Music with a message

On Saturday, the Irvine Barclay Theatre will be the site of classical music — and caffeine.

Organic coffee company Urth Caffe is coming to Laguna Beach in the summer. But married co-owners Shallom and Jilla Berkman plan to introduce their product at the performing arts center this weekend.

The store has a loyal following at its locations in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Pasadena and elsewhere. Now it's Orange County's turn to get a taste of its custom coffee and tea: Each patron of the Barclay performance will be given a packet to take home.

"The Dream Blend is a special blend of reserve, organically grown, heirloom coffee bean roasted fresh by Urth Caffe — it will only be available complimentary to the guests of this concert — and it is from our exclusive East African sources [in Uganda and Ethiopia]," said Shallom, 44, of Beverly Hills.

The coffee, he added, is "aromatic and naturally low in acid, making it smooth and easy to digest," while the Dream Tea is made from certified organically grown green tea from Kyoto, Japan, and scented with cold pressed Earl Grey flavors.

Jilla was drawn to coffee production during the year she spent in France before moving to the United States. Once here, she fused her interest with Shallom's desire to run his own business — and Urth Caffe materialized. The company debuted as a mail order catalog in 1989, and its first café was established in Manhattan Beach two years later.

Now, Urth has more than 300 full-time employees, 8,000 daily guests and a new site in Tokyo.

Customers have long demanded an Orange County store, Shallom said, adding that his family feels honored that a spot that housed a popular restaurant for 80 years will be the new Urth home.

"We have received overwhelming support. The only complaint has been, 'Why can't you open faster?'" he said. "We plan to restore the Cottage Restaurant to its original splendor. It is a gem, a California craftsman bungalow with Japanese accents and sprawling outdoor patios with ocean views."


'Everything for this art'

Urth Caffe's Dream giveaways will commemorate the performance by Los Angeles-based Dream Orchestra, 60 professional musicians who trace their roots to China, Italy, Portugal and Korea. Its inaugural Irvine show starts at 7:30 p.m.

The Berkmans will further be represented at the performance by their 14-year-old daughter, Golda, who will sing "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta," from Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Rondine." The soprano met Daniel Suk, Dream Orchestra's artistic director, founder and conductor, when in 2013 he visited the Colburn School, a world-class performing arts school in Los Angeles, searching for young prodigies, and she was selected to represent the voice department.

Golda, a classical pianist, composer and singer, is an ardent fan of the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater and the Doors. She began studying opera and classical music when she was 8 and has since received the Los Angeles Unified School District's Omni Award for Classic Voice of the Year in 2010 and 2012 and been presented with the Most Accomplished Young Opera Singer honor by baritone Vladimir Chernov at the Dream Orchestra's annual awards concert.

"She's like a rising star. She's only 14 and she's amazing," Suk commented. "As you know, many 14-year-olds today spend their time playing video games. But Golda is saying, 'No, I'm going to sacrifice everything for this art so this art can continue.'"

The upcoming show will also include Dvorak Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" and pianist Hai-Kyung Suh. Suh, a breast cancer survivor, is the only female artist who has complete recordings of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky piano concertos for Deutsche Grammophon to her name. The Dream Concert is intended to raise awareness about the American Cancer Society and those who are afflicted by and have beaten the disease.

"Hai-Kyung faced death, but she came back," Suk said. "I wanted to have her here because she is not just a musician, but the living example of human passion — of someone who wants to live."

To that end, Suk also commissioned an exclusive medley titled "The Hopes and Dreams Medley," composed of melodies from "Celtic Woman," "Turandot" — another Puccini opera — and "Les Miserables." Golda will be the first ever to perform this piece.

Suk approached the team at the Barclay after visiting the 800-seat venue and realizing that it was perfect size-wise and acoustically for classical music. The performance, he said, is not just a night of entertainment. It has a larger philosophy behind it: Suh's contribution will be dedicated to everyone who has overcome obstacles, and Golda, who will start and end the show, epitomizes the future, according to Suk.

"If people in the audience had a bad day and then leave this concert uplifted and happy, then I will be truly happy," Golda said.

"Many of my family members have struggled with breast cancer," she added. "I feel honored to have the opportunity to help bring awareness to this tremendous cause."

If You Go

What: Dream Concert

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $30 to $60


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