by Verdi.”

Sanz, a Yale University School of Music graduate, has performed with many different symphonies around the world in roles including Rodolfo in La Bohème with Palm Beach Opera and Opera Idaho, Nemorino in L’elisir d’Amore with Opera Idaho, Paolo in Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini with the Princeton Festival, Pinkerton (cov) in Madame Butterfly with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Duca di Mantua with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and Annapolis Opera.

Sanz was recently awarded First Place at the Florida Suncoast Opera Guild Competition, the Grand Prize as well as the Conductor Award and the Audience Choice Award at the Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition, and First Prize at the Marie E. Crump Vocal Competition.

Sanz and his brother, conductor Kristofer Sanz, are co-founders and Artistic Directors of a musical youth mentoring nonprofit called Young Artists of America (YAA). YAA was created to provide talented young musicians with exceptional opportunities to be mentored by professional artists while gaining experience in fully orchestrated performances of large-scale works of opera, musical theater, and oratorio.

“Artistically, my brother and I were always on separate paths with our music. I was following vocal training and he was more instrumental, so we really did not play music together when we were younger,” explained Sanz. “This organization gives us an opportunity to help young artists and come together for a common cause although our schedules do not always permit us to work with the youth organization at the same times.”

Cuban American Caballero has been heard in many theaters throughout North America including the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, New York City and many others.

“Caballero and I have really enjoyed performing La Traviata around the country for the Opera’s anniversary,” said Sanz. “There is always a new excitement performing such a powerful piece with a new symphony and in front of a different audience.”

Verdi’s Opera tells the story of Violetta Valery, a Parisian courtesan and an unfortunate heroine who captures our sympathies from the very first chords of La Traviata. Among the many unique qualities of this opera, Verdi gives the audience a character study of a woman more layered and intimately observed than any of his other female characters.

Playing the part of Alfredo, I think it is important to focus on what a romantic he is in his love for Violetta,” said Sanz. “This is so new to her and helps her fall in love with him.”

Her contradictory mix of glittering charm, inner goodness and social disapprobation attracted Verdi, who had known his share of ostracism. Because the darker realities of the courtesan’s life went unspoken in polite society, they were often eclipsed by its luxurious refinements. Courtesans were beautiful women surrounded by beautiful things and even respected as arbiters of fashion, but they were also virtually owned by men who sexually objectified them, sometimes brutally. They were kept only as long as it pleased their patrons to do so.

Also joining the Pacific Symphony to help tell the story of this ill-fated romance is A. Scott Parry and Mark Delavan. Parry productions have spanned an enormous range of repertoire, from “West Side Story” to “Madama Butterfly” and “La Bohéme” to “La Cage aux Folles.” Delavan is sought after throughout the United States and Europe for the most demanding roles in his repertoire including performances of Gianciotto in Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini at the Metropolitan Opera, the title role in Rigoletto for Pittsburgh Opera, Scarpia in Tosca for San Francisco Opera, the Dutchman in Der Fliegende Holländer at the Princeton Music Festival.

A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets for all performances are $25 to $109. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

Composer Of Famed Film Scores Conducts Pacific Symphony

John Williams

John Williams conducts the Pacific Symphony Feb. 6

In a career that spans five decades, John Williams has become one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for film and for the concert stage. Williams will bring some of his most famous compositions to life as he conducts the Pacific Symphony on Thurs, Feb. 6 for a one-night engagement at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Williams composed the music and served as music director for more than one hundred films. His 40-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg has resulted in many of Hollywood’s most acclaimed and successful films, including Schindler’s List, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Munich, Hook, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Empire of the Sun, The Adventures of TinTin and War Horse.

He has worked with many legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler and Robert Altman. In 1971, he adapted the score for the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, for which he composed original violin cadenzas for renowned virtuoso Isaac Stern.

Williams has received five Academy Awards and 48 Oscar nominations, making him the Academy’s most-nominated living person and the second-most nominated person in the history of the Oscars. He also has received seven British Academy Awards (BAFTA), 21 Grammys, four Golden Globes, five Emmys, and numerous gold and platinum records.

Born and raised in New York, Williams moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948, where he studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. After service in the Air Force, he returned to New York to attend The Juilliard School Of The Arts, where he studied piano with Madame Rosina Lhevinne.

While in New York, he also worked as a jazz pianist, both in nightclubs and on recordings. He returned to Los Angeles and began his career in the film industry, working with a number of accomplished composers including Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman and Franz Waxman. He went on to write music for more than 200 television films for the groundbreaking, early anthology series Alcoa Theatre, Kraft Television Theatre, Chrysler Theatre and Playhouse 90.

In January 1980, Williams was named 19th music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, succeeding the legendary Arthur Fiedler. He currently holds the title of Boston Pops laureate conductor, which he assumed following his retirement in December 1993, after 14 highly successful seasons. He also holds the title of artist-in-residence at Tanglewood.

Williams holds honorary degrees from 21 American universities, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor in December of 2004. Williams was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and in January of that same year he composed and arranged Air and Simple Gifts especially for the first inaugural ceremony of President Barack Obama.

Dream Orchestra Plays Symphony, Opera For Orange County

Golda Berkman

Soprano Opera singer, Golda Berkman, performance for Dream Orchestra at UCI’s Barclay Theatre Jan. 25

The Dream Orchestra will be performing Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World,” Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 (pianist Hai-Kyung Suh), and “Chi il Bel Sogno,” from Puccini’s La Rondine (soprano Golda Berkman) and The Hopes and Dreams Medley on Jan. 25 at UC Irvine’s Barclay Theater. ‬

With the conductor’s survival through cancer, the orchestra will be wearing pink ribbons during the show for cancer awareness. The 60-piece orchestra will also be honoring cancer survivors that night.

The performance will bring together a diverse show featuring the young Opera singer, Golda Berkman. Soprano Berkman has been presented with the “Most Accomplished Young Opera Singer of 2013” award as well as receiving the Young Musicians Foundation Scholarship of Merit Award.

The OC Concert Guide spoke with 14-year-old Berkman and her father, Dream Orchestra’s sponsor Shallom Berkman, about the debut of Dream Orchestra’s 2014 season with conductor Maestro Daniel Suk.

OCCG: Who are your musical inspirations?
Golda Berkman (GB): My musical inspirations vary from genre to genre – for opera, my musical inspiration is one and only Renata Tebaldi! When I was very little, my parents always played classical music at home – I was exposed to the opera genre from the beginning. On the other hand I also love musical theater – I grew up watching all the classic Disney movies with the beautiful songs. Now as a teenager – my dad introduced me to the Beatles and I am a huge Beatles fan!

Shallom Berkman (SB): Golda has been studying singing since she was 5 years old. She began studying opera and classic music exclusively at the age of 8. Golda is also a classical pianist and a composer – she writes and reads music. Even though her passion is singing opera Golda is obsessed with The Beatles, and classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s such as Creedance Clearwater and The Doors. She sings primarily classical and opera arias, as well as musical theater pieces.

OCCG: When performing, what emotions do you try to evoke from the audience?
GB: I want to impact my audience and hopefully have them be transcended from the concerns of day. I hope that I can communicate deep emotion to my audience and bring happiness to the world.

Hai-Kyung Suh

Pianist, Hai-Kyung Suh, plays Rachmaninoff with Dream Orchestra at The Barclay Theatre

SB: The Barclay concert is a vision of Maestro Daniel Suk who is the founder and leader of Dream Orchestra. The Orchestra is a fully paid union, professional orchestra with the finest musicians from around the world and known icons such as LA Philharmonic and La Opera. The goal is to bring great music to the world as often as possible and inspire the next generation of classical music lovers. Maestro Suk discovered my daughter Golda when he approached the music teachers of Colburn Music School last year to find great young prodigy musicians. My daughter Golda was recommended as the top voice student. She had been studying opera at Colburn privately since she was 8 years old. Golda performed with the Dream Orchestra several times last spring to standing ovations and crowds of up to 1500! Maestro Suk has planned this to be the debut concert for Dream Orchestra and hopes that it will be the best event of the year!

OCCG: How did Hai-Kyung Suh impact the group emotionally and musically?
GB: Hai-Kyung Suh is one of the leading female pianists in world! Maestro Suk said that her interpretation of Rachmaninov makes him cry.

OCCG: Who decides each piece played during performances?
GB: Maestro Suk – is the music director of Dream Orchestra

OCCG: How does diversity play into the orchestra? What advantages does it bring to the performance?
SB: This is the most diverse orchestra I have ever seen – not just in diversity of race & culture, but of age as well. I believe that the diversity of the Dream Orchestra will help connect with and inspire a much larger audience, and also a younger audience – hopefully to inspire the next generation of classical musical lovers!

OCCG: Anything you’d like to add?
SB: The concert will be at the Irvine Barclay Theater in Irvine, CA on Saturday, January 25th at 7:30pm. The tickets can be purchased at or Ticket prices range from $30 to $100. Maestro Suk will lead the orchestra with Dvorak’s Symphony #9 “From The New World”, Hai-Kyung Suh will play Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #2, and Golda Berkman will sing “Chi il Bel Sogno” from Puccini’s La Rondine and “The Hopes and Dreams Medley” – which is a medley of arias arranged exclusively for this performance for the first time ever.

Holiday Organ Music Overtakes The Pacific Symphony

Todd Wilson

Organist, Todd Wilson, brings in the holiday spirit Dec. 17 at Pacific Symphony
Photo by: Sam Hubish

Majestic sounds of the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ will fill the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall with the nostalgia of holiday classics during Pacific Symphony’s annual “Holiday Organ Spectacular,” for one night only on Tues, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. This annual holiday concert is part of the Pedals and Pipes series. This holiday concert takes place for one night only.

The evening ignites with the talent of virtuoso organist Todd Wilson, Broadway soprano Lisa Vroman and accompanying Symphony principal musicians: Timothy Landauer, cello; Benjamin Smolen, flute; Barry Perkins, trumpet; and Mindy Ball, harp.

“I was asked to perform in last years organ concert and really enjoyed it,” said principal flutist, Benjamin Smolen. “The center of every piece is the organ with each piece adding a different combination of instruments and gives a solo to each player. You really get to know more of the orchestra through this performance.”

This is Wilson’s fourth year visiting the Symphony and playing the holiday spectacular. Wilson is head of the organ department at The Cleveland Institute of Music and curator of the E.M. Skinner pipe organ at Severance Hall. Bach, Widor, Carter and Purvis also know him for performing organ works.

The program features treasured Christmas songs like, “The First Noel,” “Ave Maria,” “O Holy Night,” “The Little Drummer Boy” along with many more Christmas classics.

“There are some well-known carols the audience will recognize right away and some they are not so familiar with,” said Smolen. “We are all facing the audience so we get to see the faces of everyone as they sing along to the classic songs and experience ones they may not know as well. We all feel more apart of the music together this way.”

Every year, the audience is encouraged to join in a singing along to the more popular holiday favorites including “Deck the Halls,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” Symphony musicians and Vroman guide the audience in an acoustic display of holiday fun.

Wilson has performed in major cities throughout the United States, Europe and Japan, including concerts at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, U.K., Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Severance Hall in Cleveland, Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas and Uihlein Hall in Milwaukee. His latest CDs on the JAV label feature a live recital of American music from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and “Live from Severence Hall,” a concert of music for trumpet and organ.

Establishing herself as one of America’s most versatile voices, Vroman garnered Theatre Critic’s awards for her Broadway role as Christine Daae in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” during a record-breaking run in San Francisco, and she also had a return engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

In 2008, Vroman made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops, starred as Lili Vanessi in “Kiss Me Kate” with Glimmerglass Opera, sang the role of Birdie in “Regina” with Utah Opera, made her New Jersey Opera debut as Rosalinda in “Die Fledermaus,” and premiered two comic operas by composers John Musto and William Bolcom with the New York Festival of Song. She is a frequent guest soloist with major theatre and opera companies as well as many orchestras.

“I really think this is a great mix of music for the holiday season,” said Smolen. “The mix of instrumental solos with the organ and the audience participation makes for a beautiful night of holiday joy and music.”

For more information or to purchase tickets that range between $15-$75, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

Pacific Symphony Presents The Nutcracker For The Whole Family


Nutcracker for Kids presented by Pacific Symphony Dec. 14

Pacific Symphony will be presenting a condensed version of Tchaikovsky’s treasured ballet entitled, “Nutcracker for Kids,” as part of the symphony’s Family Musical Mornings presented by Farmers and Merchants Bank. This timeless classic transformed for kids takes place Sat, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Attending children are also invited to participate in a merry Musical Carnival at 9 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert).

Led for the first time by Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez, the Symphony teams up with the dazzling dancers from the Festival Ballet Theatre to bring the story of Clara and her brave prince to life. Tchaikovsky’s beautiful melodies soar and the colorful dancers enchant throughout the epic battle with the Mouse King, the Land of Sweets, Waltz of the Flowers and the captivating Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“One of the main wonders of the Nutcracker music and ballet is that it is a story that speaks to children of all ages,” says Maestro Gutierrez. “The dancers perform in front of the orchestra instead of below the stage in a usual production of the ballet. This helps keep the orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s music the main part of the show.”

Although the production is design for children ages 5-11, it is just as enjoyable for parents and grandparents accompanying the young audience. Bree Burgess of No Square Theatre in Laguna Beach will narrate this 45-minute version. The festive tradition also includes a holiday sing-along of “Jingle Bells,” “The Dreidel Song” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” A special guest is set to arrive sporting his famous red suit and fluffy white beard to spread the holiday cheer; yes Santa Claus is scheduled to also appear.

“The music of the Nutcracker itself is so beautiful and full of fantasy that it has captivated audiences for more than 100 years,” says Maestro Gutiérrez. “It is always wonderful to listen to the celesta, an instrument Tchaikovsky discovered in Paris a few years before he composed this music, also the delightful harp solos, the sweetness of the woodwinds, the tenderness and virtuosity of the strings, the subtlety of the percussion instruments and the brightness and power of the brass instruments. I always look forward to seeing families and friends gathered to enjoy the music and fun.”

Tchaikovsky’s well-known ballet was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and has become an annual holiday tradition throughout America. Written in 1816, the beloved tale centers around a young girl named Clara and her family’s Christmas Eve party.
The story unfolds when Clara’s mysterious Godfather, a toymaker, arrives and gives her a special doll, the Nutcracker, which makes all the other children green with envy. Clara soon finds herself in an unfamiliar world caught between fighting opponents. It’s the toy soldiers and their brave leader the Nutcracker versus the despicable Mouse King and his army of followers. Good trumps over evil as the Nutcracker saves Clara from the grasps of the Mouse King, and Clara is stunned as the Nutcracker transforms into a prince.

Together they visit the Land of Sweets and are spellbound by dances of Spain (chocolate), Russia (cinnamon), China (tea), and lastly, Dance of the Mirlitons (also called Dance of the Reed Flutes). There, Clara and the prince are greeted by the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy and are led into a romantic “pas de deux,” dance for two, to conclude the grand festivities.

“Tchaikovsky help present the music into a ballet by providing two suites,” explains Gutiérrez. “The music became famous outside of the ballet by the way each piece is a beautiful story on its own.”

Through the grace and elegance of dance, children are transported into a world of movement andart as they watch the skill and poise of professional ballet dancers. Founded by Salwa Rizkalla in 1988 and named Outstanding Arts Organization of the Year in 2001 by Arts Orange County, Festival Ballet Theatre (FBT) has become one of Southern California’s most vibrant and accomplished regional ballet companies.

“I think what I’m looking forward to the most is the chance to stimulate the imagination of the children with this fantastic ballet,” says Gutiérrez, “but then again, ‘The Nutcracker’ will stimulate the imagination of everyone in the audience—children and adults, and even those of us performing onstage.”

For more information or to purchase tickets priced at $29-$49, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

Spooky Sounds OF Halloween Haunts The Pacific Symphony

Halloween Masquerade

Halloween Masquerade comes to Pacific Symphony’s Family Series Oct. 26

Come celebrate a multi-cultural Halloween with Pacific Symphony’s “Halloween Masquerade.” This holiday performance showcases the music and traditions of Halloween as well as two Latin American holidays, Día de los Muertos and Día de las Mascaradas. The concert takes place Sat, Oct. 26, with two performances at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

“There are so many rich traditions throughout the America’s surrounding the fall holidays so I am using these compositions to help the audience lean about the strong connections between Halloween in the U.S., Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in most Latin American countries, especially in Mexico, and Día de las Mascaradas, of my home country, Costa Rica,” explains Pacific Symphony’s Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez. “I always imagine that everyone in attendance is a child so I try to make the concert really interactive between the music and the audience.”

This spooky, fun and educational family concert features thrilling and mysterious Halloween favorites such as John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Also selections from Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” are magically coupled with famous Latin American compositions to inspire imaginations to help introduce children to different cultures.

“The piece by Stravinsky is a good example of how a composer uses instruments to create spooky music,” said Gutiérrez. “Also, the Latin selections are very rich in so many rhythmic elements with the use of percussion instruments, which is so prevalent in Latin cultural music.”

Children and their families are invited to come dressed in a costume or mask, and also attend the Musical Carnival beginning at 9:15 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert). Children may participate in a variety of hands-on activities including Ask the Orchestra, Meet the Musicians, mask and pumpkin decorating, Rhythm Station and a costume parade around musical chairs.

Led by Gutiérrez, the 45-minute concert also includes Carlos Guzmán’s “Costa Rican Inspirations,” an example of music played during the Día de las Mascaradas, Arturo Márquez’ Danzon No. 2, featuring an interactive rhythm activity with the audience, and José Pablo Moncayo’s festive “Huapango,” ending the concert with a big dance celebration.

Taking the audience on this musical adventure across the three holidays is a story written and directed by Joe Lauderdale, which features Maria Simeone as the Shadow Sorcerer and three children played by Blake Kenzie, Charlotte Rubino and Laura Gutiérrez.

Two children arrive on stage ready to celebrate Halloween only to find a magical wand left by the Shadow Sorcerer. Waving the Sorcerer’s wand, the children accidentally cast a spell on the orchestra, which plays Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” well known from the Disney film “Fantasia.” The Shadow Sorcerer returns to help the children undo the spell, enchanting the children’s wands. When they point at sections of the orchestra, they begin to play the magical “Hedwig’s Theme” from the “Harry Potter” movies, with its whimsical and bewitching melody.

The children soon realize the music is being controlled by another person holding a wand—Maestro Gutiérrez, who shares that in Costa Rica, where he is from, they celebrate Día de las Mascaradas. While images of the festivities are projected above the stage, the orchestra plays Guzmán’s “Costa Rican Inspirations,” music that people dance to in the streets during the annual Oct. 31 festival.

The concert concludes with a huge celebration and dancing as the orchestra performs Moncayo’s “Huapango,” a short and colorful symphonic piece that is so popular in Mexico, it’s considered the country’s second national anthem.

“As the leader of the Pacific Symphony’s Family Program, I try to create a variety of themes that helps the younger audience explore the joy of different styles of music,” Gutiérrez says. “I hope to help inspire a new generation of listeners to learn and explore more about classic music.”

Tickets are $19-39; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit