Sounds of H’w’d leave Disney Hall speechless

Despite p.a. problems, no mouse music, venue bow a hit

What was the tenor of the conversations following Saturday night’s “Soundstage L.A.” concert, the third in the L.A. Philharmonic’s bow at Walt Disney Concert Hall?

First, all agreed the hall is like the inside of a violin with its astounding use of woods, with so many soft curves in a building that is modern to the nth degree. Yet, the concert hall remains warm and mellow. And yes, the musicians were magnificent under the batons of both John Williams and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

But every one at the post-concert supper tables in the block-long shimmering tent alongside the Disney Hall asked several questions. First among them, “Howcum no proper sound system for those speaking/singing on stage?” Even Frank Gehry, the master designer of the Hall who has been receiving deserved bows for his creation, turned to his next seat concert-goer and asked, “What are they saying?”

He was referring to the opening remarks by Steven Spielberg, and subsequent introductions by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Hanks of music from — Hollywood: The Golden Era and Hollywood: The Modern Era. Even soloists Brian Stokes Mitchell, Josh Groban and Audra McDonald’s talents were slighted by the p.a. system. It was disappointing that after two previous nights’ outings, plus many rehearsals, the human voice was so manhandled while the musicians’ instruments were handled with kid gloves. Let the fine tuning begin here!

The representatives of “Hollywood” were in the minority at the event. But there were several from the music world with whom I spoke who also decried the failure of the sound system to honor those who spoke and sang. Included in this group were Hal David and Ian Fraser. UCLA Dean Bob Rosen, seated near us was also wondered about the sound system shortcomings.

And many of the “civilians” noted the complete absence of any music from Disney films in the program. Would it have hurt to close the show with “When You Wish Upon A Star?” Or any song from a movie from Disney — now celebrating its 80th anniversary as the Disney Hall opens?

The Henry Mancini Institute orchestra played for the Soundstage Ball and struck up Henry Mancini’s beloved “Baby Elephant Walk” as guests, including Ginny Mancini, entered the party … Steven Spielberg was surrounded by his family at his table. In addition to opening the program, he and Kathleen Kennedy helped produce the evening. But, he modestly told me, the job was minimal. He noted it was easy for him to take on this duty while also filming “The Terminal” five days a week on a giant set, complete with plane mockups reproducing JFK in Palmdale.

Coincidentally, the program’s Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones (there sans Michael Douglas) co-star in “Terminal” and John Williams, as usual, is musicreating for Spielberg, who has dropped 20 pounds on doctor’s advice. DreamWorks’ Walter Parkes and wife Laurie McDonald were also there.

At one table, were the Academy’s Bruce Davis, past president Bob Rehme and Sid Ganis. The possibility of staging the Oscars at Disney Hall? “We’re locked into the Kodak,” Davis reminded me.

I also asked Jean Firstenberg if she’d like to have the AFI Awards at the Disney Hall? “In a minute” she quickly responded.

Also there: Disney Hall board member and Dodger fan Roz Wyman, who was cheering for the Marlins to win the World Series on Saturday night, and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who are busy in rehearsals across the street from the Disney at the Taper for “Like Jazz” with Cy Coleman, Larry Gelbart and Gordon Davidson.

Among others from Hollywood: Ron Silver, Dana Delany, Dennis Hopper, Megan Mullally, Pat Newcomb and Gareth Wigan, Dan Melnick and Felisa Vanoff, Jim Wiatt, Martin Baum, Sandy Gallin, Carole and Bill Haber, back from a lengthy trip to China, Cynthia (Sikes) and Bud Yorkin, who’s A-OK following angioplasty at Stanford Medical Center.

At the party, gorgeous gowns abounded and Harry Winston jewelry sparkled. Joachim Splichal’s Patina catered with supper, the finale the traditional waiters’ parade with flaming baked Alaska … A program note also told us that “The concert is generously sponsored by Gallo of Sonoma, preferred wine of the L.A. Philharmonic.” The musicians were appropriately toasted with repeated standing ovations following the regular program and encores … A wave of pride swept over everyone departing the newest addition to our town. P.S. We were also thankful to get an extra hour’s sleep thanks to the end of Daylight Saving!