Pasadena, CA - "If this building were music, what would it sound like?" This was the question posed by Los Angeles Philharmonic Dudamel Fellow/Conductor Daniel Cohen to 4,000 fourth grade students as they sat in their seats in the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall on a recent weekday morning during Pasadena Showcase for the Arts (PSHA) 60th Annual Youth Concert, made possible by a generous grant from The Green Foundation.
The answer to Conductor Cohen's question would be provided by entertaining the students with dialogue between actors posing as a mother and her young son, and another actor portraying Frank Gehry, the architect who designed WDCH, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. Musical and visual answers would emerge as the orchestra played excerpts from Wing on Wing, composed by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the celebrated 10th conductor of the LA Phil, who opened the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003. In addition, dancers and singers performing interpretations of the music, which echoed the theme of sailing ships, a storm over the ocean, sirens, flying fish, sea creatures, and a young boy's imagination. The students learned that Gehry designed the interior of WDCH to resemble a ship, the exterior to resemble sails in the wind, the metal plates to resemble fish scales, and Wing on Wing was written to sound like a ship on the ocean.
Before the concert, Jill Fosselman, concert chair, thrilled the children as they arrived on Grand Avenue, attired as the 60th Youth Concert Birthday Cake and wearing a festive green hat with ribbons, bows, and candles. Some of the children were so excited, that they ran up to give the "Cake Lady" a hug. Fosselman shares her feelings, "As the mother of an attending fourth grader, I was incredibly proud to Chair the 60th Annual Youth Concert that was held at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The significance of the concert this year is based in the foundation of anniversary celebrations . . . 10 years for the Walt Disney Concert Hall as the home for the LA Phil, the 60th Youth Concert, the upcoming 50th Showcase House of Design, and 65 years of volunteerism for our organization. What a year!"
Fosselman was joined on this historic occasion by former Youth Concert Chairs: Marybeth Rehman-Dittu (2012), Eileen Riley (2009), Dana Marevich (2007), Marti Farley (2005), Debra Scott (2001) and Beverly Marksbury (1997).
Rehman-Dittu and Reilly shared memories and thoughts. Rehman-Dittu expressed her delight when she wore a Mother Goose costume last year, "Embodying "Mother Goose" and serving as Youth Concert Chair is the most exhilarating FUN anyone could conjure up. Somehow, on that one special day, PSHA members' inner fourth graders magically appear. These dedicated group of women and men are suddenly immersed in the spirit of the event; jaws ajar with eyes mesmerized on the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall stage. We experience, alongside the children, all of the amazing sights and sounds of this consummate performance. I believe it is by grand design that the timing always coincides around Halloween, because what an incredible treat for all who take part!"
Reilly provided a lovely sentiment, "While I have found all of my positions in the Showcase organization to be interesting and exciting, none has been more rewarding than that of Youth Concert Chair. Just to see the faces of so many children who are thrilled to be in the Walt Disney Concert Hall listening to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra is an unbelievable experience that makes all of the time and effort that the PSHA volunteers expend throughout the year so worthwhile."
After the concert, students were overheard exclaiming, "Awesome!" "This was cool," "I liked the fish flying over my head," and "I liked the music and the singers." Miss Marineh, a teacher at Norma Coombs Elementary School, echoed the students' enthusiasm, "This was absolutely exciting and engaging . . . the students had to use their imagination." Teacher Aide, Miss Susan felt the concert was "a very cultural experience and helped teach the kids about different kinds of music."
As the 60th Youth Concert concluded, President Donna Gotch reflected, "Today we celebrate our 60th Annual Youth Concert, our 10th at Walt Disney Concert Hall. 4,000 fourth graders from 52 San Gabriel Valley schools were invited by Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts to enjoy two concerts performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A generous grant from The Green Foundation was used to sponsor the concert. The concert provided an opportunity for fourth graders to discover and enjoy classical music."
All in all, it was a fabulous adventure for the students, teachers, musicians, performers and PSHA volunteers. The score was brilliantly brought to life for these young concertgoers with imaginative choreography produced by Kitty McNamee, inventive costumes designed by Ela Erwin, creative lighting design by Azra King-Abadi, all under the watchful eye of Jessica Kubsansky, Director. Nick Hormann deftly portrayed Frank Gehry to the delight of these fourth graders. But it seems Jill Fosselman, who became the "Cake Lady," also won over a new audience for classical music.
The 2014 Pasadena Showcase House of Design will be open to the public Sunday, April 13 through Sunday, May 11. For more information about PSHA or the Pasadena Showcase House of Design, please visit www.PasadenaShowcase.org.
[About Pasadena Showcase House For The Arts: This is a milestone year for PSHA as it celebrates 65 years of volunteerism, the 50th Anniversary of the Pasadena Showcase House of Design and, since 1948, the generous awarding of over $19 million in gifts and grants in support of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, numerous non-profit organizations and local symphonic, cultural and educational musically-oriented programs for youth and young adults.
An all-volunteer organization, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (PSHA) is a non-profit California Corporation whose members donate their time and talents to produce the annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design. Founded in 1948, and formerly known as The Pasadena Junior Philharmonic Committee, PSHA adopted the Pasadena Showcase House of Design as its annual benefit in 1965. It is one of the oldest, largest and most successful house and garden tours in the nation.
PSHA volunteers are united by their belief in the power and beauty of music. Their collective desire is to fund programs that nurture the study and appreciation of music, utilize music as a vehicle towards health and healing, and ensure that music is available to a broad range of audiences.]