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Explainer: What's Up With the Orchestra Mural on the 110?

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How many millions of motorists have passed beneath this giant, multipaneled mural on the 110 Freeway and wondered, who the hell is that and why are they such a big deal? Considering that the third and final panel of the mural was completed by artist Kent Twitchell in 1994, there are Charlie-Sheen-in-Wall Street-wannabes working Downtown right now who can't even remember a time when the mural didn't loom over one of the busiest stretches of freeway in the region. (For the record, Twitchell is the same muralist who painted the Ed Ruscha mural that was subject to some litigation a few years back.) The mural, known as the Harbor Freeway Overture, celebrated its twentieth anniversary back in December and is an 11,000 square foot marketing piece for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. It required 500 gallons of paint and 2,000 hours to complete, and, according to the LACO website, there is a little bit of mural wizardry involved in the work's faux-fresco appearance: "Although the work appears to be a fresco, painted directly onto the walls of the structures, it is actually painted on a non-woven media, a blend of polyester and cellulous."

The mural was painted a long time ago, so it's easy to imagine that its subjects are wildly different people than they were when they rose to such literal prominence. Maybe some of them are running a hippie commune in Sedona, and others quit the violin and joined a speed metal band in Oklahoma City. Who knows? Unfortunately, the lives of the mural's subjects are too tame for an episode of VH1 Behind the Music, even if the faces on the mural have changed since 1994. The woman on the left, Julie Gigante, still plays the violin. According to an LA Times article celebrating the mural's twentieth birthday, Gigante often gets recognized as the woman on the mural, which is all the more likely because she still lives in LA and performs with LACO. According to the LACO website, "Now residing in Los Angeles with her husband and two children, Julie has been a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra since 1986...She is active in the motion picture and recording industries and has performed on hundreds of movie scores and audio recordings."

But the bearded man giving the sideways glance on the right frame of the mural? That's former Concertmaster Ralph Morrison, who left LACO in 1996, only two years after the mural was completed. Morrison has also served as the concertmaster of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Orchestra, and spent twenty years as Concertmaster of the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival. He's also toured with Barbara Streisand.

The middle panel features Alan Vogel, who still plays oboe for LACO; René Mandel, who is now the executive director and violinist for the Berkeley Symphony; and Margaret Moores, who now plays cello for the Los Angeles Opera.

In a more recent marketing move, LACO is also the organization responsible for the Play Me, I'm Yours public piano fun that temporarily graced Los Angeles recently.
· Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to mark mural's 20th anniversary [LA Times]