The Valley Line: Music and nanomechanics

August 10, 2011|By Jane Napier Neely
  • Actress Angela Bassett performs onstage at the opening of "MUSE/IQUE." (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)
Actress Angela Bassett performs onstage at the opening…

My goodness we are already into the dog days of summer, having experienced some sizzling days of triple-digit thermometer readings. However, unlike residents of the East Coast, we are blessed with cool nights.

No, we don’t have those magical lightning bugs to enchant us so we won’t complain about how hot the night is. But in their place, I will accept an occasional mosquito bite and a heavenly cool breeze after the sun sets every summer night.

These are busy times in and around our community and we certainly do enjoy our outdoor summer-evening concerts.

It was a lovely evening recently (after an extremely hot day) when Rachael Worby and her newly-formed orchestra, Muse/ique, presented its inaugural concert on the Caltech campus. The concert, set in the lovely olive grove near Beckman Auditorium, found guests dressed in chic California casual attire settled in with their picnic baskets at tables covered with pink and purple cloths.


It was certainly the hottest ticket in town, as more than 1,000 concert-goers came to see the magic that Worby, who was conductor of Pasadena Pops for more than a decade, would be creating.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory was well represented, with two tables of scientists and support staff. JPL Director Charles Elachi was out of town, but he made certain that those tables were filled.

Worby didn’t disappoint. She presented a mix of nontraditional music fare. The evening’s program was a kaleidoscope of different sounds, rhythms and words.

The evening began with the magnificent voice of the grande dame of opera, Jessye Norman, who emerged, almost as a goddess vision, from the olive trees. Her powerful voice, singing Bernstein’s “Somewhere,” reverberated from the surrounding buildings and filled the Beckman Mall with a richness that was breathtaking.

At the age of 66, after a spectacular career singing on the great opera stages of the world, Norman has reinvented herself and her music as she embraces the music of American composers such as Ellington, Gershwin and Bernstein. A pin drop could have been heard when she sang the beautiful, “Summertime,” from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”

Norman movingly returned to her early Georgia roots when she sang a cappella three soulful spirituals. Another emotionally-charged time came when she sang “Amazing Grace,” also a cappella.

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