Pacific Symphony to Kick Off SYMPHONY IN THE CITIES Concerts, 7/26

Pacific Symphony to Kick Off SYMPHONY IN THE CITIES Concerts, 7/26

Pack a picnic and gather the family for an evening of free music and outdoor summer fun when Pacific Symphony presents "Symphony in the Cities" (SITC) in Irvine and Mission Viejo. Music Director Carl St. Clair takes the orchestra out of the concert hall and into Orange County cities for the first in a series of community concerts (more to be announced) this 2014-15 season celebrating the maestro's milestone 25th anniversary with the orchestra.

Now a long-standing summer tradition, SITC brings thousands of people together for great music and entertainment in local parks each year. With a potpourri of popular classics, Americana and patriotic tunes, this year's concert includes Bizet's sultry Suite from "Carmen," featuring mezzo-soprano Ola Rafalo, and four talented young violinists from Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings (PSSS) performing Vivaldi's Concerto in B Minor. Classical KUSC's radio host Rich Capparela serves as emcee and also narrates Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" before a final audience sing-along of patriotic favorites.

Starting at 7 p.m., this year's free SITC concerts take place Saturday, July 26, in the Village Green at Mission Viejo's Oso Viejo Community Park and Sunday, July 27, at Irvine's Mike Ward Community Park in Woodbridge. Arrive early to enjoy Mission Viejo's annual "Prelude in the Park," which begins at 4 p.m. and the Symphony's Musical Playground, which begins at 4 p.m. in Mission Viejo and 5:30 p.m. in Irvine. The Musical Playground features many interactive and hands-on activities for children, including instrument making, a drum circle, an instrument petting zoo, and an opportunity to meet the musicians. Pre-concert entertainment by the Helix Collective takes place 5:30-6:30 p.m. (in Irvine only). And in both cities-back by popular demand-kids have the chance to learn how to conduct with Maestro St.Clair and later help lead the orchestra in Sousa's "Hands Across the Sea" during the concert.

SITC is sponsored by FivePoint Communities/Great Park Neighborhoods with support from the cities of Irvine and Mission Viejo and other local sponsors. For more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org/SITC.

"One of my greatest passions is sharing my love of music with others, so every summer I am excited to bring Pacific Symphony out into the community, where music can touch the hearts of more people than ever," says Maestro St.Clair. "This year's program has something for everyone. We have familiar classical pieces from Bach, Vivaldi and Dvorák, a little opera from 'Carmen,' and some fantastic American music by two icons: John Williams and Aaron Copland. I am also greatly looking forward to working with the four young musicians from Santiago Strings. They have such great energy, and Symphony in the Cities will be an ideal way to show off their talents."

To begin, St.Clair opens the evening with Dvorák's spirited Slavonic Dance No. 1. Guest vocalist Rafalo, deemed "a mezzo to watch" by The Washington Post, channels the fiery Carmen for four selections from Bizet's famous opera. The gorgeous melodic lines of Bach's "Air" from Suite No. 3 (also known as Air on a G-String) are easily recognized because of its many uses in popular culture. PSSS violinists Danielle Liu, Albert Gang, Luchi Jiang and Sean Chang take the stage to perform the allegro movement from Vivaldi's Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins and Strings No. 10. The notable "Olympic Fanfare" by John Williams transitions the concert from European composers to classic Americana. Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" and his funny children's song, "I Bought Me a Cat" follow, and the evening concludes with a patriotic sing-along.

"The Symphony in the Cities concert and Prelude in the Park is our signature event in Mission Viejo," says Mayor of Mission Viejo Trish Kelley. "This event attracts people from Mission Viejo and well beyond for top-notch entertainment starring the acclaimed Pacific Symphony and fun-filled activities for the entire family. We are proud to host an event that has helped to put Mission Viejo on the cultural arts map and build community."

"Congratulations to Music Director Carl St.Clair on 25 years with Pacific Symphony," offers Irvine Mayor Steven S. Choi. "His ongoing contribution to bringing the best musicians and classical music performers and composers to Orange County is truly a gift to all. His legacy is the thoughtful and visionary expression of the broad spectrum of instrumental and vocal performances that touch the lives of people of all ages. Irvine looks forward to many more years of musical excellence and innovative programs by Pacific Symphony under his leadership."

"Pacific Symphony is so thankful to the cities of Mission Viejo and Irvine, who have provided extra support and ensured that Symphony in the Cities remains a part of their communities this year," says John Forstye, president of Pacific Symphony. "Because of them, we are able to offer high-quality music in great outdoor settings to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear this great music and orchestra."

Mezzo-soprano Rafalo is equally at home on both the concert and opera stages, performing with technical prowess, glorious vocal quality and musical depth. Last season, she debuted the title role of Carmen in "La Tragédie de Carmen" with Syracuse Opera to great acclaim by "Opera Times." In 2013, she triumphed at Carnegie Hall as the alto soloist in Vivaldi's "Gloria" and sang De Falla's "El Amor Brujo" in concert with Pacific Symphony with a "fine dusky quality" (Los Angeles Times). Her past concerts have included Saint-Saëns' "Christmas Oratorio," Mendelssohn's "Elijah" and Handel's "Messiah." Past opera roles have included Dalila in "Samson and Dalila," Fricka in "Die Walküre," Suzuki in "Madama Butterfly," and the title role of Carmen with the Lyric Orchestra. Other companies Rafalo has appeared with are Opera Tampa, Sarasota Opera, DuPage Opera Theatre and Palm Beach Opera. In 2014, Rafalo debuts the role of Fenena in Verdi's "Nabucco."

Led by Music Director Irene Kroesen, PSSS provides an experience that nurtures the confidence, poise and musical sensitivity of young musicians through the study and performance of outstanding string orchestra literature. PSSS serves instrumentalists in grades 6 through 9 and each season students enjoy an interaction with Maestro St.Clair, as well as interactions with guest artists and professional musicians of Pacific Symphony, and a weekend retreat. PSSS presents a two-concert series, participates in the Orange County Suzuki Festival and appears annually at Disneyland.