Laguna Beach Music Festival returns with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers at the helm
The city of Laguna Beach will suspend its small-town status next week when a host of larger-than-life musical talents make appearances at multiple local venues, including the Laguna Playhouse, for the 22nd annual Laguna Beach Music Festival.
The multiday series intertwines larger public concerts with small, intimate classical and contemporary musical performances and workshops that give students, seniors and community members a chance to experience world-class performances in person.
Co-presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Laguna Beach Live, the festival is created and curated by a special guest musician who serves as artistic director, headlining concerts and making appearances at smaller events within the schedule.
Tommy Phillips, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society, said allowing artists to develop their own programming creates one-of-a-kind events that audiences cannot find anywhere else.
“We really give them an open invitation to perform and to curate and present programs and collaborating artists they might not get a chance to work with in a regular season,” Phillips said Friday. “We give them that invitation to bring both a traditional musical canon but also to explore the outer edges.”
This year’s artistic director is renowned Los Angeles-based violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who regularly performs around the world as a soloist with leading orchestras and is a prolific recording artist with more than 40 titles to her name. She’s performed at Carnegie Hall and the Walt Disney Hall and recently appeared with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.
In an interview Friday, Meyers said she’s excited for next week’s line up.
“I’m completely obsessed with living composers and wanted to bring a lot of the composers I work with to Laguna,” she said, citing the Feb. 16 world premiere of Philip Glass’ “New Chaconne” for violin and bass-line, written for her, as one among many highlights.
“There’s so much music that is going to happen in the next week.”
This year’s festivities kick off Wednesday evening with a prelude soiree at the Laguna Art Museum at 6 p.m., highlighted by an inaugural performance by Myers.
The program continues Thursday and Friday as guest musicians visit local audiences in privately scheduled events at Thurston Middle and Laguna Beach High schools and the Susi Q Senior Center.
On Saturday, at Heisler Park, from 9 a.m. to noon, members of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn. will capture scenes on small canvases as festival musicians play live along the Laguna Beach cliffs for a “morning of art, music and ocean views.”
Anchoring the festival are three public performances that will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Laguna Playhouse, headlined by Meyers and featuring a stunning lineup of musical talents, collaborations and two world premiere pieces.
On Feb. 16, Meyers will appear on stage for “Metamorphoses,” playing alongside French harpist Emmanuel Ceysson and accompanied by dancers who will headline the Laguna Beach Dance Festival at the Playhouse from Feb. 22 to 25. A pre-concert lecture is set for 7 p.m.
The following night’s show, “Doubles,” features Meyers and fellow violinist Aubree Oliverson playing works arranged for two violins, including Bach’s “Double Concerto in D Minor.” The duo will be backed by members of the prestigious Colburn School’s Academy Virtuosi.
Closing out the show with a 3 p.m. performance Sunday is “Carnaval!” which pairs Ástor Piazzolla’s homage to the tango,” L’histoire du Tango,” with a whimsical new arrangement of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.”
Lucinda Prewitt — who founded Laguna Beach Live in 2001 with two friends as a means of bringing more musical performances into the local community — said the festival provides a rare opportunity for audiences to hear artists of a very high caliber in an intimate setting.
“It’s all about getting music to more people,” she said. “This music may only be here in Laguna, and this is the only chance they’re going to hear these people together, in this program.”
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