Monday, September 23, 2013

Los Angeles Master Chorale celebrates its Golden Jubilee

By Douglas Neslund

Maestro Grant Gershon turned around and said, simply, “Wow!” as he prepared to conduct a stage and side aisles filled with current and former members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale in the grand finale work of a three-hour, emotionally-charged program jam-packed with morsels of musical meals served up by the Chorale’s four Music Directors over the previous 49 seasons. As outlined below, each selection could not have been better served by the 110 current (and in the finale, dozens of former) members.

Prior to each of the four tributes, exceptionally well-produced videos of each Music Director were shown, taking us back in time and reliving the uniquely special qualities of each. Those in the audience who lived through all four eras had something to cherish, with any fleeting negative memories thoroughly scrubbed. Especially touching and often funny were filmed recollections by those who sang under one or more Music Directors.

Maestro Gershon walked onstage prior to the official beginning to bring the audience current with Paul Salamunovich’s serious health condition, which had induced last rites earlier in the week, only to turn to a more stabilized condition due to the prayers of many, according to the family. Continued prayers were encouraged. The final two entries in the Paul Salamunovich Era (“Hold On!” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”) elicited numerous leaky eyes both in audience and singers.

The opening item in the Grant Gershon Era was a reprise of the 40-part Thomas Tallis Spem in alium, sung from various points in Walt Disney Concert Hall by two or three choristers on a part, that was so transparent, so beautifully sung, it might arguably be the outstanding musical entrée of the evening. Or the Palestrina Tu es Petrus. Or the wonderful chorale arrangements of Roger Wagner or Shawn Kirchner.

ROGER WAGNER ERA (1964-1986)
Tomaso Luigi da Vittoria | Ave Maria
Pierre Passereau | Il est bel et bon
Paul Chihara | Kyrie – Sally Gardens from Missa Carminum Brevis
Stephen Collins Foster | I Dream of Jeanie (arr. Roger Wagner)
            Steve Pence, baritone
Stephen Collins Foster | Western Songs (arr. Roger Wagner)
            Lesley Leighton, conductor | Abdiel Gonzalez, baritone
Ev'ry time I feel the spirit (arr. Jester Hairston)
Danny Boy (arr. Roger Wagner)

JOHN CURRIE ERA (1986-1991)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Ave verum corpus
My Love's in Germany (arr. Mack Wilberg)
            Lisa Edwards and Shawn Kirchner, piano
I'll Ay Call in by Yon Town (arr. Mack Wilberg)
            Lisa Edwards and Shawn Kirchner, piano

Auld Lang Syne - Pasadena Scottish Pipes & Drums – sung by all. Nice touch!

Gregorian Chant | Veni Creator Spiritus
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina | Tu es Petrus
Maurice Duruflé | Tu es Petrus
            Lesley Leighton, conductor
Maurice Duruflé | Ubi caritas
            Lesley Leighton, conductor
Morten Lauridsen | O Magnum Mysterium
Hold On! (arr. Jester Hairston)
The Lord Bless You and Keep You (arr. John Rutter)

GRANT GERSHON ERA (2001-present)
Thomas Tallis | Spem in alium
Hyowon Woo | ME-NA-RI
            Sunjoo Yeo, soprano | Theresa Dimond and Timm Boatman, percussion
William Walker | The Good Old Way (Shape-note hymn)
Sergei Rachmaninoff | Rejoice, O Virgin from All-Night Vigil
Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington | The Lord's Prayer
Gaspar Fernandes | Dame albricia mano Anton
            Ayana Haviv, soprano | Alice Kirwan Murray, mezzo soprano
            Alex Acuña, percussion
Shawn Kirchner | Unclouded Day, from Heavenly Home

Finale: Randall Thompson's familiar Alleluia with current and former LAMC singers, which never sounded more musical – followed by champagne for all.

Prior to the concert, the space and time usually filled by a pre-concert chat with Maestro Gershon and KUSC’s Alan Chapman was given over to an outstanding display of artifacts, still projections and videos of each Music Director, and plenty of room for people to meet other people, reconnect with old friends, and reminisce about olden times. This brought the entire evening into focus on the Master Chorale's legacies and achievements over 49 seasons, and began the 50th on a wonderfully celebratory note.

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