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Laguna Beach Music Festival to feature classical and contemporary concerts

Laguna Beach Music Festival to feature classical and contemporary concerts
Laguna Beach Music Festival will host Grammy-nominated tenor Nicholas Phan as its 2018 guest artistic director. (Courtesy of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County)

Aside from giving the public an opportunity to enjoy classical music in intimate settings, the 16th annual Laguna Beach Music Festival will offer a unique experience, both for the artist and the audience.

Each year, festival organizers select a guest artistic director, who, as the title suggests, serves as a headline performer and musical director for the annual celebration of classical music.

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Grammy Award-nominated tenor Nicholas Phan was chosen as the guest artistic director for this year’s music festival, which runs from Feb. 7 to 11 at different venues in the art-infused community of Laguna Beach.

“It gives the artist a chance to do something they’ve always wanted to do,” said Cindy Prewitt, executive director of Laguna Beach Live!, a nonprofit that partners with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County in organizing the festival.

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Phan was nominated for a 2018 Grammy in the best classical solo vocal album category for his album “Gods & Monsters” and has performed in opera houses around the world. He also has performed with some of the world’s most iconic orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

“The festival has done a really good job of finding really interesting musicians,” said John Mangum, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. “They are right on the cusp of going to big things.”

In the final performance of the festival, “The American Sabbath,” Phan and guest artists will span several musical genres, from Bernstein and Barber to Lennon and McCartney in a program that tells the story of the Virgin Mary.

Th festival will feature several guest artists, including Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, sopranos Alyson Cambridge and Joélle Harvey, baritone Edward Nelson and pianists Shannon McGinnis and Myra Huang.

“Someone can come on any one of the days and immerse themselves in it and have a great artistic experience,” Mangum said. “There are different kinds of on-ramps for people.”

Other highlights include a multimedia performance centered around arrangement “The Diary of One Who Disappeared” and a new series of songs from composer Missy Mazzoli.

“The best thing about this music festival is that we have outstanding artists in intimate settings,” Prewitt said. “It’s very casual, comfortable and accessible.”

Laguna Beach Live! organizes about 30 musical performances in the city throughout the year in a variety of genres and brings musical instruction into Laguna schools.

Community outreach also makes up a significant part of the festival.

On Feb. 6, the Susie Q Senior Center will host Phan and other artists who will perform selections from the festival and participate in a question and answer session with the audience.

Harvey, Nelson and McGinnis will perform at Laguna Beach High School on Feb. 7.

On Feb. 8, Alyson Cambridge and Doug Peck will perform at Thurston Middle School, and the Cantilena Trio will be at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and at Laguna Art Museum.

“We want to go out into the community and let people know this is here,” Mangum said.

If You Go

What: Laguna Beach Music Festival

When: Feb. 7 to 11; concert times vary

Where: Venues vary in Laguna Beach

Cost: Tickets start at $30 for performances at Laguna Playhouse and [seven-degrees] event center

Information: (949) 553-2422 or philharmonicsociety.org.

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