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A classical 'Connection'

Huntington Beach Symphony's upcoming show may feel like a stroll down the Champs-Elysees in France.

April 10, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Grant Sevdayan, music director of the Huntington Beach Symphony.
Grant Sevdayan, music director of the Huntington Beach…

Grant Sevdayan founded the Huntington Beach Symphony to fill a vacuum in the local musical landscape.

Although the city offered a vibrant rock scene, Sevdayan also knew of formally trained classical musicians who were forced to stay home or drive 15 or 20 miles to find an orchestra.

"People now have the chance to play music and exercise their skills," said Sevdayan, a Torrance resident. "They are able to serve the community and feel important and inspired."

Taking its roots in a communitywide group that performed at events starting in 2006, the nonprofit orchestra was incorporated in 2009, said Sevdayan, 55.

The Huntington Beach Symphony is now getting amped up to perform at the Huntington Beach Library Theater at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. At "The French Connection," guests will be treated to renditions of luminaries including Claude Debussy, Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns, Christoph Gluck, Charles-Francois Gounod, Georges Bizet and Hector Berlioz.

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"These pieces are written by the French or composers who lived in France for long enough to be considered representative of the culture," Sevdayan said. "Paris was an attractive place where a lot of people settled, whether from England, Germany or Italy. Our goal is to showcase the greatest music that was written by these composers."

Along with selections from Faust and Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," there will be French singing, Sevdayan said. The musical director and conductor said he hopes the audience will appreciate the "beauty of the language."

A part of the show is dedicated to Phyllis Janet Heckman, an 80-year-old Huntington Beach resident who died in March from pneumonia and congestive heart failure after a long battle.

"It was my idea to dedicate the performance to my grandma, and I'm so thankful the symphony is making that idea a reality," said Heckman's granddaughter, Danielle Janaé Leone, a musician with the symphony. "Although my grandma was too weak to be active with the symphony, she always supported my music endeavors. Because I knew I would be the flute soloist on Debussy's 'Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,' I knew the performance would be very personal for me. The moment I play this piece, I know my grandma will be listening."

Leone, 27, of Huntington Beach, has been playing music for 15 years. Most flute players study "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" from a young age, she explained, which adds to her thrill of playing it professionally.

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