For the past 55 years, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) has provided an artistic outlet for some of the most prolific musicians in LA from its offices in Downtown.
On Sunday, Jan. 15, the ensemble will be joined by cello virtuoso Sheku Kanneh-Mason for a performance at Glendale’s Alex Theatre.
“Our musicians are primarily from the film and television industry. They’re top studio players,” said Ben Cadwallader, executive director at LACO. “I like to joke that, I would say 99% of people in America have heard the musicians of LACO perform before. If you’ve watched a Marvel movie, “Star Wars” movie or Pixar movie, the chances are you’ve heard our players perform. These are really among the top musicians on the planet, and when they get together, because it’s not a full-time orchestra, it’s what we call a per-service orchestra. … It really is like family coming back together.
“They love making music together and you hear that in the intimacy and the connectedness of the music that they make. Our audiences and the communities that we serve really come to us for that kind of personal connection to the musicians and to the art.”
Cadwallader described each performance as a homecoming and expressed particular excitement for the Alex Theatre show and the arrival of Kanneh-Mason, who Cadwallader named as “one of the world’s best cellists right now.”
Kanneh-Mason, winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition and the first Black musician to win the award since its launch in 1978, will perform Austrian composer Joseph Haydn’s famed Cello Concerto in D Major. The orchestra, conducted by music director Jaime Martín, will also perform French composer Joseph Bologne’s Symphony No. 1 in G Major as well as the works of siblings Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, including Overture in C Major and Symphony No. 4 in A Major, also known as “Italian,” to conclude the program.
“We are so lucky to have (Kanneh-Mason) performing with LACO,” Cadwallader said. “Jaime Martín and Sheku have worked together many times before. They love each other. They have very similar energy. Jaime’s energy from the podium and Sheku’s energy as a soloist work really nicely together. And the piece that they’ve chosen, Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major, this is a pretty traditional piece of music and true capital city classical music.
“As a lover of classical music, I, along with many in our audience, are really looking forward to seeing what the two of them bring out each other and out of the orchestra for this long-awaited solo appearance with LACO.”
It’s an appearance that Cadwallader described as years in the making, as Kanneh-Mason’s 2018 LACO debut was postponed after he was invited to perform Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding the same weekend. The performance was rescheduled for the end of the orchestra’s 2019-20 season, which was canceled due to COVID-19.
A graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music, Kanneh-Mason is now a Decca Classics recording artist and was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List. He also became the first cellist to reach the UK Top 10 after his 2020 album “Elgar” hit No. 8 in the main UK Official Album Chart. He plays a Matteo Goffriller cello from 1700, which is on indefinite loan to him.
“It’s a really wonderful program that has been put together and we’re thrilled to be presenting at the Alex Theatre,” Cadwallader said. “Being together, experiencing live music, experiencing beauty together, that’s a singular kind of shared human experience, and we have a lot of folks who are really hungry to get back together and experience that together. Our responsibility, of course, is to do that in the safest way possible, and so we strongly encourage mask wearing, but we don’t require it.
“One of the great things about the Alex, they have that outdoor food court area and during intermission it’s so nice to see people socializing together in a group outdoors … talking about the concert, having a glass of wine, maybe some snacks.
“That is really one of my favorite things about the arts: It’s experiencing the art itself, but it’s also having the opportunity to connect with other people around where they have this shared interest around the art. … Getting to do that at the Alex, it’s a perfect place for it and we really do strike a great balance between making sure it’s a safe environment where people feel comfortable and also allowing space for that singular, social connection that only the arts can provide.”