Pacific Symphony Orchestra & wild Up at Logan Creative.
February delivered mounds of artistic inspiration to me in the form of dance, theater, and music events. I was able to sneak in one last performance on the 28th before this leap year month whizzed by.
Santa Ana Sites #8 was a self-described musical experiment between Pacific Symphony Orchestra, resident company at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and wild Up, a modern music collective based in Los Angeles under the direction of Christopher Roundtree. Logan Creative‘s nontraditional performance venue provided industrial ambiance for the collaboration. Inside this arts compound was a central, raised stage for the musicians with the audience seated all around. I could see the musicians, conductor, and audience members from different vantage points than what is usually possible in an orchestral hall and I liked being able to see the faces of the community of arts supporters around me. There is nothing like the magic of making music, and this music infused life into the space around us.
The event was more than a show or performance, it was an evening long experience of engaging with art, either with sound, conversation, metal work, rain, mixed media, and paintings, right here in Orange County. Before the music started, Logan Creative had an open house where I engaged with local Orange County artists’ work and chatted with Santa Ana mural artist Carlos Balam Aguilar in front of a work by Eric Stoner.
Carlos graciously gave me insight to some of the visuals in Stoner’s mixed media assemblage piece. Stoner’s Ivory Tower of Babel includes art historical references that we picked up on the longer we looked and talked about the 4 x 6′ work. A hooded referenced from Pieter Bruegel’s painting The Misanthrope turns his back to the world. The inscription below him says (loosely) “because the world is unfaithful I am in mourning.” Converse to the need for artistic solitude is Carlos’ public mural which includes fifty-some faces looking to the world, seeking interaction, eager to have their stories recognized. This three-year project can be seen at the corner of Washington Ave. & Custer St. in Santa Ana. A CBS article describes Carlos’ work: “The mural depicts war scenes and photos of the soldiers of which Aguilar was able to paint their likeness from old photographs provided by relatives still living in the neighborhood. Members of the community resonate with the mural as it pays respect to the Mexican-Americans that went to war.”
The main event’s musical lineup was “Gran Turismo,” a violin octet by local composer Andrew Norman, Arvo Pärt‘s “Summa,” “Flow My Tears” by John Dowland, Bryce Dessner’s “Lachrimae,” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a. Strings, strings, and more strings, plus one countertenor. There were many intensified parts to the performance, not just with increased tempo. In one part of “Lachrimae,” all the strings seemed suspended right before a tumultuous staggered descent of notes that gave the feel of churning ocean water. The musicians leaned into their bows and I could literally see the waves through their body movements as well.
During intermission and after the show, I spent time in Bret Price‘s artist space to check out his huge scope of work in painting, metal sculpture, and clay. His metal sculptures are the clear conversation starters but I still gravitated toward his watercolor paintings. His works are readily appreciated, having a sense of ease and purity, where I am drawn to simple aesthetics like the particular angle in one portion of a metal sculpture, or the combination of two primary colors bleeding together on canvas. Bret mentioned that his son also is an artist who works in glass. Later, I chatted with another audience member who clued me in to the fascinating Price family history, starting with the late Buzz Price. I’m amazed by how much this family has contributed to arts and culture in Orange County.
Santa Ana Sites Artistic Director Allen Moon created a neighborly event atmosphere where I could converse with like-minded music and art supporters, and personally laud Pacific Symphony Board Chair Mike Kerr for persistently working to expand the performance capabilities of the PSO. The organization worked hard to bring these (union) musicians to a warehouse in Santa Ana but this kind of performance is so much more important for creating and growing a community with artistic sensibilities. From the standing ovations, immense applause and hollers, it was clear that the arts came and delivered, and the community responded, wanting more. Santa Ana Sites is a traveling forum designed “to provide the community shared artistic experiences, encouraging the discovery of diverse environments and architectural space.” Since March 2013, the organization has presented eight engaging performances. Attend one and you won’t be disappointed.