Classically Trained: Behind the scenes of a Pacific Symphony performance

August 16, 2012|By Bradley Zint
  • Gabriela Martinez plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 as Carl St.Clair conducts the Pacific Symphony on Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
Gabriela Martinez plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

Eileen Jeanette's workday began at 7 in the morning and by 6 p.m., it wasn't over yet.

On Sunday, the goal for her was clear: to make the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre suitable for a Pacific Symphony performance.

Getting the venue on Irvine Center Drive ready for its classical summertime resident is no easy task for the team of about 30 who accomplishes it. Jeanette would know. She's done it 33 times.

"Everything you see here, this is a rock 'n' roll venue," said Jeanette, the symphony's vice president of artistic and orchestra operations. "It's an empty slate. We have to basically build everything about the infrastructure for a classical music concert in a day's time."

This includes building the white shell within and white "clouds" above the black stage, setting up the mics for the instruments and readying other sound, video and lighting equipment.

"It's quite the rush to get it all done," she said.


Sunday's heat didn't make things any easier this time around for Jeanette and her team — or the orchestra itself, for that matter.

During the symphony's afternoon rehearsal, eyes were on the mercury as it rose to almost 90 degrees — the point at which, per the musicians' labor contract, they can no longer rehearse or perform.

Meteorological fate kept the rehearsal going, however. The temperature topped at 89.4.

Things were "dangerously high," though, Jeanette said. The heat is uncomfortable and not safe for the instruments.

As she spoke, her enthusiasm unwavering, as evident from her smiles, she said she's been with the orchestra for more than seven years.

"I like to help artists reach their full potential," Jeanette said. "If they don't worry about the creature comforts because everything is thought of and taken care of for them, they can perform at their best."


'Ease into the oboe'

Jeffery Sells sat in a small trailer behind the stage. In front of him was his work space: a technological sea teeming with buttons and topped off with a few monitors. As the symphony's director of multimedia operations, his job Sunday was to take care of what the audience sees on the screens around the amphitheater.

Those screens generally show live video of moments within the music: a pianist's fast hands scurrying about the ivories, the conductor swaying with emotion, the horns in a regal duet.

It's like live TV, he said. And there's no rehearsal.

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