A free performance by the Pacific Symphony in the acoustically terrific and eternally tony Segerstrom Concert Hall is not to be missed. What's the catch? Amateurs are playing right alongside the pros in "OC Can You Play With Us?, The Side-By-Side."
"From my perspective, it is cool to rub elbows with the pros," says Costa Mesa musician and noise artist Mark Soden Jr. "They do things differently than I am used to. The conductor [Carl St.Clair] can do wonders to pull music out of the duffers." Soden had such a blast his first time around, that he applied again.This year, he'll play Trumpet 3 in the 7 p.m. session on Monday, May 8; the second go-round begins at 8:30.
St. Clair is in his 27th year as musical director, conducting the orchestra in classical and commissioned new works, such as Philip Glass' The Passion of Ramakrishna (2012-13)—which the Pacific Symphony will play in its debut at Carnegie Hall in 2018 to end Carnegie's year-long celebration of all things Glass–and William Bolcom’s Songs of Lorca and Prometheus (2015-16), recordings, tours and all sorts of community outreach.
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"It is through this program that mere mortals can sit in with their regular staff," says Soden, "many of whom performed with John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl and recorded the soundtracks to the more recent Star Wars installments. Replacing the London Symphony Orchestra," he adds with an exclamation point in his voice.
He'll be seated with Barry Perkins, the principal trumpet for the symphony, who has played around the globe and in countless film soundtracks from Godzilla to Gone Girl.
Musicians at least 22 years old from all over OC and beyond vie for the spots, playing through all kinds of obstacles just to up their game. "It is much easier to get serous about music in a room that sounds as good as Segerstrom Hall," says Soden. "They carefully vet the players, but sometimes there are interesting events that can't be curated out. The Trumpeter with an oxygen tank or the pro player that has to hold his chin with one hand to perform—the explanation was that after years of performance, his chin was no longer cooperating."
Donald Hu, who participated last year, said, “With the performance date as the deadline in mind and the excitement to play together with a great orchestra under such a great conductor, it really motivated me to start my practicing seriously again after so many years. The whole experience jump-started my confidence and desire of playing the violin again. Overall I had great time!”
For Monday's concert, the maestro will lead the blended orchestra in excerpts from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, a comic opera loosely based on the 1787 novel Les Amours du Chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvray and a Moliere play, in which an oaf is defeated via hijinks, and an aristocrat gives up her young lover because he's fallen for the oaf's ingenue. If you want to hear how that plays out through a full-on orchestra, reserve your free tickets or get them at the door. But get them, because Der Rosenkavalier begins with blasting horns, and Soden's trumpet 3 is sure to be in on that.
"OC Can You Play With Us?, The Side-By-Side" with amateurs and the Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa. May 8. 7 p.m. Free.