The Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC), led by Music Director Grant Gershon, is recognized as one of the city’s cultural treasures and one of the world’s premier choruses. The Los Angeles Times proclaims, “Under Gershon, the Master Chorale seems to be able to master anything.” The respected arts blog CultureSpotLA, states, “The Master Chorale is not just any ensemble – it is the nation’s, and maybe the world’s, most innovative choral group, thriving under its vibrant music director, Grant Gershon.”
The Chorale’s 2012|13 season – its 49th – marks its tenth as the resident chorus of the landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall. A founding resident company of The Music Center, the Chorale has played a leading role in the ongoing resurgence of interest in choral music. The New York Times calls the choir “inspired,” The New York Observer declares it “a superb vocal ensemble,” and the Los Angeles Times proclaims it “matchlessly polished.” Cited as a national leader for its innovative and dynamic programming and its commitment to commissioning new works, the Chorale has been awarded the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming three times – in 1995, 2003 and 2010 – as well as Chorus America’s prestigious 2012 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, the nation’s highest choral music award.
Under the inspired leadership and unique artistic sensibilities of Music Director Grant Gershon, who was appointed to the post in July 2001, LAMC has expanded its audience base considerably and continues to earn superlative accolades. The Los Angeles Times describes the Chorale’s performances under Gershon’s baton as “masterly,” “ethereal” and “alluring.” Billboard declares the Chorale’s “singing and direction are first-rate,” while Gramophone calls the chorus “sonically exhilarating.” LA Downtown News notes, “Choral groups don't often get much hype, but the Los Angeles Master Chorale is an exception . . . (it) has soared under Grant Gershon's direction.”
The Chorale’s 2012|13 season features a range of early masterworks and contemporary classics spanning four centuries. Gershon, in his 12th season, conducts eleven concerts, opening with a powerful organ extravaganza punctuated by contemporary Welsh composer Paul Mealor’s Ubi caritas, written for the royal nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the West Coast premieres of Nico Muhly’s A Good Understanding and Judith Weir’s Ascending into Heaven, as well as the music of mystic Arvo Pärt, and celebrated British composers Hubert Parry and Gerald Finzi (October 21, 2012). The Chorale performs Monteverdi’s pivotal Vespers of 1610 in an historically informed presentation featuring famed Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra (November 18, 2012). Embracing the human experience, Brahms’ Ein Deustches Requiem is paired with the West Coast premiere of The World in Flower, Peter Lieberson’s lyrical and moving message of tolerance written in memory of his wife and muse, famed mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (January 26 and 27, 2013). A program of Poulenc and Vaughan Williams spotlights Poulenc’s Figure humaine, one of the towering choral masterworks of the 20th Century (April 14, 2013). Wrapping the season is a celebration of American choral and roots music with works by Samuel Barber, Charles Ives, Elliott Carter, Abbie Betinis, Eric Whitacre as well as classic spirituals by Jester Hairston, William Dawson and Moses Hogan and the premiere of a new work by LAMC Swan Family Composer in Residence Shawn Kirchner (June 2, 2013).
Additionally, the Chorale presents four festive holiday offerings: Rejoice!, featuring Bach’s joyous Magnificat and Vivaldi’s soaring Gloria (December 16, 2012), the famed Messiah Sing-Along (December 17, 2012), two performances of Holiday Wonders: Festival of Carols (December 8 and 15, 2012), and a concert version of Handel’s Messiah (December 22, 2012).
LAMC continues its close partnership with the LA Philharmonic, its fellow Music Center resident company, appearing in four programs with the acclaimed orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl and Disney Hall before embarking on an unprecedented European tour with the orchestra. Hollywood Bowl engagements include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, conducted by Leonard Slatkin (July 10, 2012); Verdi’s Rigoletto, led by Gustavo Dudamel (August 12, 2012) and Orff’s Carmina Burana, also conducted by Dudamel (August 28 and 30, 2012). At Disney Hall, the Chorale joins the LA Philharmonic for the highly anticipated premiere of Peter Sellars’ staged version of John Adam’s Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (March 7, 8, and 10, 2013). (The concert version was premiered May 31, 2012 at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Philharmonic and LA Master Chorale, conducted by Dudamel.)
An international tour with the LA Philharmonic to Europe and New York in March 2013 creates an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the Chorale on the world stage with performance slated at the Barbican in London (March 16, 2013); the Lucerne Easter Festival in Switzerland (March 20, 2013); the Salle Pleyel in Paris, (March 23, 2013); and New York City’s Lincoln Center (March 27, 2013).
Extending its reach to young people in the community, the Los Angeles Master Chorale also presents two in-depth music education programs. Gershon conducts the 24th Annual Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choir Festival, one of the largest high school choir festivals in the nation, at Walt Disney Concert Hall (April 26, 2013). Serving as a vital force in training the next generation of singers and music lovers, the comprehensive yearlong in-school program culminates with a performance conducted by Gershon of 1,000 high school students from more than two-dozen Southland high schools.
“Voices Within,” the Chorale’s other highly successful outreach program, which earned the coveted Chorus America Education Outreach Award twice, is an artists-in-residence program that partners three professional artists (a composer, lyricist and singer) with fifth grade classrooms. The artist team nurtures students who have little or no musical background through an intensive multi-week program to create and perform their own songs. This residency culminates with a school performance where the student/composers “premiere” their works in front of an audience. In addition to the elementary school program, the Master Chorale has adapted Voices Within for Cortines High School for Visual and Performing Arts in Downtown Los Angeles with a residency that culminates in a new musical oratorio, composed and performed by the high school students. The Los Angeles Times states, “While other organizations focus on performing and listening, the Los Angeles Master Chorale helps kids create and collaborate.”
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, described as “a major cultural asset to Los Angeles” by the Los Angeles Times, was founded in 1964. One of the Music Center’s two original resident performing arts companies, it gave its first performance at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in January 1965, where it subsequently performed for 38 seasons until moving to the landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003. It is the first organization in the nation to offer a complete season of great choral masterworks, and, over the years, has hosted such distinguished guest conductors as Robert Shaw, Helmuth Rilling, Margaret Hillis, Robert Page and Richard Westenberg.
Gershon succeeded Music Director Emeritus Paul Salamunovich, who guided the Master Chorale from 1991 through the 2000½01 season and was named Music Director Emeritus in June 2001. Prior to Salamunovich’s appointment, Scottish conductor John Currie led the Chorale from 1985 to 1990, and, before that, the late Roger Wagner, the Chorale’s founder, headed the choir for two decades, from 1964 to 1984.
In addition to presenting its own concert series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Chorale has appeared at the Ojai Music Festival, the Great Performers series at New York’s Lincoln Center and the Overture Center in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as in leading venues throughout the Southland. The Chorale also performed more than 300 concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic both at Disney Hall and at the Hollywood Bowl with such stellar conductors as Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta, Andre Previn, Pierre Boulez, Michael Tilson-Thomas and Roger Norrington, among many others, and is featured on several recordings with the orchestra, including the newly released world premiere recording of Shostakovich’s recently discovered and unfinished opera Orango.
The Chorale, which has commissioned 27 and premiered 76 new works, of which 44 were world premieres, has recorded five CDs under Gershon’s baton: A Good Understanding, an all-Nico Muhly disk recorded at Disney Hall and released by Decca in September 2010; Daniel Variations by Steve Reich, released in 2008 on Nonesuch Records; You Are (Variations) by Steve Reich, released in 2005 on Nonesuch Records; and an RCM recording featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first choral work, Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jäderlund, and Philip Glass’ Itaipu. A fifth CD Gershon recorded in June 2012 at Disney Hall will feature three works by Polish composer Henryk Górecki, including his rapturous 1981 composition Miserere, a once-radical plea for peace written in support of Poland’s then-budding Solidarity Movement, and two that have never been commercially recorded – Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), composed in 2000 for chorus and glockenspiel, and Pieśni Maryjne (Marian Songs). Slated for release in fall 2012, it will be the Chorale’s second CD on Decca.
Previously, the Chorale released three CDs under the baton of Music Director Emeritus Paul Salamunovich, including the Grammy-nominated Lauridsen-Lux Aeterna, Christmas, and a recording of Dominick Argento’s Te Deum and Maurice Duruflé’s Messe “Cum Jubilo.”
In addition, Gershon conducted the Chorale on the soundtracks of Lady In The Water and License to Wed. Soundtracks with Music Director Emeritus Salamunovich include A.I. Artificial Intelligence, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Sum of All Fears, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Waterworld.
Since moving to Disney Hall, the Chorale has enjoyed a substantial increase in audience size, as well as a growing base of individual and institutional donors. Its 2012½13 operating budget is $4.8 million. The Chorale’s endowment is currently valued at $4.5 million. The Los Angeles Master Chorale has more than 1,400 subscribers, serves over 30,000 audience members of all ages, and provides