Get a taste of what summer is all about in Los Angeles. Learn more about "In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl" in this preview.
Many have believed that there is treasure in the Cahuenga Pass, but those who live in Los Angeles, or are more than passingly-familiar with the city, know that the real treasure lies in a little valley surrounded by hills: the Hollywood Bowl, a “natural sounding board … constructed by a freak of nature,” to borrow the words Alfred Hertz, one of the Bowl’s earliest conductors and “Father of the Bowl” used to describe it during a lecture to university students in 1924.
For almost a century, the Hollywood Bowl has been the place where beautiful genre-bending music is made and shared with everyone from all walks of life, which is why it has garnered such a following from Angelenos summer after summer. Its role in the city is so ingrained that, as COVID-19 took its toll on the world and forced the cancellation of the 2020 Hollywood Bowl Season, it prompted the Los Angeles Times headline, “So long, L.A. summer.”
But, the music has persisted at the Hollywood Bowl through wars, recessions and catastrophes. (“Hollywood Bowl Night” was one of the most popular radio programs offered by the Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II and the following years.) This year would continue that tradition, albeit in a new medium. Spurred by the cancellation of the summer concert season, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which operates the Hollywood Bowl, and PBS stations KCET and PBS SoCal, partnered to offer the city a different communal experience of music through a new television series “In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl.”
The six-episode series offers highlights from the best performances at the Hollywood Bowl in the last 10 years, but it’s more than that, said Juan Devis, chief creative officer for KCET and PBS SoCal. “We wanted to be able to tell a story within the season of ‘In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl’ and in each episode. What we wanted was to be able to capture the sense of diversity and inclusivity in the Hollywood Bowl’s history.”
In short, capture what is best about life in Los Angeles.
The Hollywood Bowl has always been a focal point for incredible dedication. In 1921, before there were box seats, volunteers helped level the floor of the Bowl until five acres had been cleared. “The Herculean effort involved cannot be appreciated in this day of bulldozers and earth movers. They had to use picks and shovels and sheer, back-breaking human effort to clear off the dense underbrush,” noted Grace Koopal, author of “Miracle of Music: the History of the Hollywood Bowl.” The work this time around may not have been the backbreaking physical kind, but it took an equal amount of love and goodwill.
Click through some moments in Hollywood Bowl history
To be able to air these performances, LA Phil had to get artists and everyone on board. “We went out to everyone and asked if we’re able to use this footage, and they were all so enthusiastic and supportive,” said Meghan Martineau, vice president of artistic planning at LA Phil. “It’s kind of an incredible collaboration not just between PBS, PBS stations KCET and PBS SoCal, and the LA Phil, but also all the artists featured in the program.”
The response to the project is a testament to the special place the Hollywood Bowl has in L.A. life, perhaps because of the spirit of inclusion in which it has historically operated. Some nights, the hills ring with the beautiful notes of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” On others, the incredible First Lady of Song Ella Fitzgerald or the tropipop (tropical pop) sound of Carlos Vives would bring the house down. It has been a place for high school graduations, a Native American inter-tribal ceremony, a wedding (composer Percy Grainger to Swedish poet Ella Viola Ström) a baby’s birth (under the stage during a concert in 1926), countless marriage proposals and first dates to name a few.
Click through to see photos from memorable performances in Hollywood Bowl history
The season captures that same esprit de corps. It takes audiences through an expansive look at music all around the world — from cumbia, Mexican alternative rock, ballet, orchestral music and pop, with LA Phil Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel taking audiences through that journey.
Embraced by the hills beneath the glittering stars, the Hollywood Bowl is a reflection of the best Los Angeles can offer, in artistic prowess, in diversity and in bringing people together. “We hope people still get that communal experience,” Martineau said, “... a little bit of the Hollywood Bowl right there in their living room, that there’s still a little bit of that summer and a little bit of joy out there to experience.”
As Dudamel says in the series, “The Hollywood Bowl continues to be a place where the diverse communities of Los Angeles can see themselves on stage and in the audience. Through music, we are invited into the stories of others and have the opportunity to share our own.”
Mark your calendars, see the Hollywood Bowl in a new light and catch these never-before aired performances below.
Episode 1: Musicals and Movies
Fri., January 15, 2021 at 9 p.m.
Dive into the love affair between Hollywood and Broadway in this episode celebrating classic songs from Broadway musicals and classic cinema. Enjoy selections from Leonard Bernstein’s love letter to New York City, “On the Town,” performed by Sutton Foster and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Enjoy the sass and soaring musicality of Kristen Chenoweth, and revel in six-time Tony Award winning performer Audra McDonald’s performance of “When Did I Fall In Love” from “Fiorello!,” “Make Someone Happy” from “Do Re Mi” and Hollywood Bowl favorite Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Episode 2: Hecho en México (Made in Mexico)
Fri., January 22, 2021 at 9 p.m.
Before becoming part of the United States, Los Angeles was a Mexican city – El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles. You’ll find that history and cultural influence everywhere, including the Hollywood Bowl. This episode pays tribute to the city’s roots and features beloved Mexican and Mexican American artists performing with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil. Tune in to watch Rodrigo y Gabriela, acoustic guitarists who never quite left their rock and roll past behind; Los Ángeles Azules with YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) and Paolo Bortolameolli playing a combination of old-style cumbia with new-school electro-beats; and Natalia Lafourcade, who brings the beauty of traditional Mexican music to life.
Episode 3: Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl
Fri., January 29, 2021 at 9 p.m.
Since the first jazz concert in 1939, the genre has been a hallmark at the Hollywood Bowl. From then on, many music greats have graced its stage: Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis among them. See what makes jazz nights at the Hollywood Bowl such an experience as you hear from the LA Phil’s Creative Chair for Jazz, Herbie Hancock. Watch Dianne Reeves, one of the greatest jazz singers today, perform Astrud Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova classic “How Insensitive” with Brazilian musician Ivan Lins, Afro-Cuban jazz pioneer Chucho Valdes’s playing his own “Bebo,” Cécile McLorin Salvant’s inventive take on “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story” and Kamasi Washington pushing the boundaries of music with his song “Truth.” For the finale, see how the supergroup Mega Nova jams, featuring heavy-hitters Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller and Cindy Blackman Santana.
Episode 4: Gustavo and Friends
Fri., February 5, 2021 at 9 p.m.
Each summer since 1922, the Hollywood Bowl has gathered together a community through love of music. In this episode, watch some of host Gustavo Dudamel’s favorite orchestral performances from throughout the years, and hear past performers take us through their memorable Hollywood Bowl moments. Watch American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland join Dudamel and the LA Phil for selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” the LA Phil performing Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández in a selection from Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and the finale from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Episode 5: Fireworks!
Fri., February 5 at 10 p.m.
A Hollywood Bowl summer is never complete without fireworks. In this episode, we bring the party home to you with Katy Perry appropriately singing her hit “Firework,” the “little orchestra” Pink Martini performing classical, pop, and jazz — all while singing in 15 languages, flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, Dudamel leading the LA Phil in Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” and John Williams conducting the orchestra in his iconic music from “Star Wars.”
Episode 6: Música Sin Fronteras (Music Without Borders)
Fri., February 12, 2021 at 9 p.m.
When it comes to music, there are no borders. Immerse yourself in a Pan-American musical journey starting with Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” performed by Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, narrated by legendary Dodgers sportscaster Vin Scully. Hear Colombian singer-actor Carlos Vives sing “La Tierra de Olvido” and “La Gota Fria.” Then, listen to visionary Mexican rock band Café Tacvba reminisce about their performances at the Hollywood Bowl, and enjoy their performance of “El Baile y El Salon,” one of the great love songs of the ’90s. Finally, see Venezuelan flamenco artist Siudy Garrido perform her original choreography for Manuel de Falla’s “El amor brujo” – one of the few orchestra pieces written for flamenco dance — with Paolo Bortolameolli and the LA Phil.
Source: Los Angeles Philharmonic Archives
Editor's note: The article has been updated to reflect the PBS National airing of "In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl."
Top Image: Hollywood Bowl shell with orchestra on stage. Taken on August 15, 2009. | Adam Latham