Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) hosted its “2022 Gala Celebration: Simple Gifts” honoring esteemed nine-time Oscar-nominated film composer James Newton Howard (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Hunger Games franchise, Nightcrawler, Maleficent and The Bourne Legacy) and celebrating the musicians of LACO on April 29, 2022, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.
The black-tie event included a festive cocktail reception, elegant dinner and engaging live musical program featuring LACO Music Director Jaime Martín conducting the Orchestra in Copland’s beloved classic, Appalachian Spring, as well as the world premiere of a medley of two works from film scores by Howard, “The Wedding” from Wyatt Earp directed by Lawrence Kasdan, and “A Man & His Beasts Redux,” a suite from the Fantastic Beasts films directed by David Yates. Multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban introduced Howard at the gala, which included a virtual auction and paddle pledge and raised $675,000 to benefit the concert performances and educational initiatives of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Among the auction items were a private meet and greet with Howard and tour of his Santa Monica studio for the winner and three guests.
LACO Executive Director Ben Cadwallader stated, “It was an inspiring evening. The beautiful Beverly Wilshire was the perfect place to host LACO’s first gala in nearly three years. It was truly a celebration of artistry, philanthropy and friendship. We were stunned by the magnitude of generosity on display from LACO’s family of supporters, ensuring that this orchestra’s future is brighter than ever. James Newton Howard’s long and rich history recording with so many LACO musicians made him the perfect honoree for this year’s gala. His score, premiered alongside Copland’s Appalachian Spring, was a stirring tribute to the artistry of the evening’s second honoree: the stellar musicians of LACO.”
In his remarks following LACO’s performance, Howard said, “The music you played tonight was written for 85 musicians and singers. There were 13 of you on stage and it sounded absolutely incredible. The two directors who hired me to write the music you just heard are here with their wives – Larry Kasdan and David Yates. You have both given me the best musical opportunities imaginable. Thank you for giving me the best job in the world.” He also thanked his colleague Jeff Atmajian for his “brilliance in reducing the orchestrations from 100 musicians to 13.”
He noted that “several musicians in LACO have played on my scores for – dare I say – more than 20 years. My presence here tonight is consistent with LACO’s beginning in 1968 as an outlet for LA’s top session musicians. I like to think the reverse is also true – that recording a movie score can be challenging and satisfying and an opportunity for orchestral musicians to hone new skill sets. I am so grateful that I can be here with all of you tonight. If ever there was a time to make and listen to beautiful music, it is now.”
Introducing Howard, Groban said, “As a native Angeleno, I’ve long admired LACO’s extraordinary reputation in the music community. I’m here tonight to speak about a man who has set the musical mood for some of our most beloved and popular films and television series. Many of you have undoubtedly been moved to tears or joy, felt chills or thrills from his music scores throughout his illustrious career. James started out as a session musician for artists like Diana Ross and Ringo Starr, but his big break came when he auditioned as a keyboardist for Elton John and went on to tour with him throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. At that point every major recording artist was eager to work with him – Crosby, Stills and Nash; Melissa Manchester; Neil Diamond; Chaka Khan; Cher; Chicago; Rod Steward; Barbra Streisand…and more recently, well, ME!” (The gala’s printed program included tribute ads from Streisand and Sir Elton John and David Furnish, among others.)
Gala co-chairs were Jennifer Diener, Peggy Falcon and Carol Henry. Gala committee members includes Clare Baren, Deborah Cussen, Anne Grausam, Diane Henderson, Molly Kirk, Terri Kohl, Leslie Lassiter, Shaheen Nanji, Gene Shutler, Joyce Sommer, Anne-Marie Spataru, Mist Thorkelsdottir and Lauren Wing.
James Newton Howard is one of the film industry’s most versatile and honored composers, with a career spanning over thirty years and encompassing more than 140 film and television projects. He is a nine-time Oscar nominee, and Emmy and Grammy winner. Howard has also been honored with ASCAP’s prestigious Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement and the BMI ICON Award.
LACO ranks among the world’s top musical ensembles. Beloved by audiences and praised by critics, the Orchestra is a preeminent interpreter of historical masterworks and, with eight ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, a champion of contemporary composers. Headquartered in the heart of the country’s cultural capital, LACO has been proclaimed “America’s finest chamber orchestra” (Public Radio International), “LA’s most unintimidating chamber music experience” (Los Angeles magazine), “resplendent” (Los Angeles Times), and “one of the world’s great chamber orchestras”(KUSC Classical FM). Performing throughout greater Los Angeles, the Orchestra has made 32 recordings, including, most recently, a 2019 BIS Records release of works for violin and chamber orchestra that features Concertmaster Margaret Batjer and the world premiere recording of Pierre Jalbert’s Violin Concerto (a LACO co-commission). In 2020, due to the global pandemic, LACO pivoted from presenting live performances to producing the groundbreaking CLOSE QUARTERS interdisciplinary digital series melding musical and visual arts, which has garnered more than 1.8 million views across social media platforms since its debut in November 2020. The “digitally native” programs, created specifically for streaming and applauded as “musically and artistically compelling” (Los Angeles Times) have “redefined how classical music can be presented in the 21st century (Cultural Attaché). LACO, with offices located in downtown Los Angeles, has toured Europe, South America and Japan, and performed across North America. www.laco.org.