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OC in Unison: Pacific Symphony Composer-in-Residence Narong Prangcharoen’s New Piece—“Beyond Land And Ocean”—becomes an anthem for the people of Orange County
Orange County, Calif. — September 02, 2015
World premiere takes place during Symphony’s 2015-16 Season Opening weekend: Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 1-3
Free community celebration outside on Arts Plaza, Oct. 4, 1-3 p.m. (before
Sunday Casual Connections concert), featuring music, art and dance
Free events provide sneak peeks of the commissioned work, Sept. 27-29,
in various locations around Orange County
Almost two years ago, Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair charged Composer-in-Residence Narong Prangcharoen with setting Orange County to music. Since then, the composer has been on a journey to discover what makes OC home to more than 3 million people. The project titled “OC in Unison,” funded by The James Irvine Foundation, officially began in January 2014 when Prangcharoen began touring the region. Inspired by the diverse landscape and the stories of the people, the piece—“Beyond Land and Ocean”—began to take shape. Brought to the Symphony’s attention when he entered and won the Symphony’s American Composers Competition in 2005, Prangcharoen has been tasked with encapsulating the diverse aspects of the county (founded in 1889) into a single 20-minute piece of music. “I’m not sure how he’s going to do it,” St.Clair admitted earlier this year. “But if anyone can, it’s him.”
“In commissioning Narong, I asked him to compose a work that would embrace Orange County, its beauty, culture and uniqueness, and unite us in music. In a manner of speaking, to help those of us in Orange County to become connected,” says St.Clair.
Prangcharoen was chosen not only for his compositional voice, but also because he could provide an outside perspective; the composer, who now lives in Kansas City, Mo., was born and raised in Thailand. New to Orange County, he set out to capture its spirit by listening to what locals had to say about its culture and history. He toured places such as Disneyland, Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Modjeska House and Christ Cathedral, as well as Newport Bay and Nature Preserve (via kayak). A request was put out to the public for artifacts (any medium) that might in some way answer the questions: “What makes Orange County home?” and “What unites the people of Orange County?” Hundreds of submissions flowed in, ranging from bamboo sticks out of a backyard and music recordings by the mariachi community, to personal stories about living in OC and paintings inspired by the coastline. During his quest, Prangcharoen uncovered unifying themes such as the importance of family, the role of traffic here, the close access to nature and the endless sunshine.
“What I wanted to do was create a piece where all of the cultural differences were unified,” explains Prangcharoen. “I wanted people to look at the bigger picture—to see that they could be proud of living here and proud of how Orange County represents itself to the world. I wanted to stress in the piece that we all should be united and celebrate our being here together.”
The world premiere of “Beyond Land and Ocean” takes place during the opening weekend of the Symphony’s classical season, Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 1-3, in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The piece is part of a program that includes Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The community’s submissions will be on display in the concert hall lobby on all four dates. Single tickets are $25-$190. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
Sunday Casual Connections offers an encore performance on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m.; tickets are $25-$96. Prior to the concert, from 1-3 p.m., the public is invited to attend a free “Community Celebration”—with music, art, dance and other community presentations that helped to inspire the composition—on the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Plaza. Activities include demonstrations by the R.H.Y.T.H.M.O. Inc. Mariachi Academy; Color Choreographer Alan Burner; the Shaolin Martial Arts for Children Kung Fu; and V&T Dance Studio.
Free preview events (no ticket is necessary) providing sneak peeks of the commissioned work, along with a program that explores what “home” means to the community, take place on Sept. 25, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the Muth Interpretive Center in Newport Beach; on Sept. 26, from 2-3 p.m., in the Bowers Museum’s Norma Kershaw auditorium, in Santa Ana; Sept. 27, noon-1 p.m. at the Freed Theater-Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove; and on Sept. 28, at 7-8 p.m., at Brix in Huntington Beach.
The Chicago Sun Times called Prancharoen’s music “absolutely captivating,” and, of the October 2012 Carnegie Hall debut by the American Composers Orchestra of “Migrations of Lost Souls,” The New York Times wrote, it is “an atmospheric work that weaves some of the spiritual and vernacular sounds of Prangcharoen’s native Thailand into a skillfully orchestrated tapestry [with] moments of ethereal beauty.” Prangcharoen, whose music has been performed around the globe, has served as Pacific Symphony’s composer-in-residence since the 2013-14 season.
His success as a composer was confirmed when he received the prestigious 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and the Barlow Prize. Other awards include the Music Alive Residency, the 20th Annual American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Commission, the American Composers Orchestra Audience Choice Award, the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award, the Alexander Zemlinsky International Composition Competition Prize, the 18th ACL Yoshiro IRINO Memorial Composition Award, Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Competition prize and the Annapolis Charter 300 International Composers Competition Prize. In his native country, Prangcharoen was recipient of the Silapathorn Award, naming him a “Thailand Contemporary National Artist.”
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