Ode to the cello

The theme of 2009 is “Celebration of the Cello.”

Laguna Beach Live and the Orange County Philharmonic Society will host their seventh annual Laguna Beach Musical Festival Jan. 18 to 25, featuring world-renowned cellist Lynn Harrell.

“This year will include several educational events, master classes, a gourmet dinner [at Claes Restaurant], a special “Meet the Artists” salon and three concerts at the Laguna Beach Artists’ Theatre,” Laguna Beach Live President Cindy Prewitt said.

Harrell, a consummate soloist, chamber musician, recitalist, conductor and teacher who is known throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe, will work with emerging talent in a weeklong personal teaching environment, allowing the public to see these future stars in as they refine their musical skills.


Other featured musicians are pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion, soprano Frances Young, cellist Daniel Rothmuller, The Philharmonic Orchestra, Colburn Conservatory String Quartet and UC Irvine Clarinet Trio.

“We’ve also asked six local artists to decorate cellos that will be displayed around town,” Prewitt said. “The works of art will be auctioned online and the proceeds will go to the education outreach programs of the Festival.” The auction closes at 8 p.m. Jan. 27.

Artist Dee Challis’s jewel-encrusted silver cello is on display at the Laguna Playhouse, Patrizia Didiomete’s colorful six foot “Female Cello” can be seen at the JoAnn Artman Gallery, Roark Gourley’s playable “Pollack Cello” sits in the window of his gallery, the Visitor’s Center shows Jacquie Moffett’s southwestern “Pueblo Swirls” cello, Philip Womack’s contemporary piece can be admired at DeBilzan Gallery and Leah Vasquez’s “Garden of Musical Delights” adorns the Laguna Nursery.

Vasquez, former chair of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission, who is widely known for her large-scale public art works in Los Angeles and Orange County, said the inspiration behind her mossy garden cello art was to represent music and nature as one.


“Nature falls as close as I could get to the beauty, flexibility and inspiration that music gives us,” she said. “My piece combines the notion that music and nature come from the same place.

“The pleasure we find in both music and the natural world are compatible, and transport us to a better place and give meaning to our world.”

Gourley, who is inspired by artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock and Joan Miro, and whose “Music Series” melds art with music, said it was only natural for him to add a cello to his piano and guitar pieces.

As a former child cellist, Gourley said he has immense respect for the instrument.

“I felt strongly that it should still be able to be played so I worked to maintain the integrity of the instrument,” he said. “The ‘Pollock Cello’ conjures up the more modern music played on the cello. Painting like Jackson Pollock is an experience of his vision. If you have never done it you should try it. Turn on your favorite music and go for it. It is a lot harder than it looks. It is a lesson in composition and color just like music. This cello is a composition of visual art as music that I think Wassily and Jackson would approve.”

Gourley said he is honored to be a part of this event.

“The idea of combining these two mediums is just brilliant while supporting education in music,” he said.

Laguna Beach Live is a nonprofit founded in 2001 to bring great music to Laguna, and help young musicians and emerging artists.


In addition to the January Music Festival, they present free chamber music concerts on the First Sundays (October to May) at the Laguna College of Art & Design, special fall and spring concerts, and an outdoor summer jazz series at the Hotel Laguna.

Tickets are available at the Philharmonic Society (949) 553-2422 and Laguna Playhouse (949) 497-2787 or at www.LagunaBeachMusic