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Art and Music Together at Mission Viejo's Murray Center

Music at Mission Viejo's Murray Center very well may have the power both to make bears dance and to melt the stars.

First mentioned as a goal in 1978, finally opened in 1989, and recently remodeled and expanded in 2008, Mission Viejo’s stands at the end of Veterans Way, in Oso Viejo (“Old Bear”) Park, where it brings together art and music in indoor spaces and outdoor places for people of all ages to enjoy.

Inside, hung on the warm wooden walls of the center’s stately main corridor, are watercolors, oil paintings, or photographs, some of which are for sale. Held on the shelves of its display cases are changing exhibits that, during any given week, may include delicate ceramic pieces, long-cherished vintage hats, or a carefully documented collection of antique toy cars.

Outside, on the exquisitely landscaped Orchard Terrace, five 30-inch-by-30-inch framed works serve as focal points for curtained couch-and-chair seating areas.

And arranged around the Village Green are tile murals inspired by some of the important community events that have taken place there, including one mural that was created by members of the Mission Viejo community at Prelude in the Park 2009 to commemorate the ’s visit.

The Village Green is this community’s collective backyard. It is a broad expanse of grass that stretches from the Murray center’s main entrance to a distant stand of stately eucalyptus and, on a clear day, beyond to the twin peaks of Saddleback Mountain. Below it babbles Oso Creek. Near it stand bronze bears, sturdy reminders of its much wilder days, when brown old bruins fished its creeks and wandered its woods.

In Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s heroine Emma laments, “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” On warm evenings, stellar musicians gather on the Village Green to create rhythms that have those old bears tapping their toes and to play hauntingly beautiful melodies that can melt the stars.

For example, in late May, the Village Green was the site of a hot-ticket, cool-jazz event that brings together more than 30 distinguished musicians annually in support of South Orange County’s community jazz radio station, 88.5 FM. On Saturday, July 30, the Village Green will once again welcome the Pacific Symphony, under the baton of maestro Carl St.Clair, for a free concert as part of the Target Symphony in the Cities program.

Beautifully bridging the time gap between these two musical moments is the current Orchard Terrace exhibit of five pictures taken by photographer Steve Wylie of musicians in performance during the 2009 and 2010 Birthday Bashes.  These musicians are saxophonist Mindi Abair, guitarist Craig Chaquico, saxophonist Michael Lington, violinist Antonio Pontarelli and guitarist Peter White.

Though Wylie has taken both landscape and portrait photographs, he now specializes in stage photography because “the stage is where performers live.” His focus, he says, is on “capturing not only the essence of the performance, but also the essence (if only momentarily) of the person who is performing.”    

For Wylie, taking pictures at the Birthday Bash is “one of the great photographic joys” each year because he has the rare opportunity to capture world-class musicians in peak performances before a live audience.  To see more of Steve Wylie’s Birthday Bash photos, visit his website and click on the “Concerts” folder.

To learn more about events taking place at the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center, visit the website.

Dan Avery July 10, 2011 at 06:34 PM
A wonderful description of a jewel in Mission Viejo. I especially loved the use of Emma's lamentation, because the community center is every bit as wonderful as Flaubert's masterpiece. Every time I'm there I am so glad the city leaders didn't go with the "Costco patio furniture" idea. Thanks for the read, Sherri!
Trish Kelley July 11, 2011 at 03:57 AM
This is a great article about one of Mission Viejo's most lovely and most used facilities. So many individuals--from tiny children to senior citizens enjoy Oso Viejo Park and the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center. The daily activities, as well as special events, provide a wealth of opportunities and fun for all! Be sure to mark your calendars and attend the Target Symphony in the City, featuring the Pacific Symphony, on July 30. This free, outdoor concert is very always a special treat for our residents!

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