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Summertime and the livin’ in easy: Pacific Symphony performs some of the most beloved works by George Gershwin for a lazy, jazzy night of indelible music
Orange County, Calif. — June 26, 2014
Pacific Symphony tackles the music of one of America’s most celebrated composers—George Gershwin—for a memorable night of timeless music, as Mercedes-Benz presents Summer Festival 2014 continues with “Gershwin Greats.” Gershwin was a composer who conducted it all—taking Broadway by storm, selling out concert halls and opera houses and, as a result, defining an era. This program of classic Americana, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair (conducting the first concert of his 25th anniversary season), features guest pianist Jeffrey Biegel, the extraordinary voices of Angela Brown (soprano), Kevin Deas (bass), and the Carver Cossey Singers. Along with the orchestra, they perform some of the most popular and best-known Gershwin works—from the jazz-filled melodies of “Rhapsody in Blue” to the enduring sounds of “An American in Paris” and the groundbreaking “Porgy and Bess,” to the rousing overture to “Strike up the Band.” “Gershwin Greats” takes place on Sunday, July 20, at 7:30 p.m., under the stars at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.
Guests are invited to picnic prior to the concert beginning at 5:30 p.m. And new this summer is the Symphony’s Wine Club bodega, hosted by Mercedes-Benz. Held in the VIP club, with its shaded patio and stylish teak tables, this perfect prelude to the concert offers live music and an atmosphere that is casual and relaxed. Wine tastings and a cheese-and-fruit plate are $25. Additional glasses of wine or bottles are also available for purchase. But space is limited to 100 people; for information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799.
Concert tickets range from $25 (lawn seating) to $105 (orchestra seating); children under 14 are half price in most sections with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. Summer Festival 2014 is also supported by the Orange County Register and media sponsors K-Earth 101, KPCC, KUSC and PBS SoCal.
“George Gershwin’s work represents the beauty of classic Americana—a blend of various genres combining to form distinctive and enduring melodies,” says St.Clair. “This concert spotlights the works of a composer who actively sought to challenge himself—from “An American in Paris” to the folk opera “Porgy and Bess”; the result is a wonderful musical journey for our audience. What better way to celebrate summer than an evening of Gershwin’s greatest works?”
The concert opens with the overture to “Strike up the Band,” followed by “An American in Paris.” Gershwin described his beloved “An American in Paris” as a piece that represents an American who has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness and sits at a café wallowing in the blues. Of this piece, Gershwin said, “Apparently the homesick American, having left the café and reached the open air, has disowned his spell of the blues and once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life. At the conclusion, the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.”
This jazz-infused evening continues when pianist Biegel (who tours with “Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience”) performs the trailblazing “Rhapsody in Blue.” Finding inspiration during a train ride, Gershwin incorporated the steely rhythms, rattles and bangs of the train into this thematic piece.
“The opening glissando of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ has become one of the iconic sounds of Americana, and my good friend Jeffrey Biegel is the perfect pianist to give this piece an especially memorable personality. Between the oscillating bluesy tunes and the sweeping romantic strings, the audience is in for a real treat,” says St.Clair.
The evening concludes with the concert version of “Porgy and Bess,” Gershwin’s final masterpiece—and includes the moody and moving “Summertime,” “My Man’s Gone Now,” “I Got Plenty of Nuttin’,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” After reading DuBose Heyward’s novel “Porgy,” Gershwin wrote his final piece based on the situations described in the black community of Heyward’s hometown, Charleston, S.C. His brother, Ira Gershwin, wrote the lyrics.
Considered one of the great pianists of our time, Biegel has created a multi-faceted career as not only a pianist but also a recording artist, composer and arranger. His electrifying technique and mesmerizing touch have received critical acclaim and garnered praise worldwide. Known for his standard-setting performances of the repertoire, his career has been marked by bold, creative achievements and highlighted by a series of firsts. He initiated the first live internet recitals in New York and Amsterdam in 1997 and 1998, and in 1999, assembled the largest consortium of orchestras—more than 25—to celebrate the millennium with a new concerto composed for him by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, whose Millennium Fantasy for piano and orchestra was premiered with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 2000. Biegel formed a new piano trio, the Dicterow-DeMaine-Biegel trio, with violinist Glenn Dicterow and cellist Robert Demaine.
Until the age of 3, Biegel could neither hear nor speak, until he had corrective surgery. The “reverse Beethoven” phenomenon can explain Biegel's life in music, having heard only vibrations in his formative years.
Brown personifies the ideal American dramatic soprano: sheer vocal power; luxurious finesse; high pianissimos; and a charming personality larger than life. Her highly successful Metropolitan Opera debut in 2004 sparked a media excitement with CBS Evening News saying, “the future of opera has arrived,” The New York Times raving, “At last an Aida,” and the Associated Press praising, “ she combines a potent, dusky lower register with a striking ability to spin out soft high notes of shimmering beauty.” Brown also has been featured on the front page of The New York Times and in Oprah Magazine, Essence Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Classical Singer, Reader’s Digest and Psychology Today.
Deas has gained international acclaim as one of America’s leading bass-baritones. He is perhaps most acclaimed for his signature portrayal of the title role in “Porgy and Bess,” having performed it with numerous orchestras, including Pacific Symphony (in 2006), the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the symphonies of Atlanta, Baltimore, Calgary, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Montreal, San Diego, San Francisco, Utah and Vancouver and at the Ravinia, Vail and Saratoga festivals. He also repeated the role in concert to open the Seattle Symphony’s 2013-14 Pops season.
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