Our Laguna: Pageant introduces musical luminaries

“Eat, Drink and Be Merry” is the theme of the 2010 Pageant of the Masters and that’s exactly what the Festival of Arts Board of Directors and their guests did at a reception hosted by the Ritz- Carlton in Dana Point on Sunday.

“This event is our way of thanking you, our loyal sponsors, donors and upper level members, for your ongoing support of our organization,” board President Wayne Baglin said. “This is also an opportunity to share updates and good news with you before we release it to the general public.”

Baglin announced changes to the grounds that include replacing the greensward with artificial turf, moving the stage from the center of the grounds where old-timers will remember a pond, and relocating the PIMCO Foundation-sponsored Junior Art Exhibit closer to the entrance.

The festival is a $9-million-a-year operation, with 35 full-time employees, augmented by 200 to 300 seasonal employees, 500 volunteers, 5,000 members and sponsors without whom the pageant could not exist, Baglin said.


The Ritz is among the sponsors and it did the festival proud Sunday in accordance with the 2010 pageant theme.

While merry guests ate and drank, festival exhibitor and pageant scenic artist David Cooke did an art demonstration at one end of the room and a string quartet — festival musicians Gerry Hilera, Todor Pelev, Carolyn Riley and John Acosta — performed at the other.

In the middle, pageant volunteer and past Patriots Day Parade Chairwoman Nina Rietsch posed as one of the 2009 show muses for 30 minutes straight — surely a record.

“She does many special events for us,” pageant Director Diane Challis Davy said. “She is our marathoner of models.”


Festival makeup director Joy Trent coated Rietsch with the white goop that transformed her into a statue. But the board had more in store for the guests.

“For anyone who has never seen the pageant, it is a bit difficult to explain how hundreds of volunteers are motionless for up to two minutes at a time through out the 90 minute show,” Challis Davy said. “Common sense says it shouldn’t work. But it does. The tableaux are technically amazing and the cast and crew do an amazing job of bringing art to life”

Or vice versa.

However, music adds its special magic to the tableaux, Challis Davy said, before introducing key members of the musical staff and composers who will be contributing their talents to the 2010 show: Conductor John Elg, who took over the pageant baton last year, longtime Concertmaster Robert F. Peterson and composers Bill Liston, the husband and wife team of Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fair, Alan Steinberger and Victor Vanacore.

Their credits are impressive, and Challis Davy only scratched the surface.

As a team, Parodi and Fair have written and arranged music for numerous movie trailers such as “The Last Samurai,” “War of the Worlds,” “X-Men 3” and “Mission: Impossible.”

On her own, Parodi was keyboardist for the “Arsenio Hall Show” house band. Last summer she soloed on her award-winning CD, “Common Places.” Most recently, she performed at the Oscars.

Isolde Fair, 6 1/2 , attended the reception with her music-making parents.


Liston has been the arranger, orchestrator or performer on more than 100 movies, many for the Disney brand: “Toy Story 3,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “High School Musical 3,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Dr. Dolittle 2.”

As a woodwind player, Liston has recorded albums with Randy Newman, Michael Bublé, Harry Connick Jr., Aretha Franklin, Brian Wilson and James Taylor.

Steinberger is principal keyboardist with the Pasadena Symphony and Pasadena Pops, plus other gigs. He has accompanied a wide variety of artists including Andrea Bocelli, Michael Crawford and Seth MacFarlane.

Some of his projects include playing, orchestrating or composing — and sometimes all three — for “March of the Penguins,” “King of the Hill, “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”

Grammy winner Vanacore was conductor, pianist and arranger for the Jackson Five and Fifth Dimension.

He led orchestras touring with Johnny Mathis and Barry Manilow — “Not together,” Challis Davy said.

Vanacore was music director for Ray Charles for more than 10 years.

He has emerged as a symphony pops conductor in the past decade and has conducted orchestras across the United States and Canada.


Kim Scharnberg, who was unable to attend the reception, also will be composing for the pageant.

His credits include orchestrating “Little Women,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “The Civil War,” on Broadway, as well as films.

Scharnberg has written and arranged for symphony orchestras, most notably the Boston Pops and the Atlanta Symphony and he also arranged and conducted all the music for the past two Presidential Galas at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Conductor Elg has spent his life studying, making, teaching or conducting music. He played the piano, clarinet, trumpet and classical guitar and sang in school and church choirs as a youth.

He has degrees from Cal State Northridge and the University of Cincinnati, and a teaching credential from USC.

Elg teaches music at Mission Viejo High School and is music director at Presbyterian Church of the Master in Mission Viejo.

He has conducted studio sessions for “Looney Tunes,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show” and “Food Fight.”

Violinist Peterson is the pageant’s long-time concert master and contractor.

No, he doesn’t build the sets; he builds orchestras.

“I choose the musicians and hire them,” Peterson said.

Peterson previously was a solo violinist for premier danseur Mikhail Baryshnikov on the White Oak Dance Projects tours. He has performed with symphony orchestras from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and was associate concertmaster and founding contractor of the Pacific Symphony.

Peterson has worked with such musical luminaries as Madonna, Faith Hill, Michael Jackson, Barry White, Paul McCartney and Ray Charles.

His work appears in advertising jingles, films, television soundtracks, as well as live performances on “American Idol.”

Festival Scholarship Chairwoman Pat Kollenda followed the introductions with a report on her committee and a change in policy that opened up funding for Laguna Beach residents who attend out-of-town schools.

Since the first scholarship was presented in 1957, the festival has funded more than $2.6 million in college scholarships.

“Feel free to donate,” Kollenda said.

A performance by scholarship recipient Issac Kramer and friend, Danny Lawlor, on trombones concluded the program.

As guests left the reception they were presented with gift bags that included free tickets to the upcoming festival, a discount card for the Ritz, a festival cap and metal drinking water container.

Among the guests: festival board members Steven Dicterow, Ann Webster and Robert Moffitt, Vic Opincar and Ramona Loucks, Nancy and Gary Beverage, PIMCO’s Mark Porter, Karen and Jim McBride, and festival Event Director Susan Davis.

“It’s fun to go to a festival event and not have to work,” Davis said.

Working staff included Marketing PR Director Sharbie Higuchi, who orchestrated the reception, Gioia Hagopian, Pamela Peterson, and Annette Fisher.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail