Pacific Symphony logo

Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Marketing & Communications
(714) 876-2380

Audience to take spiritual journey for Pacific Symphony’s all-new “Cathedrals of Sound” with Durufle’s transcendent Requiem and Respighi’s mighty “Church Windows”

Orange County, Calif. — September 29, 2014

Organist Paul Jacobs joins the orchestra and cadre of voices that include the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey and Pacific Chorale, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair

Cathedrals of Sound,” the first Music Unwound concert of Pacific Symphony’s season, offers an evening of inspiration, awe and ambience, bathed in waves of sound and reminiscent of the unique spiritual journey taken in 2010, when world-renowned organist Paul Jacobs and the remarkable Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey made their first appearance together with the orchestra. In 2014, the Fathers return to fill the hall with their splendid, sonorous and worshipful voices, and Jacobs performs on the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ for this all-new program. The concert opens with a rarely performed and powerful work of the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, his “Church Windows.” Inspired by stained glass artistry, it is a work that Pacific Symphony recorded in 1983 with founding music director, Keith Clark. Plus, the rich voices of the Fathers perform the Gregorian chants that inspired Maurice Duruflé—whose transcendent “Requiem” concludes the program and features vocalists mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata, baritone William Berger and Pacific Chorale (Artistic Director John Alexander).

Taking place Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 23-25, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, “Cathedrals of Sound” is the second concert of the 2014-15 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series. Single tickets for this concert are $25-$99. Season-ticket packages for the Classical series (including specials with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman) are still available for $723-$1,257. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

“This concert is being performed close to an important day for Catholics—All Souls Day—but it is a spiritual experience for people of any denomination,” says Maestro St.Clair. “The moment patrons arrive in the concert hall they will feel the spiritual ambience. The Norbertine Fathers will be performing, much like they did for the first ‘Cathedrals of Sound,’ and there will be special lighting to impose the most impact on the atmosphere both in the lobby and in the concert hall. Having Paul Jacobs and the Norbertine Fathers on the same program should make for a most rewarding and enriching concert experience.”

Completed in 1925, “Church Windows” might seem like an excuse for Respighi to illustrate four Biblical episodes or personages: “The Flight into Egypt,” “St. Michael the Archangel,” “The Matins of St. Clare,” and “St. Gregory the Great.” Closer to the truth is the fact that Respighi composed the music inspired by only a generalized religious feeling, and that the titles were added after the music was completed. The first and third sections are contemplative, while there is some particularly delicate writing in the third. Respighi then pours everything he has into “St. Michael,” which depicts a celestial battle. The fourth section starts quietly and ends in a blaze of glory.  

“For the first piece, ‘Church Windows,’ we will display representations of four different ‘windows’ as the individual movements are played,” says St.Clair. “This piece uses the organ extensively, creating an even more Cathedral-like atmosphere. Before and in-between the movements, the Norbertine Fathers will perform— actually, pray—chants from the Duruflé, which is being performed on the second half of the program. We invite listeners to open their hearts to this journey of the spirit and to share their findings.”Commissioned in 1947 by the French music publisher Durand, Duruflé’s

Requiem was written in memory of the composer’s father. At the time of commission, Duruflé was working on an organ suite using themes from Gregorian chants. He incorporated his sketches for that work into the Requiem, which uses numerous themes from the Gregorian “Mass for the Dead.” Nearly all the thematic material in the work comes from chant. The quiet writing by Duruflé that forms the center of his Requiem is a beautiful melding of mellow and radiant.

In a compositional career that spanned more than four decades, the composer published a mere 11 works, and he was not entirely sure of some of those. Since the majority of this output is more or less tied to the church (settings of sacred texts or organ works based on liturgical tunes), Duruflé is not very well known to the average concertgoer. It actually says a great deal about the quality of his work that so limited and specialized a quantity has kept his name alive at all.

The Norbertine Fathers opened their doors of St. Michael’s Abbey in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., in 1961, but they belong to a religious order founded by St. Norbert in the year 1121, an essential element of the great 12th century reform of the clergy and religious orders that reinvigorated monastic life in the West. The schola of singers for “Cathedrals of Sound” consists of both priests and young men studying for the priesthood. The Norbertines’ chant emphasizes the classic elements of religious life (use of Latin in the liturgy; the wearing of traditional religious garb—the habit and ascetical practices), which is shared during the concert.

Norbertine life involves the daily singing of the choir office and Mass of the Roman Catholic Church coupled with any kind of work that does not conflict with common life and the choir office. Candidates for the abbey come from all walks of life and a music background is not a pre-requisite. The new member is taught to sing by his daily participation in the choir office (which takes nearly three hours on an average day, proportionately more on feasts and solemn holy days) and daily 30-minute chant classes for the first years of formation.

Virtuoso organist Jacobs has been described by The Chicago Tribune as “one of the most supremely gifted organists of his generation,” and called a “brilliant young organist and evangelist for the instrument” by The New York Times. He is also a (2011) Grammy-Award winner, the award going for the first time to a solo organist. A close friend of the Symphony and St.Clair, in 2008 Jacobs marked the debut of the stunning, one-of-a-kind William J. Gillespie Concert Organ, complete with its 4,322 pipes. He has returned numerous times since, including for the first “Cathedrals of Sound” concert in 2010, consistently wowing audiences.  

Jacobs made musical history at the age of 23 when, on the 250th anniversary of the death of J.S. Bach, in 2000, he played the composer’s complete organ music in an 18-hour non-stop marathon in Pittsburgh. Today, Jacobs, hailed for his solid musicianship, prodigious technique, and vivid interpretive imagination in performances throughout the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia, is widely acknowledged for reinvigorating the American organ scene with a fresh performance style and “an unbridled joy of music-making” (Baltimore Sun). In 2003, Jacobs was invited to join the faculty of The Juilliard School, and the following year, he was named chairman of the organ department, one of the youngest faculty appointments in Julliard’s history.

The Symphony’s 2014-15 season is rich with inventive and forward-thinking projects, all undeniably part of St.Clair’s legacy—the Symphony, for the sixth year in a row, offers three new innovative and thematic Music Unwound programs, designed to contextualize and enhance the musical experience, beginning with “Cathedrals of Sound” and followed by “For the Love of Bernstein” and “Fire & Water.” The enhancements in this program are made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded to the Symphony in support of this unique multimedia series.

The Symphony’s Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from Mercedes-Benz (the official vehicle), the Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel, KUSC and PBS SoCal.