More grim employment news for the San Gabriel Valley reported in the Pasadena Star News.  The unemployment rate held virtually steady at 12.2% countywide.  And the small, affluent town of Bradbury seven miles east of Pasadena has no one on the unemployment rolls and is still facing a rate of 7.3%.

Last night marked two sad milestones in the Pasadena Symphony’s 82-year history and shows that the wrenching changes undergoing arts organizations in the Pasadena area (indeed everywhere), especially the Symphony, are still playing out.

The performance was the last for the Symphony to play at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium before moving to its new home at the Ambassador Auditorium on the former Ambassador College campus west of Old Town.  The Ambassador has the reputation of being “acoustically perfect” and is about half the size of the Pasadena Civic, which will certainly mean fewer empty seats at concerts (and there are a LOT of empty seats these days).  To me, though, it seems that a city-sponsored orchestra should perform in the city-owned venue, especially when it’s gorgeous, and right in the middle of a civic and commercial center.  It doesn’t seem right that they should move to a private church that’s isolated on an empty campus blocks away from anything.

The performance was also the last for longtime music director Jorge Mester.  After 25 years at the helm, contract negotiations fell through over a pay cut and he and the orchestra parted ways.  This news hit the day before the last performance of the season and I think came as a surprise to many.  The Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena POPS have been in dire fiscal straits and merged a few years ago to help keep the organizations afloat.  The “Recovery Plan for a Sustainable Future” unveiled last year included a 10% cut for Mester, among others, but apparently recent negotiations were unsuccessful.  I hope this shift in key artistic personnel doesn’t damage the orchestra more than the $200,000 budget deficit already is.

The LA Times has a review of the evening.

Here’s Jorge Mester’s goodbye after the “Bravo Beethoven” performance, including the orchestra’s send-off: