Like many of us, COVID-19 had me sad and lonely. There were no events to go to, no charity dinners to support nothing to write about—no nothing.
But last week, I realized the thing I missed the most was the L.A. Phil. After nearly two years of silence, they celebrated with an electrifying concert and gala. I felt like my old self again.
After more than a year and a half, Gustavo Dudamel and the Phil had their Homecoming Concert Gala at Disney Hall. After receiving a thunderous ovation when Gustavo hit the stage, the Phil featured a new composition by Gabriela Ortiz and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor. Music lovers went wild.
“Wow!” the conductor said with a sigh. “Welcome back.”
Malibu music supporters like Marc and Eva Stern couldn’t be happier to see the hall back open.
When I covered the arrival of Dudamel (who went on to become a worldwide phenomenon), his hair was all black and he said very little because he didn’t speak English. Now, his hair is totally gray and he chats away. “How we have missed playing in this Frank Gehry concert hall,” Dudamel said. “We have counted 579 days [away] and now here we are. All this would be impossible without your support. We are here to celebrate.” It was the first season opening gala in two years. The music and artistic director talked about the pandemic setback and how it at least provided the chance for new beginnings.
In the first portion of the program, the Phil had Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho at the keyboard. He was the perfect foil for the music director’s energetic creativity.
In between sets, dozens of people pulled out their iPhones for a peek at the Dodgers score.
Next came a dazzling performance by actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, who put together a medley of appropriate virus and homecoming songs including “Somewhere (There’s a place for us)” from West Side Story, “Feeling Good,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” “Feeling Good” had steamy, sassy feeling of a Parisian deco dance club and was the Phil like you have never heard them before.
The evening began with a fashionable garden party. Some women went wild in animal print sequins or elegant chiffon gowns; guys wore ties and tuxes. Servers passed around champagne and caviar and fancy sequined masks to suit the occasion.
There was lots of Dodger talk. “They have two men on!” said one gala goer to local politicians Roz Wyman and Zev Yaroslavsky.
Then it was show time and Gustavo and the Phil were thrilled to be back in their beloved home. The performance was on and Dudamel—also known as “The Dude”—had everyone in a trance-like state.
Proceeds from the gala will go to help the Phil’s music education programs like YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles). These programs bring the joy of music to 150,000 young people and their families every year.
The program wrapped up with Mahler’s First Symphony delivered in strong, bold Gustavo style. There was a long and very enthusiastic standing ovation for an amazing show. The dude said the cheering supporters on their feet made the homecoming possible.
“I thank you very much and [I] love you from all my heart,” The Dude gushed. And thank you, LA Phil, for finally making me feel normal again.