By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
Saturday, July 14, 2012 Caltech’s Beckman Mall, Pasadena
Next performances: Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
One of the surprising Southern California classical music
discoveries last summer was Caltech’s Beckman Mall (aka The Olive Grove — the
lawn just south of Beckman Auditorium and between two multistory concrete
buildings) as an intimate outdoor music venue with a sound-chamber feel.
Muse-ique, the new ensemble formed by former Pasadena Pops music director
Rachael Worby, unveiled it last year and this summer they’re back for two
concerts, the first of which was last night.
Muse-que is unique because Worby is unique. From the quirky
printed program (8.75″ by 4″, loose-leaf, held together by a metal brad) to the
evening’s format (90 minutes without an intermission), to the casual feel (the
36 orchestral musicians dressed in casual clothes, many of them standing
throughout the concert), Muse-ique is a mash-up of musical genres and
performers with Worby weaving multiple threads throughout the hour and a half.
If something doesn’t turn out quite as she expected, she shrugs, chuckles and
moves on. Although well choreographed, the evening has the feel of an informal
The main solo focus was Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo
Sandoval, whose contributions included a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie (Sandoval
has just released a new CD entitled Dear
Dizzy, Every Day I Think of You, a tribute to the legendary trumpeter whom
Sandoval called one of his mentors). Sandoval recounted how he first met
Gillespie in Cuba and then sang wistfully and played with verve the title song
from his new CD. He also tossed off a 45-second bebop vocal riff (shades of
Bobby McFerrin), was less-than-sparkling as soloist in portions of Johann
Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto, and concluded with a solo rendition of God Bless America.
The evening wasn’t all music. Actress Zilah Mendoza
introduced the Gillespie set with her heart-felt rendition of the 1994 poem by
Joy Jones, They Called Him Dizzy, But the
Man Had Plenty Sense. Brian Brophy,
head of Caltech’s Theater Arts, opened the evening with a rap offering that
fused science with art (“We’re the ones using academically eligible students,”
he joked of his department, a subtle dig at the school having incurred NCAA
sanctions for using students on sports teams that didn’t meet that
organization’s definition of eligibility). As is her wont, Worby held things
together with distinctive commentary that melded educational tidbits with
Although the amplification didn’t help the orchestra’s sound
much, Violinist Roger Wilkie, Violist Shawn Mann, Keyboardist Alan Steinberger
and Percussionist Jason Goodman delivered spiffy solo offerings throughout the
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.