John Legend

Music sensation John Legend gives the LA Phil’s YOLA a leg up.

YOLA, LA’s youth orchestra, started out small. It began as LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel’s pet project. But it’s not small any more. Malibu music lovers helped pack the Hollywood Bowl in a sold-out performance for the youth orchestra and pop singer John Legend. 

The al fresco evening began on the outdoor patio where guests were treated to short rib sliders and fava bean puree on endive.  The place was blooming with vivid purple orchids, ivory hydrangeas, red calla lilies and spring tulips. They sipped specialty drinks made with sweet vermouth, sparkling white wine with a twist of orange. The crowd was casual but on trend with floral dresses set off by posh Burberry and Birkin bags.

Bowl goers were filled with stories from opening nights gone by: including mine. Oddly enough, my husband and I attended the big Beatles concert even though we didn’t meet until decades later. He was an usher working his first summer job and I was a six-year-old with my parents seated in what was then the then pool circle. “Oh, yes,” LA Phil Associate Development Richard T. Watkins said, “the Bowl is full of history and stories.” After swapping stories, soon it was show time.

The local gang made their way to their boxes and settled in for a gourmet summer dinner of broccoli kibbeh and chicken paillard topped with cucumber yogurt sauce.

Seen was lucky to be seated next to Elsje Kibler-Vermaas, the vice president of learning who oversees all educational programs for the LA Phil. She is a wealth of info and is especially proud of YOLA: “We went from 80 students in South LA and now we have 1,200 students all over the city. YOLA has become part of who we are. Gustavo is a true believer in access to all.” 

The program opened with the Bowl’s principal conductor, Thomas Wilkins, saying “This is like painting a doorway on to a brick wall. There is a lot of work you are seeing in front of you.”

YOLA did a knock-out job on tough classics including “Bacchanale” from Samson et Delilah.

After a brief intermission, John Legend made his entrance in a flashy blue satin tux and tails. The multitalented artist showcased his vast catalogue of hits including “Tonight,” a cover of the Beach Boys “God Only Knows” and the award winning “Green Light.” The evening went out with a bang with Oscar-winning “Glory” and a fireworks spectacular. All in all, it made for another “legendary” opening night at the Bowl. So, get out your picnic baskets, pack up the blankets and get ready for another sensational season of music magic. 

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