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Awards, Dance and a Streisand Salute

Sir Simon Rattle

One was haute. The other, hip. But both the Philharmonic Society and Segerstrom Center had the same goal when they tossed multitiered evenings on the town – recognition of champions of the arts.

Guests at the society’s Golden Baton Celebration at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach sipped libations at a reception then dined in a flower-bedecked salon before hearing the Orange County Youth Symphony Quartet play works by Borodin, Bach and Piazzolla. The highlight: when society President John Mangum presented the Golden Baton award to The Committees – the 800-member powerhouse group of volunteers who dedicate more than 90,000 hours of service annually to fundraising and music education programs.

A standing-room-only performance by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne capped Segerstrom Center’s annual Arts and Business Leadership Awards Dinner. Themed ’70s California boho chic, the event honored entrepreneur/arts philanthropist Zee Allred, who received the Distinguished Leader Award, and attorney/arts activist Ashleigh Aitken, presented with the Rising Star Award. A post-performace bash featured Nicholas David of “The Voice.”

Student Pass: One minute the leggy Alvin Ailey dancers were on their toes in Segerstrom Hall, the next, nearly on their knees in the Samueli Theater, eager for eye-to-eye chats with young ballet students attending the cast party following the dance troupe’s performance of “Exodus” and “Reflections in D.” It was all complimentary fun for students of the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “What’s sweeter than a ballet star face to face with an aspiring star-to-be?” asked Judy Morr, executive vice president of the center.

Premiere-happy: With the current season’s quartet of world premieres under their belt, you’d expect South Coast Repertory leaders to be feeling ho-hum about yet another. Not a chance. Managing Director Paula Tomei was giddy as she rhapsodized about the debut of Julia Cho’s “Office Hour,” starring five-time Emmy nominee Sandra Oh as a professor who bravely encounters a disturbed student (Raymond Lee). With the devastating 2007 Virginia Tech shootings as her inspiration, Cho penned a production about campus violence that is “powerful, disturbing, intense and very satisfying,” Tomei said. “We are ecstatic to be working with one of the most important playwrights in American theater.” Timothy and Marianne Kay were honorary producers of the one-act play, commissioned by SCR.

On Tour: An exclusive opportunity to view students studying dance in the studios of the ABT William J. Gillespie School marked the premiere event for the newly formed Pas de Deux chapter of the Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Members aim to raise funds for Gillespie scholarships. “To be affiliated with a company of the stature of ABT at 8 or 9 years old is pretty amazing,” observed Judy Morr. Pas de Deux co-chairwomen are Kathleen Peterson and Heather Gokhman.

Streisand Salute: San Clemente’s historic Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens – built in 1927 by city founder Ole Hanson– was the backdrop for a homage to the Barbra Streisand songbook performed by multiplatinum songbird Ann Hampton Callaway. Guests enjoyed a dinner show at the annual black-tie benefit for the center’s cultural programming. “It’s because of nights like this that Casa can sponsor tours, dance and garden workshops, a musical festival and a musical academy for more than 2,000 children each year,” said Executive Director Berenika Schmitz. Carolyn and David Westendorf were honorary co-chairs.

Berlin Philharmonic returns to OC after 15 years
Scoring a major coup for the local cultural scene, Philharmonic Society President and Artistic Director John Mangum has arranged for the Berlin Philharmonic to make its first appearance in Orange County in 15 years to honor the 10th anniversary of the Reneé and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

The Sunday matinee concert on Nov. 20, part of the Henry T. Segerstrom Legacy Series, will be conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and feature works by Schoenberg, Webern, Berg and Brahms.

One of the finest orchestras in the world, the Berlin had planned stops only in Los Angeles and San Francisco until the charismatic Mangum flew to New York to “make a presentation to orchestra officials about our concert hall,” he said. “It was a wonderful thing to be able to say that the community built this beautiful hall with the leadership of the Segerstroms and we are able to use it as a magnet to attract some of the finest orchestras in the world.”
With that, the Berliners changed their course to include a performance in Costa Mesa. Also appearing in the Philharmonic Society’s season lineup saluting the 10th anniversary are the Philharmonia Orchestra of London conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (Beethoven and Sibelius on Oct. 4) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel (Mahler on
Oct. 29).

And yes, there will be a “whirl of parties” surrounding these three celebratory concerts, Mangum said, so dust off those diamonds.

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