The Performing Arts Center opened Sept. 29, but for Pacific Symphony supporters, the real opening nights were Oct. 2 and 3. Both nights were sellouts for the Pacific, Orange County's major symphony orchestra.
"No matter how beautiful the music, you need a beautiful hall for a great concert experience," commented board member Walter Jechart. The arrival of the Pacific Symphony at the beautiful hall was an occasion for exuberant pre- and post-concert galas.
Although post-concert fireworks were canceled by the City of Costa Mesa, and showers ultimately greeted guests, nothing dampened the ebullient spirits of this crowd. Laughing at the incongruity of sequined dresses covered by see-through slickers, supporters shucked off their outerwear onto hall chairs to participate in the Pacific's gala of galas. Beginning with cocktails and an ultra-gourmet buffet at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel (marvelously marinated lobster, fresh clam linguini and such) and concluding with the performance of USC's marching band and Westin's sumptuous array of desserts, it was a night to remember.
But, the climactic focus of the evening came at conductor Keith Clark's downbeat. Crowd pleasers like "The Roman Carnival" and "The Pines of Rome" were performed, and soloist Henryk Szeryng dazzled concert-goers with Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major.
In an era of failing orchestras (most recently, the Oakland Symphony and the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra have filed for bankruptcy, and the San Diego Symphony perennially totters on the edge of oblivion), the Pacific Symphony just keeps growing.
When asked how he became involved in the Pacific, board chairman and past president Ray Ikola said, "I remember my first Pacific Symphony concert, several years ago: They played Mahler's Fifth Symphony and Mozart's 17th Piano Concerto. I've been involved ever since." It's a music-loving crowd, but key members have a lot of business savvy, as well.
Current president Michael Gilano said, "Keith Clark is a tenacious genius with a business instinct. A lot of money is being spent ($2.2 million in the current budget), but it's being well spent. We have an all-professional orchestra and concentrate on extensive rehearsal time, both of which explain the finesse of the concerts."
As former board president James Baroffio said, "Even over the last year, the orchestra has grown dramatically in quality." Baroffio and his wife, Marilyn, flew in from Denver for the concert. "It's like coming home." he said.
Such enthusiasm was the hallmark of pre- and post-concert galas attended by about 375 of the 3,000 concert-goers. As Carol Quarre (daughter of board member Phillip Quarre) pointed out, "This is more fun than the Performing Arts Center opening Monday night because we know everyone."