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A Symphony Seeks To Express The Pain — And Hope — Of 2020

The Pacific Symphony on stage at Segerstrom Hall.
Pacific Symphony
(Doug Gifford
Pacific Symphony)
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Pacific Symphony Seeks To Express The Pain — And Hope — Of 2020

As the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death approaches, the Pacific Symphony in Orange County will perform a tribute that reflects the experiences, lessons and historic moments of the past year.

The symphony commissioned composer John Christopher Wineglass to write a piece speaking to the tragedy of our collective loss to COVID, while also addressing the year’s reckoning with social justice and systemic racism.

The result is a nine-minute ensemble piece titled “Alone Together.”

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Jacob Sustaita, the symphony’s assistant conductor, said the piece tells a story that speaks to everyone because we all experienced it.

“Each one of us can relate to the isolation, the frustration, the wanting,” he said. “I want to be back with people, I want life to go back to normal, I want to be connected. There is this part in the piece where ... someone would come to someone’s house, but saw them only through the window.”

Despite the difficulty of the past year regarding race, Wineglass said his piece reflects his desire for — and belief in — progress and change.

“[There was] a longing for common ground but no footing, no continuity … [I was] lost in a midst of unbelief of what I was witnessing with my very own eyes in this land of ‘equality,’” he said. “But, I still believe in and have hope — a hope deferred at the moment, but a hope nonetheless.”

Sustaita added that the composition gains power and depth in part because it merges the political with the emotional.

“Throughout history, so many incredible composers and wonderful works have stood as political statements or statements of injustice,” Sustaita said. “The beauty of classical music is that it is open to interpretation. The way I hear [and] experience it should be different — and will be different — from the way you hear it and experience it, and that is the beauty of art.”

The world premiere of John Christopher Wineglass’ piece, “Alone Together” will be performed by the Pacific Symphony on May 25. Streaming details can be found here.