Seal Beach Symphony ‘Love Songs’ finally brings music home

Chad Berlinghieri, center, with Soprano Teresa Mai, left, and Hai Ngugen with a check denoting pledges of $100,000 for the Seal Beach Symphony. Courtesy photos

It many ways, the evening was a symphony in the sounds of life.

A large crowd jammed into the makeshift ballroom at Old Ranch Country Club Saturday to hear the first notes of what has become the Seal Beach Symphony, as they accompanied some of the world’s top vocalists and musicians.

And, for the first time, the annual Valentine’s event entitled “Love Songs” was held in Seal Beach. For producer Chad Berlinghieri, after seven years, the music finally came home.

“We’ve done all these events throughout southern California,” said the Cathedral Productions artistic director, “but now that we’ve become the Seal Beach Symphony, we want to focus our efforts on our hometown.”

In between three courses served by Chef Joseph Flores, the appreciative hometown crowd was dazzled by voices, violins and virtuosos. They were accompanied by the Seal Beach Symphony String Ensemble under the direction of Downey composer Lars Clutterham.

Wait a minute, what is the Seal Beach Symphony?

According to Berlinghieri, the idea of a having a symphony in Seal Beach has taken hold and significant support is already in place.  “It’s an entity that we’ve just started, we’ve already got a staff of five administrators and we’re pulling some fantastic players from Los Angeles and Orange County.”

Berlinghieri is a long-time resident of Seal Beach. Although he is perhaps best known as a cantor at St. Anne’s Church, Berlinghieri is himself a tenor of some renown, having toured internationally with major productions.

“As the artistic director of the Seal Beach symphony, we’re now focusing our efforts on the home front and we feel that Seal Beach is the community that can sustain a symphony,” he said.

“It is a very expensive endeavor,” he acknowledged, “but we feel like Seal Beach is a community that can support that.” Berlinghieri said donors have already stepped forward. “We’ve already raised $100,000 in pledges so that we can qualify for grant and foundation funding,” he said.

“The event itself was fantastic,” he said, adding that Old Ranch Country Club was “very accommodating, the staff was fantastic, and I heard from everyone how much they enjoyed it.

Berlinghieri and his staff had to prepare Old Ranch for the event. In the open ballrooms, his team built a stage, installed stage lights across the room and wired the room for sound. And because of special dancers, they had to prepare a dance floor.

“For Love Songs this year, we built a bigger, better mousetrap, adding different layers of production and the Seal Beach Symphony,” he said.

Soprano Sangeeta Teresa Mai, a crowd favorite and “Love Song” veteran, opened the show and elevated the crowd with a rendition of “The Hills are Alive” from the “Sound of Music.” What followed were many classical show tunes sung by Mai, Baritone Ben Lowe from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Katie Dixon, a star straight from Broadway and a USO tour.

Also performing Saturday evening, straight from his European Tour, was solo Violinist Filip Pogády. Playing on an Alessandro Gagliano violin, crafted back in 1704, (gifted to him by an anonymous donor), Pogády made the instrument sing.

The superstar violinist captured the hearts of the crowd with his bow by taking them to the movies, playing “Por Una Cabeza” from “Scent of a Woman.”

Pogády rejoined the Seal Beach Symphony to accompany professional dancers Jordi Caballero and Ekaterina Fedosova, both alums from the hit TV show Dancing with the Stars, as they wowed everyone to the tune of Tanguera.

Pianist Curtis Heard, part of the Seal Beach Symphony, also provided soothing transitions introducing the artists and as the courses were served.

Berlinghieri was the evening’s emcee and also performed two solos, singing Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never,” and the Jerry Vale classic, Pretend You Don’t See Her.

“I was very happy with the string players and honestly, I think the entire evening was a huge artistic success. Given the gamble of moving the event to Old Ranch,” Berlinghieri said. He said the staff and management rolled out the red carpet for the step and repeat (which is a banner with logos that participants pose in front of while entering an event).

He also said they did a very effective job of serving the meals throughout the entertainment blocks. From a logistical standpoint, the Seal Beach location “was a homerun,” he said. “I think that Seal Beach deserves only the very best,” he said, “and that’s what we bring to the table.”

An evening of Love Songs. Cathedral Productions, Chad Berlinghieri