Conrad Tao Returns For Opening Night At The Symphony

Conrad Tao

Conrad Tao performs as part of Opening Night with The Pacific Symphony Sept. 26-28

Pacific Symphony celebrates its 35th anniversary season by opening with a concert featuring the stunning virtuosity of 19-year-old piano prodigy, Conrad Tao. Music Director, Carl St.Clair, leads the concert that takes place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 26-28, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

This is Tao’s third appearance with the Pacific Symphony to perform Rachmaninoff’s powerful Piano Concerto No. 3 that was featured in the 1996 hit movie “Shine.”

“This is a massive work to perform,” explained Tao. “We rehearse for two or three days to come together as an entire performance unit to pull off such an amazing piece of music. I always look forward to the collaborative point when performing live with other musicians.”

Tao, who is hailed as both an “exciting prodigy” and “breathtaking” is known for his jaw-dropping performance when he tackles this piece. Considered one of the repertoire’s most powerful, most demanding and most loved works, Tao expressed humbly how working as a team of performers with any composition is hard work and he is very dedicated to practicing as a group and maintaining a level of professionalism is extremely important to him.

“I am young and still growing,” said Tao. “As a performer, I treat every composition I play as my favorite piece of music. That way I can translate the emotion of the piece to the audience for a richer experience for everyone in the moment.”

Tao is a fan of music, all kinds of music. He listens to Rap, R&B, Pop and many other styles that fit his mood at the time. He also enjoys modern composers like Michael Gordon, and has his own full-length album out of his own compositions mixed in with covers of other’s music.

“I am just a really hard working person and have been really lucky to have people and family around me that believe in me, so they have helped me a lot to achieve my success,” said Tao. “I appreciate the titles of “Prodigy,” but to be honest I try not to think about it too much and just continue to study and work hard.”

When Tao is not performing around the world, he is studying music at Julliard and attending Ethnic Studies at Columbia University. His debut solo album entitled, “Voyages,” is available on iTunes and Amazon, as well as other downloadable sites online.

The Symphony’s opening night will start with a short and jubilant “Festivities” by California-based composer Peter Boyer and concludes with Brahms’ monumental Symphony No. 4.

Season ticket packages for the Classical series are $240-$975. To purchase single tickets for this concert the prices range between $25-$99. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

Disney Movie Music Center Stage At Verizon

Pixar In Concert

Pacific Symphony perform Pixar movie classics at Verizon Amphitheater August 17

Revisit your childhood through “Pixar in Concert” at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on August 17.

Licensed by Disney Concerts ©Disney/Pixar and presented by Hoag, “Pixar in Concert” is part of Pacific Symphony’s Summer Festival. The production will feature 13 of Pixar’s famous films through movie clips and live music.

“The concert celebrates both the musical and storytelling artistry of the Pixar films. Rousing themes and gorgeous melodies are woven in harmony with iconic visuals from the films,” director of the Disney Music Group Jonathan Heely, told Pacific Symphony.

Led by guest conductor Sarah Hicks, the Pacific Symphony will perform scores from the “Toy Story” trilogy, “Brave”, “WALL-E,” “Monsters , Inc.,” Finding Nemo,” and many more. Film clips will be on display through a large screen above the stage.

Pixar Animation Studios has created acclaimed movies and short films since the formation in 1979. According to, Pixar films have collectively won three Academy Awards, 10 Grammys, and multiple Oscar nominations.

Since the premier in July 2012, “Pixar in Concert” has made its way around the world performing in Sydney, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Boston and other various locations throughout the United States.

“The concert also provides an opportunity for many families and children to experience a live symphony for the first time-the move music itself provides and almost universal entry point,” Heely told Pacific Symphony.

Encouraging all ages to attend, with the purchase of an adult ticket, tickets for children under the age of 14 are offered at half price in most sections of the amphitheater.

For tickets and more information please refer to

Concert Trio Combines Music And Film At Samueli Theater

Composer Daniel Schnyder

Daniel Schnyder leads his trio in a production of Faust at Pacific Symphony May 19
Photo by Jarek Raczek

Fascinated by Friedrich Murnau’s famous silent movie classic “Faust” from 1926, the composer and saxophonist Daniel Schnyder has created music linking the saga about seduction and destruction of the human soul to its traces in Germanic musical history. This fusion of cinema and music will come to an Orange County audience on May 19 performed in Samueli Theater.

“I felt it was a perfect time to tour with this type of collaboration in silent film and music after the Oscar win of the silent film, ‘The Artist’,” said Schnyder. “Since the tale of Faust is an old German folklore, I wanted to represent a history of German music through the tale of Faust told in the 1926 silent film by Murnau.”

Inspired by the audacity in Murnau’s dramatic language, and by Faust’s legacy to classical music of three centuries, Schnyder and his trio “Words within Music” (with Dave Taylor, bass trombone, and Kenny Drew Jr., piano) accompany certain key scenes of the film with fully composed pieces and adaptions, while the protagonists’ actions and streams of consciousness are being interpreted by improvisations in the connecting film sequences.

“One example of how the music of a famous German composer’s piece accompanies the scenes in the silent film is my use of List’s Manifesto to a Manifesto scene in the film,” explains Schnyder. “I also composed a lot of music myself to correlate with the movements of the silent film.”

So this is not a film score in the traditional sense, which strives to reduce the complexity of images and their stories to a linear, emotionally seizable perspective. Schnyder multiplies the levels of storytelling, expands the field of vision and dares to enter into dialogue with this enormous film – a dialogue requiring daringness of almost Faustian scale.

“This has been a pretty unique and adventure and a very emotional one too, which I believe the audience will enjoy a similar experience with the music and film collaboration,” said Schnyder. “The audience will be receiving double information of music from famous German composers and a classic silent film based on classic German folklore.”

The performance of the entire work takes approximately 2 hours. The fully composed pieces by Schnyder, played by the “Words within Music” trio, was published on CD in Spring 2009 by the label Col Legno and can be listened to on the label’s website at

The world premiere of this project was staged in 1999 at the Alte Oper Frankfurt in the context of the Goethe Year, celebrating the writer’s 250th birthday. The U.S. premiere took place at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. in 2002.

American Modern Compositions Come Together At Pacific Symphony

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington Big Band at the Pacific Symphony May 16-18

In an ongoing quest to make new musical discoveries through its acclaimed American Composers Festival (ACF), Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, on May 16, 17 and 18 will celebrates the music of two seemingly disparate figures, representing past and present: the iconic Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974) and living saxophonist-composer Daniel Schnyder, neither of whom fit neatly into a single musical category.

ACF, an annual celebration of American composers, seems somehow incomplete without the inclusion of Ellington, whose works have inspired countless composers and musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries—including Schnyder. This year, the Symphony doesn’t just refer to Ellington, but presents the ensemble that carries his name and has been playing together in one form or another for more than eight decades; the other half of the equation is this year’s ACF composer-in-residence Schnyder—both of whom defy definition.

“A couple of summers ago when I performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, I fell in love with it—the musicians, their love and enthusiasm for music,” says Maestro St.Clair, giving light to the festival. “I immediately began searching for an opportunity to work with them again. Our American Composers Festival is the perfect opportunity.”

“Schnyder is a composer who, though steeped in classical traditions, has created musical language that crosses many musical boundaries and genres,” says St.Clair. “This is also evident in the repertoire selected for the first half [all composed or arranged by Schnyder], which encompasses reflections of the great Duke Ellington, tributes to the immortal Jimi Hendrix and to the instrument, the bass trombone. And all of this really only covers a portion of the breadth of Schnyder’s musical language—all of which he feels at home within. Like Duke Ellington, Schnyder is a virtuoso performer—and as performers both composers gained distinct insight into writing for ensembles.”

The program will include “Martin Luther King” from “Three Black Kings,” which was Ellington’s last composition, one left unfinished at the time of his death in 1974. For the posthumous Lincoln Center premiere in 1976, Ellington’s son, Mercer Ellington, completed the score and Alvin Ailey created the choreography. The title refers to three important African American historical figures: King Balthazar, King Solomon and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, introduced Ailey’s “Three Black Kings” when it premiered at the Lincoln Center festival celebrating Ellington.

The concert opens with the spotlight on Schnyder. “No less than Ellington, Schnyder is a gifted performer and improviser (on the saxophone),” says Horowitz. “Like Ellington, he espouses multiple musical worlds. He is an omnivorous creator, drawing on Renaissance polyphony, Schubert and Mahler, Ellington and Gershwin, Arabia and Africa.”

The Symphony then performs an arrangement by Schnyder of Jimi Hendrix’ (1942-1970) Variations on “Purple Haze”—a piece that has, frankly, become known as one of the archetypical psychedelic drug songs of the ’60s. Hendrix claimed the piece was inspired by a dream where he was walking under the sea where a purple haze surrounded him, engulfed him and made him feel lost and traumatized. Hendrix claimed it had nothing to do with drugs, but of course few deny that Hendrix was indeed using plenty of drugs at the time.

While “In a Sentimental Mood” has sophisticated chord changes, in Schnyder’s hands “’Purple Haze’ doesn’t really have any chord changes. “It’s just a rhythm and the idea of blues…” he says. “And with the brutality of this music—(it’s about) how to write for orchestra and retain raw expression. My arrangement has fugues and canons. You can do all these things because the piece is so raw, so bare, that it’s an open playing field.”

‘Rite of Spring’ Turns 100 With Concerts Spotlight Iconic Work

Segerstrom Hall

Segerstrom Hall holds ‘Rite of Spring’ 100th anniversary June 6 – 8

With the arrival of the centennial of Stravinsky’s iconic masterwork, a reverberation of celebration can be heard around the symphonic world and Pacific Symphony is no exception, offering a variety of activities from June 6 through June 8. In conceiving “The Rite of Spring,” Stravinsky broke all the rules and defied convention, and it is very much in this spirit that the Symphony approaches its celebration culminating with a party on the arts plaza, featuring the Symphony’s second “Inside and Out” Plazacast and Community Celebration with a free live simulcast of the concert projected onto the wall of Segerstrom Hall.

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the festival also includes: The Sacre Project, part art installation, part performance piece, a cross-disciplinary project created by artists from UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts; the ReRite Project (remix, reinterpret and/or reimagine!), a call for artworks of all kinds (art, music, dance); video dance booth; and, of course, concerts led by Music Director Carl St.Clair featuring the provocative work itself.

“The premiere of Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ was one of the most important moments in all of music history,” says Music Director Carl St.Clair. “It is a work that literally single- handedly changed the course of music. It will be a riveting way to finish the Symphony’s season.”

Considered one of the most significant and influential classical composers of the 20th century, Stravinsky (1882–1971) experimented with a number of styles over the course of his career, with innovation always an integral component of his work. He saw a great deal of change in music throughout his lifetime; as a child, he witnessed Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conduct and yet also lived to witness the break-up of The Beatles!

‘The Rite of Spring’ depicts an ancient pagan ritual sacrifice, which culminates with a young girl dancing herself to death.
Inside the concerts: The festival of events centers around performances of the composer’s provocative “The Rite of Spring” (last performed by the orchestra in 2008), led by Maestro St.Clair, on Thursday-Saturday, June 6-8, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall (preview talk with Alan Chapman beginning at 7 p.m.).

Arrive early (5 p.m.) and enjoy activity booths and a slate of community ensembles performing on the arts plaza. For more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

Schedule Of Events
5 p.m.: Food trucks and activity booths open
5:10-5:25 p.m.: Fortunates Woodwind Quartet
5:30-5:50 p.m.: Laguna Flutes
6-6:35 p.m.: Helix Collective
6:45-7 p.m.: Santa Ana Strings
7 p.m.: Alan Chapman Preview (in hall)
7 p.m.: The Sacre Project (Samueli)
7:30 p.m.: Rich Capparela preview (plaza)
8 p.m.: Concert (in hall)/Plazacast (on plaza) begins

A Knight To Remember Mixed With Gaming Compositions

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight with the Pacific Symphony April 19
Photo by Andy Ortega

Leading the Pacific Symphony for Knights’ performance will be Maestra Eímear Noone, an ingenious conductor and composer with an immense passion for conducting music from all genres, including video game scores.

Having recorded more than 38 albums and enjoyed No. 1 hits on the pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts, Knight enchants audiences with four generations of music, from her Motown days with Gladys Knight & The Pips to her four solo records. In addition to being recognized in multiple halls of fame, Knight has been a guest judge and performer on “American Idol” and a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars”; she has appeared in the Tyler Perry film, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” and opened the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City with “This is Our Time.”

For this concert, she’ll be singing favorites such as “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Every Beat of My Heart,” her James Bond single “License to Kill” and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” all backed by the lush sounds of the full symphony orchestra. 

The concert’s first half features Russell Brower’s “Leah” from Blizzard Entertainment’s “Diablo III,” which she originally recorded with Pacific Symphony for the game’s highly successful release in 2012; also, Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Hoe Down” from “Rodeo”; Bernstein’s Overture to “Candide”; and Debussy’s haunting “Claire de Lune.” Then, the orchestra rocks out to an arrangement of AC/DC’s music by Emmy-nominated composer Craig Stuart Garfinkle, called “Back in Symphonic Black.”

“Ms. Knight fully embodies her title of ‘The Empress of Soul,’ and it is a great honor to be invited to share a stage with her,” says Noone. “Hers is a voice of the people. It belongs to us all. It puts sound to our deepest longings and heartaches, joys and great loves. She gives everything to her people on stage, a completely selfless and vulnerable passion in her performance and then, of course, there’s the soul… Only a true, fearless artist can perform with such soul.”

The star vocalist of the evening, Knight, began singing gospel music in the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Georgia at age 4. Three years later, she won the grand prize on the television show, “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,” and the following year, she joined what would eventually become Gladys Knight & The Pips. In 1995, Knight earned her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1996, Gladys Knight & The Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a year later, they were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Knight received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual BET Awards in 2004. 

“Of course I’m absolutely delighted to come back and work with such an incredible group of artists and exemplary human beings,” she continues. “One of the unexpected results of our collaboration has been numerous awards and nominations, so thank you, Pacific Symphony!”

Currently, Noone is touring as the conductor for The Zelda Symphony, a full four-movement symphony created from the iconic video game “Zelda.” Noone also recorded the “Zelda Symphony 25th Anniversary CD,” which was released by Nintendo as part of its newest “Zelda” game, “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.”

In 2011, she conducted and co-produced “This Is Ireland” at Royce Hall in Los Angeles for St. Patrick’s Day. Featuring orchestra, gospel choir, actors and soloists, the show starred Irish celebrites Pierce Brosnan and Roma Downey.

For more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit

A Trio Of Guest Artists Showcase “Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony

Paul Jacob

Grammy winner Paul Jacob performs for the Pacific Symphony May 2-4.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Symphony

The mighty forces of the William J. Gillespie concert organ pair with fleeting violin passages and an orchestral rhapsody during Pacific Symphony’s “Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony,” featuring music by the French Romantics. The concert is taking place Thursday through Saturday, May 2-4 at 8 p.m. in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$112, which includes a preview talk with Alan Chapman.

Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs returns for a reprise of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, “Organ.” (Jacobs played the same piece in 2008 to inaugurate the $3.1-million organ.) Led by 24-year-old guest conductor and rising star Aziz Shokhakimov, the concert also features the Symphony debut of violin soloist Tianwa Yang. Although the piece is referred to as a “symphony,” it is widely considered a concerto and is also said to have inspired Tchaikovsky to write his own wildly popular Violin Concerto in D Major.

In September 2010, was awarded the Best Solo Instrumental Grammy of the Year, the first time a disc of solo organ music has ever received this honor. Jacobs made musical history at the age of 23 when he played J.S. Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon performance on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. He recently reached the milestone of having performed in each of the 50 United States.

The remarkable conductor Aziz Shokhakimov burst on the scene just three years ago at the age of just 21 by astounding audiences in Bamberg, where he was awarded second prize at the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition under the auspices of the Bamberger Symphoniker. Shokhakimov has since made several triumphant debuts: in Germany with the Staatskapelle Dresden; in Italy with the Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna and in Poland with the highly acclaimed Sinfonia Varsovia. He made his American debut with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in the 2012-13 season.

“This program features our wonderful William J. Gillespie C.B. Fisk Opus 130 Organ,” says Music Director Carl St.Clair. “We’re really happy that we can from time to time allow our audiences to hear this magnificent organ. It’s also wonderful to have a friend such as Paul, who knows the instrument so well and can allow us to experience its greatness.”

The Organ Symphony’s haunting opening does little to reveal the grandiosity of what’s to come and instead begins with a rising four-note figure that evolves into a much quicker Allegro development. The tension dwindles into a slower, melodic section that finally introduces the organ in an unexpected way: tranquil.

It isn’t until the fourth movement when the true power and might of the organ shines through. Audiences may recognize this climactic moment from the family film, “Babe”; a melody that Saint-Saëns called “the defeat of the restless, diabolical element,” which leads to “the blue of a clear sky.” 

While France is the birth-place of all the composers featured in this concert, Spain is what inspires the first half of the program. The foot-stamping rhythms and flamenco-inspired beats of Chabrier’s “España” set the tone, followed by Lalo’s violin showcase “Symphonie Espagnole.”

After its premiere in 1875 by violin virtuoso Pablo Sarasate, Tchaikovsky wrote that “the work has given me great enjoyment. It is so fresh and light, and contains piquant rhythms and melodies which are beautifully harmonized. Lalo is careful to avoid all that is routinier, seeks new forms without trying to be profound, and is more concerned with musical beauty than with traditions.”

Neither Spanish nor a symphony, the music offers plenty of fiery spice and a young violin talent in Yang is here to tame it with authority.

For more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit