On the Town: Philharmonic Orchestra launches fifth season


The fifth anniversary season of the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra kicked off this past Saturday evening. With a mere $3,000 endowment to support its efforts, the Glendale Phil is the little orchestra that made good.

The First Baptist Church of Glendale, still in Christmas-decorations mode, was the site of the Phil’s opening concert for its 2015 concert series presented by Positive Motions.

Five years ago, the Phil made its debut at the church to glowing reviews and a sold-out crowd. This evening, just about every seat in the 750-seat sanctuary and balcony was filled with concert lovers. And in spite of the rain, they just kept coming. As one local critic put it, “If you play it, they will come.”

The program, dubbed “Holiday Concert & Birthday Party,” opened with remarks by master of ceremonies, smooth-voiced Rich Capparela, announcer extraordinaire at KUSC 91.5 FM. He reminded his audience that just as the Glendale Phil is 5 years old, so was Mozart when he began composing music.

Capparela’s words were an easy transition to the orchestra’s opening piece Mozart’s “Symphony No. 1 in E flat Major.” Mozart was 8 when he composed that one.

Although the Phil has a present roster of 75 musicians, in an attempt to emulate the inaugural concert of five years ago, only 18 musicians from local communities played this evening. They were led by the Phil’s Conductor and Music Director Maestro Frank Fetta to produce a heavenly sound. The church’s outstanding acoustics did the rest.

Preceding intermission, Haydn’s “Cello Concerto No.1 in C Major” featured the cello soloist Ruslan Biryukov. Biryukov also serves as artistic director and producer of Positive Motions Concert Series, the Phil’s presenting organization.

As the Phil’s founder, Biryukov considers the Phil his “baby.” A professional cellist and educator, Biryukov is the only cellist ever invited to perform solo recitals for 10 consecutive years at the Sundays Live Concert Series in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The series, on KUSC 91.5 FM, is the longest running live radio broadcast concert series in the U.S.

For tonight’s purely musical efforts, Biryukov received a standing ovation.

At intermission, the birthday party began in earnest. On stage, Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan presented certificates of recognition from Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale). Those receiving the certificates included Biryukov, Fetta, Mikael Avetisyan, founding artistic director, and Diane Acosta, president of the philharmonic’s board.

The mood turned positively jovial as a large sheet cake donated by Billy’s Deli was wheeled out. Blowing out the candles were Biryukov, Sinanyan and Fetta. For the rest of intermission, the large crowd was treated to pieces of cake.

Glendale VIPs going for the sweets included City Councilman Ara Najarian and his bride, Palmira. The Maestro’s wife, Susan Fetta, was also present. Conductor Fetta had previously announced that he and Susan, an alum of Hoover High School, had met in Glendale.

From across town, Burbank resident Morgan Gerhard attended with Kelly Thorpe from Studio City. Besides enjoying the music, Gerhard was there in support of friend Tawnee Lynn, who played the French horn in the concert.

After the celebratory intermission, the program concluded with works by the more contemporary composers Arthur Honneger, Aaron Copland and Scott Joplin.

Next on the Phil’s schedule is a fundraising “Vodka Tasting Party” on Feb. 28. The party will include a performance by celebrity comedian Emo Philips and the Los Angeles Cello Quartet. Party guests will be introduced to Russian food and all the vodka they can drink.


RUTH SOWBY RANDS may be reached at