A communal love of fine music

One note at a time, the Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra has picked up tempo in its three years of existence.

The HBSO took root in Surf City's rich communal soil in February 2009 with a modest goal of performing two concerts that initial year.

Gradually, the home-grown orchestra raised its level of ambition to four concerts during the year, which it can now perform. In the coming years, the orchestra hopes to be capable of playing five or six per season in coming years, said Grant Sevdayan, its music director and conductor.

While most of the HBSO's musicians are professionals, one third are volunteers. These include doctors, lawyers and other professionals moonlighting for the orchestra simply because they love classical music.

"Without good community ties, the orchestra doesn't make any sense," said Sevdayan, whose day job is to serve as choir director and organist atSt. Vincent de PaulCatholic Church on Talbert Avenue near Beach Boulevard.

"... There is a great need for good music and good music promotion in Huntington Beach, so our kids don't end up listening toLady Gaga," he added.

On Sunday afternoon, baton in hand, Sevdayan will lead the orchestra in a concert showcasing dramatic classical music pieces.

Headlined by selections from Wagner's most famous works, the performance at the Huntington Beach Central Library Theater will also feature Beethoven's "Egmont Overture," as well as a Dvorak cello concerto with guest cellist Ruslan Biryukov.

While pop music won't figure into Sunday's program, the orchestra will add a light touch by playing Darth Vader's theme, "The Imperial March," from the"Star Wars"films. And for those not familiar with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," the rousing classic by the German composer served as the operatic backdrop for the helicopter invasion sequence in the

1979 war film "Apocalypse Now."

For this concert, Sevdayan will lead an orchestra comprised of at least 50 musicians divided into four main sections: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. There will also be a harpist.

The idea of starting a communal orchestra came out of benefits concerts that Sevdayan had arranged in the past at St. Vincent, which help to raise money to pay for trips to Europe by the church's choir.

The orchestra, a nonprofit not affiliated with the church, holds its practice sessions at Marina High School and sustains itself through sponsorship, advertising and ticket sales. An ensemble of musicians from the orchestra recently played at a beer-tasting event at the Whole Foods Market at Bella Terra, with the store donating a percentage of the day's proceeds to the HBSO.

"Classical music has to be there," said Carmella Zulli, a member of the orchestra's board who has lived in Huntington Beach for 34 years.

"You know, when the doctors tell the ladies expecting babies, 'Expose them to Mozart even before they're born,' it's exactly what we're trying to do — expose them to the good stuff."


Twitter: @ImranVittachi

If You Go

What: "Music of Drama & Storm: Triumph in Wagner's Music," a concert by the Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra

Where: Huntington Beach Central Library Theater, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

How much: Pre-paid tickets cost $20; $25 at the door and $18 for students and senior citizens.

More information: Tickets can be purchased with cash or check at the Library Theater's box office; at Fountain Valley Music, 8740 Warner Ave., F.V.; or online via PayPal at hbsymphony.org.

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