Keith Clark and his eight-year old Pacific Symphony face the trauma of moving to a new home this week. But the trauma can be borne, because the new home is the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.
Thursday night, Clark & Co. launch their ninth season--Clark founded the ensemble at Cal State Fullerton in 1978--with a program of three showcase works: Brahms' Violin Concerto (with Henryk Szeryng as soloist), Respighi's "Pines of Rome" and Richard Strauss' "Don Juan." The concert will be repeated Friday night.
It's been a busy eight years for the 42-year old, California-born conductor, a protege of Roy Harris, Hans Swarowsky and Franco Ferrara. But Clark characterized the time as having been one of "slow development and growth, and very conservative expansion" of the orchestra.
"We knew from the beginning that we couldn't count on guaranteed financial support from the founding fathers of the county," Clark said from his Orange County headquarters--a turn-of-the-century church building smack in the middle of downtown Santa Ana.
"So we have proceeded very slowly. Even in the new music center, we tried to be cautious--we originally announced eight concerts. When they sold out in two weeks' time, we doubled them to 16. But we still wondered what might have happened if we had started out by announcing 16."
The Pacific Symphony will come to the new center (which opens Monday night with a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic) with plenty of preparation. It has already given its opening-night program in Fallbrook (Sept. 21), where it plays four times a year. "We opened out of town," quipped Clark.
And, in addition to extra rehearsals between now and Thursday, Clark's ensemble will try out its inaugural program at a special, by-invitation-only performance for the center's construction crew. The music director calls it a "hard-hat concert."
Although Clark said "it is going to take the better part of a year for the orchestra to get used to the new acoustics and the new performing situation (in the new hall), the same amount of time any orchestra would require," he names the next big challenge: "to turn into convinced music lovers all of those season-subscribers who come here this season only out of curiosity."
To do that, he said, he has at least two aids.
"First, we are going to put out, at no cost to the subscribers, a 45-page magazine they will receive a couple of weeks before each concert.
"This magazine, to be supported by ads, and with the printing costs donated, will have news and features about current programs. In October, for instance, there will be an article by Lukas Foss about Leonard Bernstein, whose music makes up two of our programs at the end of the month."
Also, beginning in December, Clark promises another educational device to help concert-subscribers prepare themselves to attend performances.
"With (classical-music radio broadcaster) Jim Svejda, I'm putting together cassette tapes, each one devoted to one of our programs. The magazine will be free; the tapes will cost about $8. Svejda will introduce the program on one side of the tape. On the other side will be related features, like interviews with some of the players."
The Pacific Symphony's educational activities extend also, of course, to young-people's concerts, and this season, Clark said, there will be, at the center, three more "Mervyn's Musical Mornings," 90-minute programs co-sponsored by Mervyn's, a clothing retailer.
It is difficult, Clark said, to be expanding orchestral activities "at a period in history when all orchestras are facing financial uncertainties. But we are still confident about our future. Our ticket sales--we are now completely sold out on both classical series, and getting there with the young people's concerts--have been a shot in the arm."
At this moment, too, the organization's projected operating budget of $2.3 million looks to be sensible, even though it has been quite a jump from the 1985-86 budget of $1.1 million--which, oddly enough, covered approximately the same number (150) of services (rehearsals and performances) from the players. This also is promising.
"We have no deficit from last season. We lost money, of course--we expected to do that--and had to scramble at the end of the season to pay our bills. But at this moment we owe nobody, and that is a good place to be."