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Keith Clark’s Not-So-Grand Finale : Departing Music Director Does Get Some Applause

Times Staff Writer

Outgoing music director Keith Clark got some respect from the Pacific Symphony at his final classical concert Thursday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

A day earlier, at a similar program, Clark had turned to applaud the orchestra he founded in 1979 after leading Mozart’s “Ave, verum corpus” as an encore after Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

No one had applauded back. (“A lot of bad feelings had built up over the last year,” said one musician, who requested anonymity. “I wondered if anyone would notice.”).

On Thursday night, however, the response was more generous, although not universal. Many of the cellists and string bass players, a smattering of violinists and some other instrumentalists tapped their bows or clapped their hands.

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The Pacific Chorale, whose music director, John Alexander, had also just been cheered on stage, joined in with spirited applause.

The audience had been extraordinarily subdued during most of the concert but came alive at the conclusion of the Beethoven Ninth. Many people--more than on Wednesday--rose to their feet, and a few shouted “Bravo!”

No one, however, handed up bouquets of roses or offered farewell speeches in tribute.

The orchestra’s board of directors had planned to present a commemorative gift to Clark during Wednesday’s concert, and had gone as far as setting up a microphone for some post-intermission speech-making. Clark, however, would not let the gesture take place, and the audience watched perplexed as a stagehand took away the microphone without explanation.

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“For musical reasons, Keith Clark did not wish to disturb the performance with a stage presentation,” executive director Louis G. Spisto said Thursday.

Clark again declined the offer when it was extended before the concert on Thursday, orchestra officials said.

Attendance figures for the two concerts also sent a curious message. Although 2,691 tickets had been sold for Wednesday’s concert, only 1,814 persons attended, according to orchestra figures. (An orchestra spokesman said he did not know whether the 33% no-show rate was unusual for Pacific Symphony concerts in general.) Likewise, a near-capacity 2,903 tickets were sold for Thursday’s performance, yet only 1,947 showed up.

Some music directors don’t get any respect.


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