This season, Musica Angelica is bringing its Baroque orchestra out of the concert hall and into a quintessential public space: The Long Beach Public Library.
Energizing new and underserved audiences is an effort that the Long Beach orchestra has continually taken to heart — from giving free concert tickets to college students to driving educational outreach programs at the Long Beach Unified School District.
The free Community Concert monthly series will begin Dec. 2 at the Billie Jean King Main Library before it’s offered at other branches across the city.
The concerts will offer the public a rare, up-close experience with the orchestra’s world-class musicians. For a show that might normally cost anywhere from $45 to $85, attendees will get access to the only local Baroque orchestra performing with period instruments free of charge.
“It’s a way to bring the art form directly to the community, and we feel that libraries are an ideal place because they’re a kind of meeting place for a lot of people,” said Musica Angelica Executive Director Matthew Faulkner. “We think it’s just a fabulous way to bring period instrument playing directly to the community because there’s big issues about access to the arts.”
The new Community Concert series marks a sort of aspirational bridging for the 30-year-old orchestra, hitting their educational outreach, diversity and accessibility goals. The hour-long show will also include a lecture for both adults and children to enjoy.
The inaugural show will be led by Musica Angelica’s principal cellist Alexa Haynes-Pilon, a Baroque multi-instrumentalist who has performed with a slew of distinguished ensembles across North America and Europe. Among her many career points, her preference for animal gut-stringed cellos (the traditional practice for centuries) also made for a fitting recording credit on the gruesome crime thriller television series “Hannibal.”
The Canadian-born musician is also quite the historian of early Baroque cello music. Her doctoral research at the University of Southern California zeroed in on Italian composers from the 1680s and 1690s from Modena, Ferrara and Bologna.
At the Community Concert on Dec. 2, she’ll be performing music from Giovanni Gabrieli, Giuseppe Colombi, Achille Galli and Tomaso Antonio Vitali — all of whom she says created music for cello that’s well-suited for first-time listeners.
“These are some of the first guys to kind of dive into unaccompanied cello repertoire so it’s a lot more approachable because a lot of pieces are shorter,” she said. “So especially if there are children in the audience having a two- or three-minute piece is a bit more approachable.”
Audiences can expect about 30 minutes of music. Children will also be given coloring materials and be asked to draw whatever the music inspires.
In keeping with the orchestra’s ethos, Hayes-Pilon will be performing on a Baroque instrument — a replica Montagnana cello, “which means that it has a larger body, which gives it a deeper, more resonant sound,” she said. Her original 18th-century cello, crafted by English luthier John Morrison in 1790, stays at her other home on the East Coast.
“I have to buy its own seat for it,” she said about the travel precautions.
The other half of the program will include a lecture and a question-and-answer portion, the part Haynes-Pilon says will be the most rewarding.
“It’s all about accessibility, and you don’t often get that in a big concert hall because it’s the stage and the audience. You don’t get that kind of connection,” she said. “For the younger generations, it’s about planting that seed and sparking the imagination and allowing them to be curious and ask questions.
“When I’m retired, I just want to know that maybe one of these outreach concerts got someone to start playing because they were excited about what they saw.”
Community Concerts with Haynes-Pilon will start at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2 in the Miller Room at the Billie Jean King Main Library. The monthly concert series will continue with single shows through April with local visits scheduled at the Los Altos Neighborhood Library, the Dana Neighborhood Library and Michelle Obama Public Library.