Violin virtuoso presents variety of innovative works, established pieces and a world premiere during the annual Laguna Beach Music Festival

By THERESA KEEGAN

All of Laguna, not just the hills, will be alive with the sound of music when the Laguna Beach Music Festival comes to town.

The 22nd annual event will bring music to the classrooms, parks, community rooms and stages of town, all with the focus of celebrating this medium starting February 12 and running through February 18. The three signature concerts will be held at the Laguna Playhouse during the weekend.

“I don’t know how it’s possible, but the festival just keeps getting better,” said Cindy Prewitt, a founder of the event and president of Laguna Beach Live! which collaborates with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County to present the festival. “It’s such an opportunity to hear this great music right in Laguna,” she said. “They (the musicians) are really all first-class artists that you’d usually have to travel elsewhere to hear.”

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Photos courtesy of Philharmonic Society of Orange County

Violinist virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers has an international reputation for her skill and innovation. Born in San Diego, she now lives in Los Angeles.

This year’s artistic director is world-renown violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. It includes New Chaconne, a world-premiere of work by composer Philip Glass, as well as programs that challenge traditional violin playing and even a partnership with Laguna Dance Festival, which comes to town the following week.

“I love cultivating and curating programs and I have a history working with living composers,” said Akiko Meyers. “This is a perfect opportunity to showcase some of the living legends that I’ve collaborated with and also work with loving friends.”

After a career with many international successes, Akiko Meyers was thrilled to return back to California about seven years ago and now lives in Los Angeles. “I invited a lot of friends to work with me (on the festival concerts) and they’re all based here in L.A., even though they’re world-renown artists. It’s a testament to California and what California brings to artists.”

The music performed will include pieces both established and innovative, the latter of which Akiko Meyers truly embraces. “I like to shake it up,” she said of the musical selections. She was part of a 2024 Grammy nomination for a piece she commissioned from Arturo Marquez, because she wanted to bring mariachi music into the concert hall.

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The artistic director of this year’s Laguna Beach Music Festival is violinist Anne Akiko Meyers

“I always had a curiosity for undiscovered works,” she said, while always being drawn to the melody that happens when musicians are in perpetual motion.

Her enthusiasm about the Friday opening night concert Metamorphoses is evident. It not only includes the world premiere of Glass’ work, but also his established “Metamorphosis II.” Other work includes Michio Miyagi’s “The Sea in Spring.” Dancers Megan Goldstein and Davon Rashawn will perform during “The Swan,” by Saint-Saens. In addition to the traditional violin, other instruments include the harp, played by Emmanuel Ceysson and electronic violin.

“They (the composers) all come from different places and they’re cultivating this musical language within themselves that speaks to me,” said Akiko Meyers, “and they’re telling a story that resonates with people and emotions and memories that we all carry.”

Saturday night’s concert, Doubles features Akiko Meyers with violinist Aubree Oliverson. The two will interplay their violins in work ranging from Bach to Mendelssohn.

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The final concert on Sunday afternoon, Carnaval, is an exciting lineup that includes piano, drums, marimba and double bass. The final piece, “Animals Carnaval,” is a reimagined piece by Gene Pritsker based on the fun-loving Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens.

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The three public concerts for the Laguna Beach Music Festival all feature Anne Akiko Meyers, but each has distinct offerings including a world premiere by composer Philip Glass

Each concert is far-reaching in itself, and offering the three diverse concerts in a row could intimidate many musicians. However, Akiko Meyers is thrilled at the opportunity.

“I’ve always had a passion and curiosity and interest in trying to bring the language of today forward to audiences in a way that is respecting the traditional classical works,” she said.

For this festival, Akiko Meyers selected works by composers who are all “gods in the music world” she explained and bringing forth their work in a contemporary setting has been an amazing process. “This is a maiden voyage here,” she laughed. But it’s always my philosophy of bringing a wide variety of composers and arrangements and pieces together. All these disparate pairings can just reach into your soul and shake it up.”

She is thrilled, and seems almost humbled, to present the world premiere of the piece by Glass, who just turned 87.

“He can still sit with a paper and a pencil in front of him and write this beautiful work that just flowed out of his fingertips. Now it can be appreciated by other violinists as well as artists everywhere,” she said. “It’s important to tap into this world – it gives so much, it’s so rich.”

The Philharmonic Society is thrilled with the approach Akiko Meyers has taken with this year’s festival and believes the community will benefit.

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The Laguna Beach Music Festival is a partnership with Laguna Live! and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, which is led by Tommy Phillips

“We try to create an atmosphere that is inviting on all levels,” said Tommy Phillips, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society. Prior to the three concerts at the Laguna Playhouse, there will also be musical performances at Laguna Beach schools, the Susi Q Center and even at Heisler Park, in conjunction with the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

“It’s not just a series of concerts,” he said. “But the artists are engaging with the schools and the community. It’s really all encompassing.”

The festival is a highlight of the Philharmonic’s programming said Phillips.

“It’s very popular with Laguna residents, but our regular subscribers attend because they’re seeing some of the finest classical musicians in the world in a very intimate setting. They’re hearing some of the greatest music ever and are being introduced to new music as well, so it’s inviting for everyone.”

For more information and tickets to the concerts, visit the website of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County by clicking here.


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