Pacific Symphony plays for the hometown crowd

The symphonic sounds of summer resonated Friday night before an estimated 1,600 people who came to hear the Pacific Symphony play a free outdoor concert in Costa Mesa.

The community event at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts plaza celebrated the city's 60th anniversary and was part of the orchestra's ninth annual "Symphony in the Cities" series.

The concert marked the first time the nearly 35-year-old Pacific Symphony had ever played an outdoor concert in Costa Mesa or at the Segerstrom Center, which has been the ensemble's concert-season performance home since 1986.

"We're thrilled to be in Costa Mesa for the 60th anniversary of the city," said Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte. "It's an opportunity to welcome our Costa Mesa neighbors to hear the orchestra in an idyllic setting and remind people that the Segerstrom Center is our home."

The concert also coincided with the Assn. of California Symphony Orchestras' 45th annual conference, which the Pacific Symphony was hosting at the nearby Westin South Coast Plaza hotel.

Costa Mesa, the city's Conference and Visitor Bureau, Target and the Segerstrom Center helped sponsor the event.

"It's very important in this city to make sure we support the arts," said Mayor Jim Righeimer, who also cited the success of the mayor's dinner earlier this year that raised more than $30,000 for youth arts programs.

Before the musicians took the stage to play a repertoire of light fare — which included John Williams' "Liberty Fanfare" and selections from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" — a few of them participated in the "Musical Playground."

French horn player James Taylor, a member of the Pacific Symphony since 1995, held up his brass instrument to a few young onlookers. He offered some insight about its metallic insides.

"There's no steak in steak sauce and there's no spit in my horn," Taylor said. "It's condensation!"

Segerstrom High School sophomore Lydia Tran, 15, showed off her violin to some young would-be musicians.

"It's fun," she said. "They are really interested in the violin. It's great to see them trying to play."

Before he gave the first downbeat, conductor Carl St.Clair taught a group of young children how to conduct. He also asked them if it was their first time hearing an orchestra. Many replied that it was.

"You guys are way ahead of me!" he said, adding that he was 17 when he first heard a live orchestra. Straws were then passed out to the kids.

"This is a baton — sometimes used as a straw — but tonight, it's going to be a baton," St.Clair said.

Using their batons, he then showed the children how to make the proper up-and-down movements — in tempo, that is.

Later in the concert, using their new skills, the children helped conduct John Philip Sousa's "Hands Across the Sea" march.

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