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Press Release


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

Pacific Symphony’s 2015-16 joyful, poignant Opening Night features a magnificent fusion of soloists, chorus and music, culminating in Beethoven’s monumental Ninth—Oct. 1-4

Orange County, Calif. — September 04, 2015

Opening Night Celebration, “Ode to Joy” (dinner and party), takes place
Thursday, Oct. 1, 5 p.m. at The Westin South Coast Plaza

Concert features world premiere of Composer-in-Residence Narong Prangcharoen’s “Beyond Land and Ocean,” written for and inspired by Orange County

Free community celebration outside on Arts Plaza, Sunday, Oct. 4, 1-3 p.m. (before Sunday Casual Connections) features music, art and dance

Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair open the 2015-16 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series with Beethoven’s monumental hymn to human freedom and brotherhood, his Symphony No. 9, “Choral,” featuring the soul-stirring “Ode to Joy.” This magnificent union between symphony orchestra and voices features Pacific Chorale and four world-class opera vocalists, soprano Mary Wilson, mezzo-soprano Milena Kitić, tenor John Bellemer and bass-baritone Kevin Deas, who sing the dramatic and dynamic solo passages in the fourth movement. The program opens the orchestra’s 37th season with a rare opportunity to hear “The Promise of Living” from Aaron Copland’s opera, “The Tender Land,” a choral piece with a similar message of thanksgiving and neighborly love. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

“Beethoven’s Ninth is a musical journey in search of a song,” says Maestro St.Clair. “The message, as the song emerges and is found, is ‘all mankind must become brothers.’ This powerful statement was true when it was written, was true when Beethoven set it to his famous theme and is true today. It can’t be repeated often enough.”

Furthering the message of joy and community is the highly anticipated unveiling of a brand new composition by the Symphony’s composer-in-residence, Narong Prangcharoen, written for and inspired by Orange County. The project titled “OC in Unison,” funded by The James Irvine Foundation, began in January 2014, when Prangcharoen began touring the region to ask people what makes Orange County home and what unites its people. He received more than 350 submissions in the forms of art, music, poetry, dance and photography, all inspirations for the piece: “Beyond Land and Ocean.”

“I asked Narong Prangcharoen to compose a work that would embrace Orange County and unite us in music,” explains St.Clair.” In a manner of speaking, to help us in Orange County to become ‘brothers,’ which is why I am pleased that the premiere is on the same program as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

The Symphony’s Opening Night concerts take place Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 1-3, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets for this concert are $25-$190. Sunday Casual Connections offers an encore performance on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m.; tickets are $25-$96. The public is invited to attend a free “Community Celebration” on the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Plaza on Sunday, Oct. 4, from 1-3 p.m. (prior to the concert), to grab lunch from food trucks and enjoy music, art, dance and other community presentations that helped to inspire Prancharoen’s composition.

The Opening Night Celebration (dinner and party), “Ode to Joy,” takes place on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 5 p.m., with honors going to the Symphony’s musicians. Chaired by Jo Ellen Chatham, the black-tie affair features an elegant cocktail reception and pre-concert dinner in the Plaza Ballroom at The Westin South Coast Plaza. A post-concert party takes place at the hotel’s Terrace Pavilion with entertainment, dessert and an opportunity to mingle with the musicians. Tables for 10 may be purchased for $7,500-$25,000; individual seats are $500. For more information, please contact special events at (714) 876-2364 or The event is generously sponsored by South Coast Plaza with musician sponsors: Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin of Newport Beach.

About the Music

The premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth in 1824 was a remarkable moment in history. Although he could not hear a note, Beethoven conducted the orchestra, and the audience responded with five standing ovations. George Grove, author of “Beethoven and his Nine Symphonies,” describes the moment as “a volcanic explosion of sympathy and admiration.” A musician at the premiere wrote, “He moved as if he wanted to play all of the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus.” The final complete symphony by Beethoven, the Ninth has become one of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire, and has been adapted for use as the European Anthem. The symphony is considered one of Beethoven’s masterpieces and one of the greatest musical compositions ever written. It’s also the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony. The words were taken from “Ode to Joy,” a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785.

Also on the program, “Beyond Land and Ocean” by Prangcharoen, is meant to reflect the spirit of the Orange County community. The piece takes inspiration from experiences the composer had touring the region, as well as suggestions from the people who live here.

“The charm of Orange County comes not only from its land and its coastal location, both of which are very important to the people of Orange County, but, far beyond that, also from the pride that the people have in their native roots and heritage,” says Prangcharoen. “The piece starts with soft sounds in the strings, portraying the atmosphere of the Newport Beach Back Bay in the early morning. The birds wake up, singing and calling to each other. Then, as the sun continues to rise, and its light shines on the land, the music starts to build. We can hear the four famous bells (the “campanario”) of the Mission at San Juan Capistrano, and these bells provide the main pitch material for the entire piece, undergoing many transformations.”

The work also represents the region’s ethnic diversity, incorporating Asian and Hispanic folk songs, as well as church hymns into the prime thematic material. “One might think of a radio station, heard while driving on the freeway, which features many different kinds of music,” continues Prangchaoren. “The piece concludes with the majestic sound of the mission bells, in celebration of wonderful Orange County.”

Copland’s “The Promise of Living” opens the concert with a song that conveys gratitude for the simple gifts in life. It originates from the first act of his opera, “The Tender Land,” which tells the familiar tale of a young girl living in a small farm town who longs for something more. Although the protagonist leaves her family to lead her own life, the music preserves its idyllic quality to the end, rich in Copland’s uniquely American sound.

 “Aaron Copland is the true father of the American voice,” says St.Clair. “In ‘The Promise of Living,’ a similar message resounds in its text—‘O let us sing our song, and let our song be heard. Let’s sing our song with our hearts, and find a promise in that song.’”


About the Guest Vocalists

Cultivating a wide-ranging career singing chamber music, oratorio and operatic repertoire, Soprano Mary Wilson is in consistent high demand on the concert stage across the nation, and has recently appeared with the Singapore Symphony. “She proves why many in the opera world are heralding her as an emerging star. She is simply amazing, with a voice that induces goose bumps and a stage presence that is mesmerizing. She literally stole the spotlight” (Arizona Daily Star). An exciting interpreter of Baroque repertoire, she has appeared with Philharmonia Baroque, Musica Angelica, American Bach Soloists, Boston Baroque, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Grand Rapids Bach Festival, Bach Society of St. Louis and many more. On the opera stage, she is especially noted for her portrayals of Zerbinetta in “Ariadne auf Naxos,” Susannah in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Gilda in “Rigoletto.”

Milena Kitić, a renowned mezzo-soprano, is best known for her performance as the title role in “Carmen,” which she performed in Pacific Symphony’s concert opera last February; and she returned to perform selections from “Carmen” during the Symphony’s Summer Festival 2015 at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. She has also played Carmen in major performance venues across the United States and Europe, including the Metropolitan Opera. Her talent earned her the inaugural Artist-in-Residence Award given by Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where she has been an adjunct professor and master class instructor since 2007. Kitić currently serves as chair of artistic excellence for the LA Opera with whom she most recently performed the role of Carmen, Albine in “Thais” (with Placido Domingo), Mrs. Noah in “Noah’s Flood” (conducted by Maestro Conlon), and will again appear as Suzuki in “Madame Butterfly” in March 2016.

Tenor John Bellemer has gained a reputation for his strong portrayals and possesses a voice that The New York Times calls “clarion-toned.” He is featured in the Academy Award-nominated film “Lincoln” as Gounod’s “Faust.” In 2015-16, he is engaged to perform the role of Lysander in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Hawaii Opera Theatre), Rodolfo in “La Bohème” (Bangor Symphony) and “Carmina Burana” in Turin, Italy. His 2014-15 engagements included, among many, Don Ottavio in “Don Giovanni” (Boston Lyric Opera), Gabriele in Foroni’s “Cristina, regina di Svezia” (Chelsea Opera Group, London), Don José in “Carmen” (Opera Grand Rapids), Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Winnipeg Symphony), the world premiere of Newton’s “St. Matthew Passion” (Turin) and Peter Quint in “The Turn of the Screw” (China).

Kevin Deas has gained international renown as one of America’s leading bass-baritones. Lauded for his “burnished sound, clarity of diction and sincerity of expression” and “fervent intensity” by Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein, Deas has been variously called “exemplary” (Denver Post), “especially fine” (The Washington Post) and possessing “a resourceful range of expression” (The Cincinnati Enquirer). He is perhaps most acclaimed for his signature portrayal of the title role in “Porgy and Bess,” having performed it with Pacific Symphony on the European Tour, as well as the New York Philharmonic and numerous others. He repeats the role during the 2015-16 season with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mineria, Mexico, Dallas Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic.

The Symphony’s Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation with additional support from the Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel, KUSC and PBS SoCal. Sunday Casual Connections receives support from KPCC. The Opening Night concerts are generously sponsored by South Coast Plaza and the E. Nakamichi Foundation. “The Making of OC in Unison” video project was created by Sunrise Seagull Productions.