Santa Ana Sites Present wildUp! and Pacific Symphony at Pop-Up Site, Logan Creative
Written and Photographed By: Kim Conlan | Additional Orchestra Photographs By: Santa Ana Selects
In an unassuming neighborhood not far from Downtown Santa Ana, I followed a trail of individuals dressed in edgy modern attire as they walked through the darkness towards the Logan Creative warehouse. From the outside, the building had a modern design that might be subtle to a passerby, but greatly differed from the aged homes and other warehouses nearby in the neighborhood. Like bees to the hive, the ticket holders for the Pacific Symphony and wildUp! symphonic collaboration concert instinctively found their way to the entrance of the compound of the Logan Creative. As I walked past the threshold, I noticed that to the right there was a wrought iron spiral staircase leading upwards to nowhere—the only sign of a marquee to mark exactly what this place was. Later I was informed that it was indeed a spiral staircase and metalwork factory that our host, Santa Ana Sites, has chosen for this evening of sophisticated entertainment.
Inside the gates of the compound was a visceral overload of modern artwork. In the courtyard, huge statues of perfectly twisted metal were strategically placed all around, each one glimmering with the sheen of newly fallen raindrops. On this acre of property were little pockets of partitioned portions of the warehouse. In each section, a painter, sketch artist, metalworker, sculptor, or some other form of creative being had made the space his or her own. It was not like walking into your traditional gallery. Instead, it was like walking into a friend’s home, through the garage where you could see their tool bench, into their living room past their stereo system and records, and into their personal office with paperwork chaotically organized. In between all these signs of life, each piece of artwork was placed, making it difficult to differentiate between what was art being showcased and what was not. This, however, made me realize that there was no difference between the two tonight.
Eager to find an excellent seat for the performance, I quickly headed indoors. A gentleman in a black suit stretched out his arm, opening a massive metal door which revealed an incredible open hangar space. Hundreds of people meandered through a slew of white folding chairs that encircled the black wooden risers that composed the stage. On the stage itself, the scene was set for an orchestra to sit, but there was no sign of life quite yet. In the corner, attendees were either grabbing a glass of wine, interacting with some of the artist’s with booths in the back, or greeting a few of the symphony members with admiration. The crowd had arrived early and seating became difficult to find until I had the good fortune to claim the final front row seat, right next to where our conductor, Christopher Rountree, would be for the evening.
The bright warehouse lights switched off and the crowd came to a hush. The only remaining light emanated from dozens of glowing vintage bulbs hanging from chandeliers fashioned from wooden packing flats that delicately hung over the stage. Two large fabric scrolls hanging from the rafters had been screen-printed by hand with our program. On one was the list of players and their role for the evening, while the other displayed the titles of the five pieces set to be played.
Without any introduction, a handful of violinist marched on stage, with their conductor in tow. Set in their positions, they started right into a vigorous composition by Andrew Norman, titled, “Gran Turismo.” Just as you might expect, the composition was inspired by video games, according to Rountree post-performance. To listen to this piece without the visual of the performers in action means you are missing the element that truly inspires awe. While it is no doubt an intricate, complex, and hauntingly beautiful piece to listen to, its impact was much heavier in person. Watching the players pull their bows in rapid, random waves of motion kept my eyes dashing from person to person, like watching a cat attack a quick moving mouse for minutes on end without actually catching it. By the time the complicated weave of melodies reached around eight minutes, the violinists were succinctly drawing their bows back and forth so fervently, the hairs started to split and splay off in a beautiful style of destruction.
An uproar of applause gushed from an impressed audience of Orange County scholars, longstanding artists, curators, professional musicians, and art appreciators. Director and conductor Rountree, lively and appreciative in personality, grasped the microphone and finally spoke, “Good evening, thank you so much for being here!” He continued, explaining that, “I can’t tell you how excited it makes us for us to work on something for a week, and not know what it’s going to look like, and then when we come back from eating dinner tonight, then you’re all here—it’s so meaningful for us!” His passion in his introduction is infectious, and the crowd can’t help but follow his every word, clapping at his gratitude and laughing at is humor. Continuing his proclamation of appreciation, Rountree then introduced the man in charge of Santa Ana Sites, Allen Moon, and thanked him for bringing all of us together tonight. Moon exchanged places on the microphone, and expressed his gratitude to the many individuals involved in making this event happen, as well as extraordinary ensemble, wildUp!, from Los Angeles, as well as the talented 12 members from the Pacific Symphony.
For the next piece, a handful of wildUp! and Pacific Symphony players settled on stage. Rountree introduced the piece, titled “Summa, ” and the members took a moment to align their instruments in tune. Unlike the frantic pace of the previous composition, “Summa” was instead round, long, and mellifluous in character. In the past, being in the audience at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and watching the Pacific Symphony members in their element was always enchanting. However, there was something mesmerizing about being so close to the artists in the environment of the Logan Creative. To witness energy radiate from hands, the way the strings shuddered with movement of the bow, and the intimate relationship each player had with their instrument was striking and memorable.
For the next piece, tenor Jodie Landau took position near Rountree on stage. Landau’s graceful vocals of Dowland’s “Flow, My Tears, ” stood above the elegant ayre played by the supporting symphony. From there, the show continued with a modern piece created by The National member, Bryce Dessner. At first the cellos played like they were giving off feedback like a guitar amp might. Then the violins joined in with a sweet melody that fit above the noise, and the intricate web became more and more complex. While this orchestral piece had an inherent feel of being from the past, the composition was the perfect example of how modern composers are reaching for the future by building complicated structures on the roots of the past. After a brief intermission, the crowd settled back into their seats for one last performance. The scent and smoke of sage lingered in the golden lights, and as an audience, we were fully fit into the element of the Logan Creative. Rountree prefaced Shostakovich’s work, “Chamber Symphony, ” with a detailed explanation of its origin, meaning, and the many ways it can be interpreted. For Rountree, it is about struggle and how we endeavor, and he advocated that it is a precursor of what punk and rock music eventually went on to encapsulate. The power of the full ensemble is moving, making me realize that a moment like this will only last tonight. These two groups of professional symphony members may never form together exactly in this arrangement, in this place, with these specific compositions. So as each movement of “Chamber Symphony, ” passed, I held onto the power in hopes that I would take it with me even after tonight, to be held onto forever.
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