On Top Of The World: Pacific Symphony Musicians cover

On Top Of The World: Pacific Symphony Musicians

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One lovely spring day, three ethereal creatures made heavenly music high above Orange County.
Surrounded by staggering views, the glittering trio of Pacific Symphony musicians—Cindy Ellis, Mindy Ball and Alice Wrate—gathered at Orange Hill restaurant to pose for this program book’s cover.





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On Top Of The World: Pacific Symphony Musicians

Cindy Ellis, Mindy Ball and Alice Wrate

One lovely spring day, three ethereal creatures made heavenly music high above Orange County.

Surrounded by staggering views, the glittering trio of Pacific Symphony musicians—Cindy Ellis, Mindy Ball and Alice Wrate—gathered at Orange Hill restaurant to pose for this program book’s cover. Cindy, who’s been playing piccolo and flute with the orchestra since 1979, lives nearby with her husband, Symphony trumpeter, Tony Ellis. She calls the restaurant an iconic landmark and notes, “The sunset views are superb!”

Mindy, who’s been principal harpist for the Symphony (for 36 years) and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and serves on five university faculties, says she’s played hundreds of weddings, receptions and parties since the late ’70s at Orange Hill.

Seeing Forever

Seeing Forever

“My family has had many memorable occasions here, including my high school graduation dinner. So I’ve seen many breathtaking views. After a Santa Ana wind, you can see forever… I also fulfilled the mountain- driving portion of my driver-education test on the road leading up to the restaurant!” she laughs.

Multi-Talented

Both Mindy and Cindy were principals for Opera Pacific, and Mindy also played for Pittsburgh Opera and performed for Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. All three women have recorded on numerous soundtracks for feature films, TV, commercials and cartoons.

“The first time I came here,” says Alice, who’s been a member of the Symphony’s second violin section since 1996, “it was to play at a wedding reception. But there were fires burning thousands of acres in the area so there was certainly no view. When I arrived for this photo shoot, I understood why Orange Hill is such a destination. The view is spectacular!”

Alice Wrate

During the summers, Alice travels the world performing with orchestras in Europe and South America. She’s attended festivals such as the National Repertory Orchestra’s summer music festival and Garth Newell Chamber Music Festival. She’s also played with the San Diego Symphony and Opera Pacific.

“I felt like I was on top of the world and I could just enjoy the beauty of nature and not be a part of the busyness down below,” continues Alice. “It reminded me why I love to hike. When I’m at the top of a mountain it puts life in perspective. Nature is a sanctuary for me and when I stop to appreciate it, I feel renewed.”

Sanctuary

Another sanctuary for all of the women is, of course, music. Cindy calls playing “transportive.” “It touches emotions of every kind on a regular basis. I think some of the Mahler symphonies are particularly heavenly.

I look forward to our upcoming performance of Mahler’s Second next season (“Resurrection”). The ending of that work is quite powerful.”

Alice acknowledges “there are so many moments when I feel blessed to do what I do: when I’m playing La Bohème and I’m humming the arias all week; when we play Beethoven’s Ninth and the words coupled with the music overwhelm me with joy; when we perform with a world-renowned violinist like Pinchas Zukerman and I’m inspired by his playing and his words of wisdom…there are just so many moments that transport me to a higher place.”

Cindy Ellis

Cindy fell in love with the sound of the flute when she was very young. “Too little to hold it, in fact,” she says. “We watched symphony broadcasts on TV and I remember making a ‘flute’ out of cardboard covered in foil—seemed like a shiny replica to me!

I was in church choirs and took piano lessons until I was old enough to begin playing (at that time they did not make little flutes: nowadays the re-curved head joints can make the flute shorter for smaller arms and hands). I was 9 years old when I got my first flute and started lessons…June 15 was the exact day.”

Much In Common

Much In Common

Cindy shares a love of chamber music with Alice, and also frequently serves as principal flutist for touring ballet companies on their Orange County stops, including Royal Ballet of London, Stuttgart Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet.

The first time Alice heard the violin she knew she had to play it. “I’d heard other instruments and taken piano lessons, but they didn’t speak to me the way the violin did. It stirred my soul and still does today! Favorite piece? Good luck getting me to pin one down.”

Mindy Ball

“I saw the harp when I was a very little girl,” recalls Mindy, “and knew then I wanted to be a harpist. After many years, I was able to convince my folks I was serious and it would be a good investment (harps are expensive!).

My favorite piece is always what we are currently playing. But, I particularly enjoy Tchaikovsky—with all the wonderful harp cadenzas.”

Mindy says her years with Pacific Symphony have been “very special, especially performing with all the incredible guest artists along with our phenomenally talented musicians. Our 2006 European tour was especially meaningful to me.” She adds, “And our photo shoot was so much fun!”