By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
This article was first
published yesterday in the above papers.
During the first three-quarters of the 20th
century, community orchestras flourished. Many offered their concerts free of
admission charges; others charged modest ticket prices. In either case, support
– financial and emotional — came from dedicated groups of volunteers who year
after year, through economic boom times and downturns, raised the bulk of the
money necessary to survive.
Gradually things began to change. The rise in the amount and
quality of recorded music and the lack of music education cut into audiences.
People got tired of raising money. Some community orchestras — e.g., Pasadena,
Pacific and Long Beach — “grew up” and became significant players, so to speak,
in the musical landscape. Others — e.g., Highland Park — died. New ensembles –
e.g., New West, Cal Phil, Pasadena Pops, Muse-ique — emerged.
A few stalwarts in the community-orchestra field remain. The La Mirada Symphony begins its 50th
anniversary season Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the La Mirada Theatre for the
Performing Arts. Dr. Robert Frelly begins his second season as the ensemble’s
music director with a program celebrating nature that music by Handel, Vivaldi,
Smetana, Grof, Debussy, and concludes with The
Pines of Rome by Respighi.
This is the first of four free-admission concerts (three of
which are classical and one pops). There’s also a benefit concert on April 6
that will feature Broadway star Susan Egan (among other roles, she was the
original Belle in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast).
An even older group, the Rio Hondo Symphony, continues its 80th season next
Sunday at 3 p.m. in Whittier High School’s Vic Lopez Auditorium with a program
spotlighting dance. Music Director Kimo Furumoto will conduct the program and
the Nouveau Chamber Ballet of Fullerton will perform in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
The Prokofiev was performed last spring at a children’s
concert, and is on the main series by popular demand. Elizabeth Lauritsen, a
soprano, actress, music teacher and RHS board member, will narrate the popular
Project, a new locally based company, is opening its season with a fully
staged production with orchestra of Sweeney
Todd. Performances are today at 4 p.m., Oct. 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. and next
Sunday at 4 p.m., all at the Porticoes Theatre in Pasadena. Information: www.pacificoperaproject.com
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.