Anyone who thinks that the nearest “Culture” with a capital C can only be found in Los Angeles is sorely mistaken.
On Saturday, I was the lucky guest of the Pacific Symphony as they hosted the 8th Annual Amercian Composers Festival at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Whew, ok, shall we shorten that to RHSCH? It was my first visit to the new hall, which opened in back in September of 2006. I’m a little late, I know. I found it to be very beautiful, even though I am not usually a fan of modern architecture. All I can say is that if you don’t like curves and circles, this hall is not for you. I think the only square things there were the doors. But that’s a good thing.
This year’s festival theme focused on music inspired by the American frontier, simply entitled “The West.” There were wonderful suites by Aaron Copeland and Ferde Grofe, the West Coast premiere of Four Strict Songs by composer Lou Harrison, as well as world premieres of two others. Curt Cacioppo debuted his Crying for Justice, and Stephen Scott his Vikings of the Sunrise: Pacific Crossroads.
They were all gorgeous. Four Strict Songs also included the Pacific Chorale, who are also fantastic. The concert hall has a very intimate feel, seating only two thousand. I much prefer this to the huge halls where the orchestra are so far away that you can barely see the bows of the violinists without
binoculars, opera glasses. Hello Dorothy Chandler and Hollywood Bowl, I’m talking to you!
But the highlight of the night for both my husband and me was without a doubt Vikings of the Sunrise: Pacific Crossroads which was performed on a bowed piano, accompanied by the Pacific Symphony. What is a bowed piano, you might ask? Well, picture a piano with the top taken completely off. Then, a group of musicians, in this case the Bowed Piano Ensemble, gathers around and plays the inside of the piano. Using nylon wire, fishing wire, small hammers, and guitar picks, they utilize the entire piano to produce a symphony of sounds. It is utterly fascinating to watch, and they even had a camera mounted on the piano so that the audience could see them working close up on the large screens.
Here’s a YouTube (of a different piece, though) so that you can get a better idea:
I would highly recommend checking out the goings on at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.