The L.A. Philharmonic started its centennial season with a gala under the stars on Thursday, but the soiree came after surfboard-shaped confetti rained down on the audience at Walt Disney Concert Hall as Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, British singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, electric violinist Tracy Silverman, John Densmore of the Doors and the L.A. Master Chorale performed a California-style encore — the Beach Boys’ classic, “Good Vibrations,” backed by Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Phil.
After the concert, gala guests crossed Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles for a glitzy season-opening shindig, which paid tribute to the Golden State. The gala combined a “California Soul”-themed concert with a glam black-tie dinner and dance party, where Pink Martini and DJ Jason Bentley supplied the music.
At the outdoor gala, a less-formal Dudamel — he wore a shirt without a jacket for the most part — addressed the gala crowd by letting guests know that the chill in the night air was responsible for his casual attire. Although he also had removed his jacket onstage during the concert — clearly taking a cue from the more-relaxed Martin — Dudamel said he had passed along his jacket to his wife, María Valverde, because she was cold.
“It’s a very special night, as you know,” the L.A. Phil’s music and artistic director said. “I have to give a big kiss and hug in words to my beloved musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”
While addressing the guests, he also introduced artist Refik Anadol’s “WDCH Dreams,” which offered a first look at the technology-intricate art installation. The display, set to music with graphics dramatically projected onto the concert hall’s steel exterior, served as the gala’s backdrop.
Among guests spotted at the gala were Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance, Moby, Don Johnson and Kelley Phleger, Debbie Allen and Norm Nixon, composers John Adams, John Williams and Julia Adolphe, jazz artist Herbie Hancock, classical pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
David Bohnett, Mari Danihel, Jenny Miller Goff, Carol Colburn Grigor, Joan Hotchkis, Diane Paul, Ann Ronus, and Jay and Barbara Rasulo served as gala co-chairs.
Here are a few of the post-concert conversations about the L.A. Phil and its 100th-anniversary celebration and Dudamel.
“California is such an incredible center of music, such a burgeoning scene of soul music and jazz,” Bailey Rae said. “I meant to stay seven weeks and ended up staying seven months.”
About the night’s concert, she added, “The L.A. Phil is an incredible orchestra, and Dudamel is a musical genius. Being on stage with him, you feel you can do anything. It felt like time was elastic. You can take a pause, you can take a breath, you can rush into a chorus. It was like flying.”
After performing poetry at the gala, Shalita Grant (“NCIS: New Orleans”) and Bernard White (“Kidding”) joined the dinner guests. “Coming from television, it’s an absolute dream to be here. I love poetry. I love Shakespeare. I live for that,” said Grant, adding of the orchestra, “To have a cultural beacon like the L.A. Phil, that is a gift. That it’s been here 100 years — that is phenomenal.”
Echoing that sentiment, Allen said, “How wonderful it is to turn 100 and be this vibrant and this alive.”
Actor Matthew Lillard called the L.A. Phil’s gala “my favorite event of the year — bar none. There’s nothing even remotely close. ... Every year you listen and you’re charmed and you’re inspired and you think there’s a man [Dudamel] who’s trying to do the right thing, to create a culture that’s affecting lives in this community. That’s the best part.”
Being a part of the season-opening festivities, Adams told us, “I’ve had at least three or four world premieres here and I’ve conducted the orchestra. I think it’s the most progressive and imaginative orchestra in the world and I ought to know because I go all over the world, hearing my music and conducting.”