Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No More DOMA: Love is Sweeping the Country

by Rodney Punt

Today the Supreme Court struck down the so-called Defence of Marriage Act. They also upheld a lower court's striking down California's Proposition 8 that prevented same-sex marriage. Let's celebrate this validation of the civil rights of the GLBT community with a song written over 80 years ago but still relevant today.

Love is Sweeping the Country was composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by his brother Ira. It was introduced in the 1931 political satire musical Of Thee I Sing, which won Ira Gershwin a Pulitzer Prize.

The YouTube videos below feature two of America's greatest singers: first, a romantic take from Ella Fitzgerald to remind us how serious the underlying theme of today's Supreme Court decision really is; second, a raucously joyful take from Judy Garland to celebrate today in style.

I made two slight changes in the printed lyrics (in red) to celebrate today.

Why are people gay?
All the night and day
Feeling as they never felt before
What is the thing that makes them sing?

Rich man, poor man, thief,
Doctor, lawyer, chief,
Feel a feeling that they can't ignore
It plays a part in every heart
And every heart is shouting, "Encore"

Love is sweeping the country
Waves are hugging the shore
All the sexes from Maine to Texas
Have never known such love before

See them billing and cooing like the birdies above
Each girl and girl alike sharing joy alike
Feels that passion'll, soon be national
Love is sweeping the country
There never was so much love

See them billing and cooing like the birdies above
Each boy and boy alike sharing joy alike
Feels that passion'll, soon be national
Love is sweeping the country
There never was so much love


Above photo from Wiki of James Cagney.


Rodney Punt can be contacted at [email protected]

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ojai Music Festival 2013: Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance!

By Rodney Punt

The undertow of somberness in the last two Ojai Music Festivals was banished for the latest version of the venerable yet ever-renewing series on June 6 to 9. Credit for breaking the spell goes to exuberant dance maven Mark Morris. The famed American choreographer is the first of his profession to be hired as the festival’s Music Director, an annual rotation previously extended only to musicians.

Although bursting at the seams with 37 events -- Libbey Bowl and off-site concerts, in-town movies, distant seminars and closer pre-concert talks and much more -- the thematic focus remained sharp. Building on a festival trend in recent years, the fullness would make it nearly impossible for any single patron to attend all events in the non-stop schedule that revved up each day at dawn’s early light and wound down in the night’s wee hours.

Go West Young Man

Highlighting a ravishing four days in the bucolic valley north of Los Angeles were instrumental works, many set to dances, and songs from West Coast iconoclast composers of the last century. Often neglected by European and East Coast musical establishments, their works received a better welcome from the American dance scene. Those of Lou Harrison and his teacher Henry Cowell became staples of the Martha Graham and Mark Morris companies, while those of John Cage were most frequently associated with that of his life partner, Merce Cunningham.

Over the long weekend, the Mark Morris Dance Group interpreted many in their terpsichorean debut on Libbey Bowl’s limited but welcoming stage. In two Friday evening performances, the dances were a delightful novelty to an audience more accustomed to the workings of musicians rooted in place.

Go East Young Man

The festival had a distinctive Pacific Rim stamp. Most of the featured composers were either born or raised in California; Graham studied there; and both Mark Morris and Merce Cunningham were native to the state of Washington. Added to the mix was experimental pioneer Charles Ives and the California trained, Alaskan-based environmental composer, John Luther Adams.

All but Ives were nurtured in a Western landscape free from the yoke of European and North Atlantic conventions, yet also free to embrace the imported sights and sounds of Asia. The ensuing East-West fusions continue to propel the American art music scene toward new horizons.

Gamelan Sari Raras performed six Indonesian pieces and seven in the genre by Lou Harrison on Friday and Saturday, highlighting influences of that sonic palate in the works of West Coast composers. The general impression of this music was of hypnotic yet complex melodic and rhythmic variations using “off-key” pentatonic scales, actually tuned to natural harmonics.

Some find it even better tempered than well-tempered music making.

Two Icons Dividing a Century

The long overdue Ojai premiere of Terry Riley’s In C created a sensation Saturday morning. Written in 1964 by the native Californian, the work is widely credited with launching the Minimalist style. Its inclusion here revealed a huge debt to the aforementioned trance inducing, bell-like gamelan music in Java and Bali. Riley’s prescription for open-ended techniques in the work’s performance was exploited fully by a large battery of musicians and soprano Yulia Van Doren. The transfiguring rendition they achieved proved to be the festival’s unanticipated high-water mark.

Not so effective was the Thursday’s opening night concert. The self-described “avant-garde populist” jazz ensemble The Bad Plus (Reid Anderson, bass; Ethan Iverson, piano; David King, drums) essayed their arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Many versions of the work have aired as the centennial of its rambunctious 1913 premiere has approached. The two-piano and the one-piano four-hand ones, heard locally, have stressed rhythm and structure over orchestral color. At Ojai, The Bad Plus found no such sonic niche. Individual riffs from the bass and piano had their moments but the drum-set smothered the work’s overall punch and precision.

Dances with Lou Harrison and Friends

Friday evening’s two dance sets began with early 20th century Americana: Mosaic and United, based on Henry Cowell’s second and third string quartets, and Empire Garden on Ives’ Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano. The Ives gazes back to a simpler America but its astringent harmonies suggest no return. Cowell’s quartets recall the populist (and contemporaneous) murals of Thomas Hart Benton with traditional melodies and dance forms. His limp-legged waltz in 5/4 meter nods knowingly to that of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony. The American Quartet performed in the first two; Pianist Colin Fowler and members of the MMDG Music Ensemble essayed the Ives.

The MMDG dancers worked in united, mimicked gestures and pastel colors for the Cowell pieces, while emphasizing more varied primary colors and individualistic movements that built human structures and oppositional gestures for the Ives. Some of the MMDG’s double-jointed maneuvers were inspired by Southeast Asia. In each work, the Morris style emphasized body extremities, with extended arms, shaking hands and horizontal and vertical body plunges commanding attention and hewing close to the implied contouring and phrasing of the music itself.

After a break the second set for a large ensemble Grand Duo on Lou Harrison’s Grand Duo for Violin and Piano, was a musical study of thesis and antithesis, worked out more melodically than harmonically and using Asian scales and tone clusters. Its polka had the feel of a circle-forming Western two-step, fully exploited by Morris to convey the awkward grace of country folk. Sassy amorous encounters and abstract explorations of human contortions flowed intuitively and irresistibly. Samuel Barber’s vibrant, elegant Excursions for the piano was played with close steps and pirouettes. Jenn Weddel and Spencer Ramirez exquisitely dispatched the West Coast premiere of Jenn and Spencer, an intense, intimate pas de deux based on Henry Cowell’s Suite for Violin and Piano. In both sets, the vividly colored costumes alone were worth the price of admission.

Iconoclasts Unite!

In this festival of sensual delights, John Cage was something of the odd man out with his conceptual works and legacy of intellectual explanations. He was also the last man out in two late-night and sparsely attended concerts that might not have been given their full due in performance. Friday’s Four Walls for piano and soprano, a collaboration with Merce Cunningham for his dance company, explores a dysfunctional family unit, its music “evoked by a severely limited range of material… subject to obsessive repetition, slow change, and heightened contrasts” in the words of Chris Hailey’s fine program notes. It felt duly claustrophobic in the version from Yulia Van Doren and pianist Ethan Iverson. The next night’s set of six short pieces performed by Red Fish Blue Fish came off better, if only because they exhibited more contrast in textures.

A revelatory recital of Cowell and Ives songs on Sunday morning featured the three singers of the weekend -- soprano Yulia Van Doren, mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck, and bass-baritone Douglas Williams -- with the versatile pianist Colin Fowler, of unflappable flair all festival long. Ives’ songs, ranging from nostalgic to cheeky, are fairly well known, but Cowell’s are not and they should be, especially those he set to poems of his parents. The juxtaposition of the two mutually supportive composers was apt. The concert also aired Ives’ String Quartet No. 2 with the American String Quartet. Mark Morris came on stage to present an unscheduled encore, Ten Suggestions, danced by Dallas McMurray to Tcherepnin’s piano Bagatelles played by Fowler. As finale, Morris led the audience in Carl Ruggles’ last work, Exaltation, a wordless hymn in memory of his wife, here set to the Emily Dickinson poem, “I died for Beauty.”

Libbey Bowl's stage offered more: Harrison’s relatively popular Suite for Symphonic Strings, proving his chops in a more academic idiom; the American String Quartet in Béla Bartók’s sixth string quartet and selections of Bach’s Art of the Fugue, well executed if less related to the thrust of the festival. Pieces by Ives, Cowell, Vincent Persichetti, and William Bolcom led the way to Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra by Red Fish Blue Fish. The last concert had a full complement of musicians with more Harrison and Cowell, including the latter’s virtually unknown ballet, Atlantis, sounding like hot and steamy movie music from the early sound era and featuring the moans and groans and sighs and cries of the festival’s three singers, perhaps not quite up to their erotic potential.

Off-Site Performances

Events in locales away from Libbey Bowl have each year become a larger aspect of the Ojai Music Festival. Between the dance sets on Friday night, a concert of three tiny suites for children by Erik Satie and two works by John Cage, including the notorious 4’33”, marked the debut of the toy piano in the Festival’s line-up. The event was held near the jungle gym at the Libbey Park Playground. While children gallivanted about, oblivious of the concert proceedings and making joyful noise, adults stood reverently and scrutinized the tiny piano. The large frame and serious visage of pianist Yegor Shevtsov hovered over it and tinkled away at the inadequately amplified instrument. Truth be told, it was hard to focus on the content of music at so high a register or to take very seriously whatever message its tinny sounds may have offered.

The Alaska-based composer John Luther Adams writes what he calls “eco-centric” music. He favors phrases like “sonic geology with sonic geometry” and has stated “I hope to move beyond self-expression and the limits of my own imagination, to a deeper awareness of the sound itself.” Last year his Inuksuit received its West Coast premiere in Libbey Park. This year three of his works upped the ante in ambition, two of them with widely placed musical paraphernalia on dramatic hilltops overlooking the Ojai Valley.

With all the world his musical stage, Adams would seem to be the Christo of Music. On the basis of the three works presented here, however, the question of musical substance matching an ambitious vision remained open.

Saturday’s Strange and Sacred Noise, staged on Two Tree Knoll has nine movements alternating between snare or bass drum rolls, marimba riffs and siren wails; they started and stopped sequentially but didn’t develop. Sunday morning on Ojai’s Buddhist-inspired Meditation Mount, Adams’ songbirdsongs was a pleasant if simple greeting to the morning, with piccolo birdsongs, more marimbas, and percussion filigree. As a musical composition, its aviary battery confirmed that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In both works, the Red Fish Blue Fish ensemble provided meticulous readings. In both, the composer, dressed as The Man With No Name, was a spectator who placed himself in a trance-like kneeling position in full view of the audience, either behind or in front of whichever component of the music was at the moment performing.

“Eco-centric” was not quite the term that occurred to this observer.

Back at the Libbey Bowl on Saturday night, Adams’ ambitious large orchestra tribute,  for Lou Harrison, consisted of continuous “rising arpeggios over sustained harmonic clouds” that lasted for an hour. The arpeggio's first iteration sounded like the final bars of a Hollywood cinemascope soaper. Its gooey orchestration was repeated over and over again, at each iteration the rising stairway stopping before entering another thought. Well before that hour passed it sounded like an escalator to nowhere.

Was some kind of minimalist statement the intention? Perhaps, but the repeated phrases did not produce the discernible variations that can transform minimalism's better pieces, as in Terry Riley’s earlier In C. The Luther Adams piece remained in the same stupefying moment at every iteration, as if caught in the similar tape-loop that trapped Ground Hog Day's Bill Murray in a perpetual present tense.

The presence of John Luther Adams at this festival was, at least in the planning, a logical extension of the survey of West Coast musical iconoclasts from California to Alaska's frontier wilderness. But the quest for a sonic master of scenic music will have to wait another day.

Let’s Go to the Movies

Lou Harrison was the subject of director Eva Soltes’s loving film portrait, Lou Harrison: A World of Music, captured in the composer’s own words and those of his friends and professional colleagues. Insightful and deeply touching, it traces the life of the Oregon native from a childhood in San Francisco to his death ten years ago. Tireless in composing, constructing instruments (shown on film), promoting and producing concerts, even rescuing modern works, it was Harrison who stitched together the jumble of fervid sketches that became Charles Ives’ Third Symphony. That task and more caused his nervous breakdown. Painful years of confinement and a glacially slow recovery followed, but the composer recounts them with frankness and a lack of regret. Coming to an accommodation toward the end, the gentle, curious, ever-inventive Harrison built a straw bale house with his partner Bill Colvig. The home in the California desert city of Joshua Tree is today a shrine to his followers.

Salomé, a 1920’s Hollywood version of the Oscar Wilde play, had a campy avant-garde staginess and reportedly an all-gay cast. Its flop at the box office ruined the career of lesbian star and prime mover, Alla Nazimova. The Ojai airing gave The Bad Plus opportunity to vamp a desultory jazz accompaniment not as interesting as the film itself. Call it reverse Regietheater: generic jazz riffs imposed on original stage intentions. (As alternative, check out the Charlie Barber score on YouTube.)

Falling Down Stairs chronicled one of the many artistic collaborations of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, this one with Mark Morris, who set Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 a-dancing.

The Morris Boys

With the ebullient Music Director Mark Morris front and center this year, Artistic Director Tom Morris kept mostly out of the limelight, which was just the way the quiet mover and shaker wanted it. (Dubbed in jest the “Morris boys” the two directors are not related.) Tom Morris’s decade of visionary leadership has taken the long view. It's brought a festival once known exclusively for egg-head music into a place where it can, with a mix of styles, intelligently reinvent itself and also draw ever wider audiences.

And that’s just how it should be at Ojai.

All photos but the last are by Timothy Norris and used by permission of Ojai Music Festival. The last photo, of Red Fish Blue Fish, is by Rodney Punt and used by permission of the author.

Punt can be contacted at [email protected]

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Goes to the Movies

Buster Keaton in "Our Hospitality" - film still courtesy of AMPAS
By Edwin Wendler

As part of their Silent Film Gala, now in its 24th year, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra had a comedic treat in store for a receptive and enthusiastic audience assembled at UCLA’s Royce Hall on June 8.  In his opening remarks, gala co-chairman Roger L. Mayer pointed to recent collaborations between the National Film Preservation Foundation and the New Zealand Film Archive in order to bring more silent movie masterpieces back to the public’s attention.

"Hungry Hobos" film still by Walt Disney Animation Studios
Mark Watters
Photo: Emily Abshere
Gala Executive Committee member Edward J. Nowak introduced the evening’s first movie: Walt Disney’s recently rediscovered, animated Hungry Hobos, featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  Created in 1928, this absurdly funny short film underwent a meticulous restoration supervised by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ David A. Bossert.  Composer Mark Watters crafted a new, brassy score with roots in the popular music of the era, and honoring Walt Disney’s preferences regarding music for animation.  For instance, Watters’s score references tunes like Pop Goes the Weasel and perfectly syncs musical accents with the cartoon characters’ screen antics.  The accurate timings of the digital master, and the click track which the musicians heard in their ear pieces, allowed for an ultra-precise, vigorous performance by the orchestra, conducted by the composer with gusto, for this world première live performance.

Dustin Hoffman
Photo: Platon
Gala co-chair Hanna M. Kennedy and actor Dustin Hoffman, who serves as honorary chair, announced the evening’s centerpiece feature film: Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitality (1923; co-directed with John G. Blystone).  Hoffman provided some trivia about the film (Keaton casting several of his own relatives; re-creating the “Stephenson’s Rocket” steam locomotive) and shared a touching anecdote about Keaton’s surprise at being celebrated as a master filmmaker when all he had ever wanted to do was to make people laugh.  Timothy Brock conducted the orchestra in a beautiful performance of Carl Davis’s delightfully restrained score (composed in 1984).  Davis is certainly no stranger to silent films, having written new music for a substantial number of them over the years, most notably Intolerance, Napoléon, and the 1925 version of Ben-Hur.  Much of the comedy in Our Hospitality derives from Keaton’s stoicism in the face of freakishly dangerous situations.  Carl Davis knows when to stay out of the way and let Keaton’s comedic genius do its magic.

Carl Davis
Photo: Carl Davis Collection
Clarinet (performed by Chris Bleth) and “Americana” strings introduce the score’s main, lyrical theme over the main titles. Remarkably, other than a giggling baby (Buster Keaton, Jr.), nothing about the opening sequence would lead the audience to believe that they are watching a comedy.  Chilling, high piano arpeggios (performed to perfection by Bryan Pezzone) accompany the cold rain, and an ominous motif (reminiscent of Franz Schubert’s Der Erlkönig) for the lower registers of the orchestra introduce us to the main plot device: a family feud between the Canfields and the McKays (obviously inspired by the Hatfields and the McCoys).  The 5-note “feud theme” later returns in many variations (including a more dominant 4-note version), mostly underscoring the Canfield clan’s menacing presence and often deliciously performed by Steve Suminski on trombone.  The rain arpeggios also return later, though in a much altered context.

Keaton’s character, Willie McKay, learns that he has inherited an estate from his father.  Willie’s resulting train trip gets its own, 8-note theme and consists of numerous, hilarious episodes, one of which involves an unmovable mule.  The sequence makes great use of a double-bass solo (performed by Nico Abondolo).  The movie’s action centerpiece, the thrilling “rapids sequence,” involves some heart-stopping stunts and requires virtuoso playing from the orchestra, whose concert master for the evening was Tereza Stanislav.

"Our Hospitality", film stills courtesy of AMPAS
Hanna M. Kennedy originated the Silent Film Gala for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in 1990, combining seldom-seen cinematic gems with the musical skills from industry professionals who often perform on today’s movie scores.  I hope this series never ends.


Photos above are used by permission of LACO, AMPAS, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and The Carl Davis Collection.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Death of a Boys Choir

By Douglas Neslund

There is no way to sugarcoat it: after 42 years of re-established life under the direction and guidance of John R. Barron, the Pasadena Boys Choir is closing its doors. Mr. Barron’s need to retire at the same time his more-than-able assistant, Bryon Espina’s need to leave the choir program after 30 years of service due to a job opportunity in his “real” career path (pharmaceuticals focused on defeating cancers), and the inability of the leadership of Mr. Barron, Mr. Espina and Mrs. Joanne Dickson to find a music director specialist in the art of Boychoir to take the reins, led to the decision to close up shop.

In Mr. Barron’s remarks to the audience, he cited changes in public school curriculum, the increasing diversification of children’s after-school interests that limit their availability for twice-a-week rehearsals, and the down economy of recent years as the primary causes for a shrinking membership.

Decades ago, the choir boasted a membership of 130 boys and a prominent place in Southern California performing life. Perhaps the highlight of all was the choir’s performance and recording of William Kraft’s Contextures II: The Final Beast with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of André Previn in 1989, recorded on Soundmark Records. 

A 1981 self-published recording of Civil War songs arranged by Alan Boehmer titled “The Union Forever” stands out as a musical highlight in the suite of memories to be found in the choir’s trophy case.

And so they gathered on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in San Marino, to hear the boys, bolstered by a dozen choir alumni sing again, to celebrate with friends, alumni and family, and to weep together a little bit.

The music selected by Mr. Espina, who also accompanied at the piano, was a potpourri of tunes performed by the choir over the years, including folksongs, Broadway hits, serious classical works (“Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl), and culminating with Ed Lojeski’s arrangement of Alan Menken and David Zippel’s “Go the Distance.” The single encore, with audience invited to sing-along, was Richard Rodger’s and Oscar Hammerstein’s immortal “Edelweiss.”

The singing will continue today, Sunday, June 9, 2013, for the final time. And for one last time, the boys and alums, and their families and friends, will gather after the music stops at the South Pasadena home of Mrs. Dickson, to relive old memories, to re-establish old friendships, to pay homage to those who enriched their lives, and to vow to hold a reunion someday …

A passing mention was made earlier during the concert expressing the hope that “someone” would pick up the pieces and again, re-establish the Pasadena Boys Choir as a rare and precious resource for the Southern California music scene. Mr. Barron will hold open the choir’s IRS non-profit 501(c)(3) status to keep that hope alive.

In the meanwhile, here are eight minutes of memories:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Los Angeles Master Chorale sings American Songs & Spirituals

By Douglas Neslund

The late George Bragg taught his choristers, “When you perform, the audience must never see the struggle. Only the love must show.”

Showing nothing but love in choral performance is such a high bar that few organizations can achieve it with consistency. Choral perfection is also marked by an absence of ego in which the performer calls attention to him/herself, thereby distracting the audience from noticing musical or technical errors.

The ideal choral collective must love to sing, to create sound together, and willingly and joyfully to give themselves over to their director. They must have overcome vocal technical difficulties, and they must know their music and its style so that when given the downbeat, they can produce creative chords in ensemble. So in the end, it is love that brings a choir to that exalted place in which perfection may be accomplished.

Choral perfection was offered to an excited audience moved by wondrous music of composers from this country at Walt Disney Concert Hall by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and its veteran, iconic conductor of twelve seasons, Grant Gershon.

“American Songs & Spirituals” encompassed “Sure on this Shining Night” of Samuel Barber; “Songs of Smaller Creatures,” a clever work featuring bees, spiders/Souls and butterflies to lyrics by Walter de la Mare, Walt Whitman and Charles Swinburne, respectively, by Abbie Betinis; and “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven,” a satirical accounting of the founder of the Salvation Army’s arrival at the gates of Heaven by the inimitable insurance salesman, Charles Ives.

And then came a world premiere performance of a work not quite completed in time for this first hearing by the Chorale’s own Swan Family Composer in Residence, Shawn Kirchner, who took on the daunting challenges of poetry by the late Sylvia Plath.
Shawn Kirchner, center
 The entire seven movements (six of which were performed) are wide-ranging in subject matter: “Morning Song,” containing such language as “All night your moth-breath Flickers among the flat pink roses;” “Mirror,” that gives a realistic and humorous account of “the eye of the little god, four-cornered” but which takes a sudden dark turn in the form of a lake, into which a woman peers as she seeks to find forgiveness for having drowned a young girl; “Lady Lazarus,” a horrific account by a deceased Jewish woman in the wake of Nazi concentration camp dehumanization and murder, in which she says, “Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well;” “Poppies in October” contains a sentiment that triggered Mr. Kirchner’s interest in Ms. Plath’s writings: “Oh my God, what am I (t)hat these late mouths should cry open In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers;” “Child” that begins, “Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing;” and “Blackberrying” that depicts a stroll across grassy hills, finding an occasional bee-occupied blackberry bush, and continuing on toward the sea and its infinite view and crashing surf. (The yet-to-be completed “Tulips” will be included in future performances.) Mr. Kirchner’s exceptional arranging skills have been displayed frequently over the past 12 seasons of his association with the Chorale as a member of the tenor section. Most popular everywhere is his “Wana Baraka,” a Kenyan folksong. In the performance of “Plath Songs” Mr. Kirchner accompanied at the piano, with the excellent Theresa Dimond assisting on percussion.

After intermission, the 46 gentlemen of the Master Chorale took the stage to perform Elliott Carter’s “Tarantella” with sizzling tone in this paean of praise to the “Mother of Flowers” and bacchanal joys of Spring, accompanied by Mr. Kirchner and the wonderful Lisa Edwards. At a polar mood opposite, the Master Chorale performed Samuel Barber’s own choral version (“Agnus Dei”) of his well-known Adagio for Strings, over-conducted by associate conductor Lesley Leighton, with Karen Hogle Brown providing the stratospherics.

Arguably the most impressionable work of the evening was Eric Whitacre’s “Three Songs of Faith.” The three movements with lyrics by e.e. cummings, “i will wade out,” “hope, faith, life, love …” and “i thank you God for most this amazing day” are incredible choral works. The most magical moment comes on the last word of the first movement, “moon” in which the composer conjures a choral web of sound that both astounds and delights in kaleidoscopic wonder, brilliantly performed by the Master Chorale. It is no wonder that Mr. Whitacre’s compositions are widely performed and loved.

The concluding portion of the concert featured “Ain-a That Good News” arranged by William Dawson, “Hold On!” by Jester Hairston, “Keep Your Lamps!” arranged by André Thomas, and “The Battle of Jericho” arranged by Moses Hogan. This quartet of Spirituals got the audience really rocking with infectious rhythms and joyful singing that openly displayed the love that was reflected throughout Walt Disney Concert Hall. “Shenandoah” in the familiar beautiful arrangement by James Erb was the encore to the concert and the season.


An annual rite of passage for the Chorale at the end of every season is the farewell “thank you” to departing choristers. In descending order of service, this year’s “good-byes and best wishes” are showered upon Holly Shaw Price for her outstanding 27 years of Master Chorale performances; Steven Fraider and Dominic MacAller for their 18 years; Mary Bailey for her 17; Susan Mills for her 15; Carrie Dike, 6 years; Drew Holt, 5 years; Ed Nepomuceno, 4 years; and Duke Rausavljevich, one year.

Photo credits:, Lee Salem