Pacific Symphony finds a new summer home at Great Park Live, Irvine

Great Park Live amphitheater in Irvine opened for its first concert of the season on June 14.
(Courtesy of the city of Irvine)
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When the Irvine Meadows concert venue was closed in 2016, the Pacific Symphony lost the site of its annual summer program.

“Pacific Symphony had a multi-decade relationship with Irvine Meadows, which was our first summer home,” said John Forsyte, Pacific Symphony’s president and chief executive.

The orchestra was founded in 1978 as a collaboration between Cal State Fullerton and north Orange County civic leaders, spurred on by the late Marcy Mulville.


Pacific Symphony has been the resident orchestra of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall since 2009. From 1987 to 2016, Irvine Meadows, which later became known as the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, hosted the symphony’s summer concert series with orchestral music under the stars.

“We settled on the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa for a few years and then eventually ended up at FivePoint Amphitheater,” Forsyte said.

In October 2023, FivePoint Amphitheater also announced its closure, and the city of Irvine planned a temporary live music venue to replace it. The result is Great Park Live, an outdoor live entertainment venue that will serve as the summer home for Pacific Symphony this season.

“We’ve transformed a corner of the Great Park Sports Complex into this temporary live music venue in a matter of months, and this ensures that we have live music and entertainment this summer while we work to develop the city’s permanent amphitheater facility,” said Great Park chair and Irvine Councilman Mike Carroll.

Made possible by a partnership between PSQ Productions and the city of Irvine, the state-of-the-art venue with a capacity of up to 5,000 opened for the season on June 14, with a performance from DBS, a Journey tribute band.

“With Great Park Live, we have set the stage for what promises to be an exciting summer of live music in Irvine with artists covering genres to suit every musical taste,” Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said. “It promises to be a place where we can come together and experience fun, music, laughter and a shared sense of community here at the Great Park.”

Forsyte said the symphony is happy to have a new summer home.

“I think outdoor experiences with a symphony orchestra affords us an opportunity to serve a multigenerational and multicultural audience in ways that are more difficult indoors … it removes some of the psychological barriers to coming to hear orchestral music.”

Forsyte notes the audience benefits from the environment in which orchestral music is performed, like in an outdoor venue like Great Park Live.

The Pacific Symphony will settle into its new summer home at Great Park Live in Irvine this summer.
(Courtesy of the City of Irvine.)

“There is the sheer beauty of being in nature with something that is this epic. Having 80 musicians on stage performing these epics sounds, you can’t describe that,” Forsyte said.

The Pacific Symphony’s five-concert SummerFest series will launch on Independence Day with a “Fourth of July Spectacular.”

“Richard Kaufman is our Principal Pops Conductor emeritus. He has conducted the orchestra for 35 years, and he is so wonderful at the Fourth of July [concert],” said Forsyte. ”He has a whole patriotic first half and invariably tells wonderfully humorous stories about the hot dog-eating contest that takes place each year on the Fourth of July.”

The second half of the show will feature Brass Transit performing the music of American rock band Chicago and the evening will end with a fireworks display.

On July 27, Pacific Symphony will celebrate the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the California premiere of a new piano and orchestra work from composer Peter Boyer, “Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue.” Pianist Jeffrey Biegel will accompany the Pacific Symphony, under the direction of Carl St. Clair.

On Aug. 10, “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” will screen at the venue, with its score performed live. Principal Pops Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez will make his SummerFest debut on Aug. 23 conducting a program of symphonic film music titled “The Magical Music of Harry Potter.”

The season will close on Sept. 9 with the “Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” which will feature excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” a violin concerto performed by Philippe Quint and cannons and fireworks to punctuate the performance of the “1812 Overture.”

In addition to the Pacific Symphony SummerFest, Great Park Live is set to host tribute bands and outdoor movies as part of its Irvine Nights series, and more concerts will follow in the fall, with country artist Clay Walker on Oct. 25 and Brooks Nielsen on Oct. 31. The venue expects to announce more shows as the 2024 season continues.

On July 6, Great Park Live will also open a new gourmet eatery, the Layover, with food and beverage options for concertgoers.

Forsyte said he hopes this season’s SummerFest is just the first of many great events featuring the Pacific Symphony at Great Park Live and its subsequent permanent venue.

“My dream is that when there is a permanent venue we will be able to do things such as multicultural festivals, jazz programming and world music that benefits from the sound of an orchestra with it,” said Forsyte. “I have always had a fire in the belly about ensuring that there was a successor venue for Irvine Meadows.”