The Maestro and The European Pop Orchestra, Jan. 12–15

Classical Performers Take Center Stage at McCallum Theatre

From charismatic soloists to full-blast orchestras, classical performers have a warm home at Palm Desert’s McCallum Theatre.

June Allan Corrigan Arts & Entertainment

The Maestro and The European Pop Orchestra, Jan. 12–15

The Maestro and The European Pop Orchestra, Jan. 12–15. 

Classical music has a long and rich history at the McCallum Theatre. In each of his 24 seasons at the Coachella Valley’s premier performing arts center, president and artistic director Mitch Gershenfeld has endeavored to present several major concert artists and orchestras at the Palm Desert venue.

The 2023–2024 season is no exception with highlights including recitals by the world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming on Feb. 12 and the celebrated piano virtuoso Lang Lang on April 3. The McCallum’s ongoing relationship with the Palm Springs Friends of the Philharmonic continues to deliver world-class orchestral performances. “The half dozen or so major international orchestras they bring in each year add such a wonderful component to our classical music programming,” Gershenfeld says.

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Lang Lang, April 3.

Plus, the internationally acclaimed pianist Jeffrey Siegel, a perennial favorite at the theater, returns with his illuminating Keyboard Conversations program in January, February, and March. McCallum patrons have warmly received Siegel’s brilliantly polished concert-with-commentary performances for more than 20 years. “Jeffrey doesn’t get pedantic or overly technical,” Gershenfeld explains. “His programs are an engaging way to learn more about classical music. Even if you’re very familiar with the chosen works, he provides insights you just wouldn’t learn in music school.”

McCallum’s sophisticated patrons come from major cities and are accustomed to robust classical music offerings, and they support the depth and scope of McCallum’s programming for the time they spend in the desert. “There has always been an audience for classical music, and I believe there always will be,” Gershenfeld says. “New audiences arrive every year although people don’t necessarily come to classical music early on. It may be something they explore later in life.”

What passion cannot music raise and quell!

John Dryden

A performance scheduled for Feb. 2 could hasten that interest: “Hollywood’s ‘Music Man’: A Salute to the Music of John Williams” will feature some of the most beloved film scores created by a man widely recognized as the greatest living composer of music for motion pictures. The McCallum Theatre Orchestra, led by Grammy Award–winning conductor Richard Kaufman, will be perform music from Star Wars, E.T., Indiana Jones, and more.

“Viewed simply as symphonic music, John Williams’ scores are brilliant,” says Gershenfeld, noting he’s encouraged by this program’s ticket sales. “You can listen to his scores without the film, and they are every bit as enriching and enlightening because he is such a brilliant composer and orchestrator.”

Meanwhile, The Maestro & European Pop Orchestra appearing in January will prove that pop and classical music can harmoniously coexist. Conducted by orchestra leader and violin soloist Guido Dieteren and his wife, singer Wendy Kokkelkoren, the program promises to be a musical experience bursting with romance, emotion, passion, and energy.

Armando’s Bar

Renée Fleming, Feb. 12. 

In similar fashion, the Desert Symphony’s 2023-2024 season at the McCallum includes pop-infused symphonic performances such as An Enchanted Evening with Barbra in January, I Love the Piano with Tony De Sare in February, the Ted Vigil John Denver Tribute in March, and the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons homage entitled Let’s Hang On! in April.

There has always been an audience for classical music, and I believe there always will be.

mitch gershenfeld

It’s no accident that the McCallum Theatre was patterned after a European opera house. “People who know and love classical music come to our programs because one, we feature some of the best performers in the world,” Gershenfeld beams, “and two, the theater has a wonderfully intimate feel and incredible acoustics. It’s simply a world-class place to experience and enjoy these artists.”