The Crowd: Elizabeth Segerstrom hosts 150 for West-Eastern Divan Ensemble

Michelle Rohè, from left, Tabaré Perlas, Elizabeth Segerstrom and Charlie Zheng.
Michelle Rohè, from left, Tabaré Perlas, Elizabeth Segerstrom and Charlie Zheng support the international orchestra visiting Costa Mesa.
(Carla Rhea)

The adjective “world-class” is decidedly overused. What does it mean, anyway? Anything to do with the state of the world or the definition of “class” is subject to considerable debate. That stated, this columnist would prefer to believe that the high standard of superior human accomplishment in any endeavor deserves the distinction of reaching a level far beyond the norm.

Hence, a more appropriate term today might be “world-exceptional.” In a world dumbed down by vast mediocracy, it is crucial to celebrate the exceptional. The human soul requires this, we starve without it.

West-Eastern Divan Ensemble members perform in the Samueli Theater.
West-Eastern Divan Ensemble members perform in the Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
(Lauren Hilary)

The Samueli Theatre at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts recently welcomed the renowned concertmaster, composer, pianist and violin virtuoso Michael Barenboim fronting an intimate, yet lively concert performance by the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble. The international band of musicians is a segment of the larger West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which was formed by Michael’s father Daniel Barenboim, renowned concertmaster and pianist, who with the late Palestinian writer Edward Said established the orchestra.

Of most important note, the orchestra is comprised of musicians representing a blending of Arab/Palestinian, Israeli and other cultures.

Before an audience of some 150 guests invited by the evening’s host and champion of the classic and contemporary arts Elizabeth Segerstrom, the ensemble opened the program with Maurice Ravel’s “Sonate pour violin et violon et violancelle.” The music flowed without intermission, concluding with Felix Mendelsohn’s “String Octet in E-Flat major, OP 20.”

Gloria Brandes, James Darrah and Tyler Ennis attend the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble concert.
Gloria Brandes, James Darrah and Tyler Ennis attend the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble concert.
(Lauren Hilary)

Mid-performance, concertmaster Barenboim requested a minute of silence in honor of the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.

At concert’s conclusion, Barenboim commented, “We were thrilled to perform at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. We particularly enjoyed the intimate set-up with the stage in the middle of the Samueli Theater, and the warm reception we received from Elizabeth Segerstrom, and everyone involved. The concert was a delight to participate in!”

Grateful applause rang out from attendees including Jane Fujishiga Yada, chairwoman of Segerstrom Center for the Arts Board of Directors; Tabaré Perlas, general manager of West-Eastern Divan Orchestra; Orange Country arts advocate supreme Charlie Zheng, along with ardent supporter Michelle Rohé. Also front and center were Gloria Brandes, Terry Schreyer, John Forsyte and Meghan Lloyd of Gehry Partners, hosting students from architect Frank Gehry’s Turnaround Arts: California.

Elizabeth Segerstrom’s commitment to underwriting exceptional performances is unmatched. In the tradition of the Medici, the generosity and stability of those both fortunate and wise, enable a path for artists to exhibit greatness. Inspiring the world, culture has propelled humanity forward for thousands of years.

Segerstrom finds this passion in her own Eastern European upbringing, with study, and exposure to visual and performance art. This foundation was further elevated during her marriage to the late Henry T. Segerstrom, whose vision revolutionized culture in Orange County. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Henry Segerstrom’s birth.

Arts patron Elizabeth Segerstrom and concertmaster Michael Barenboim.
Arts patron Elizabeth Segerstrom and concertmaster Michael Barenboim enjoying the afterparty at Mastro’s Steakhouse following the concert at Samueli Theatre.
(Carla Rhea)

“Hosting concertmaster Michael Barenboim and his extraordinary musicians was a poignant and inspiring moment for me as we approach the advent of my late husband Henry’s Centennial this April,” Elizabeth Segerstrom said. “I am certain that bringing prodigious artists such as the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble to Orange County would have been his utmost hope and dream. His lifelong mission was to bring world-class performances to Segerstrom Center for the Arts.”

Post performance the concert guests joined the musicians for late supper at Mastro’s, Costa Mesa getting up close and personal over art, music, and world affairs with talent from the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble including Mohamed Hiber, David Strongin, Semir Obaido, Miriam Manasherov, Sindy Mohamed, Astrig Siranossian and Assif Biness.

Elizabeth Segerstrom shares an embrace with a child from Turnaround Arts.
(Lauren Hilary)

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.