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LA Master Chorale Announces 2011-12 Season at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Location: California, USA
Choir type: Professional Choirs
Voicing: Mixed
The Los Angeles Master Chorale – one of the world’s preeminent choirs acclaimed for its profound versatility as both a laser-sharp symphonic chorus and an a cappellatour de forceand applauded for considerably expanding the choral repertoire with dozens of premieres and commissions from both established and emerging composers – offers a compelling collection of choral treasures and new works by some of the most exciting composers of our time during the 2011|12 Season in Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Music Director Grant Gershon, who begins his second decade leading the Chorale, describes the choir’s 48th Season as “the most intimate yet,” programming one world premiere, two U.S. premieres and a range of deeply spiritual pieces, major full-scale choral works and beloved choral classics.  Having sold out numerous concerts in recent years, to keep up with audience demand, the Chorale this season repeats two of its offerings, expanding from 10 to 12 its number of performances in the landmark venue.

“Choral music is unique for its power to tell stories not just with music, but with words,” states Gershon.  “The Los Angeles Master Chorale’s dedicated and amazingly talented singers, with their rich blend of voices and incredible musicianship, spin musical stories with tremendous expression, depth and sensitivity, strength and grace.  So I’ve carefully selected programming for this season with a special focus on texts.  We will perform both secular and non-secular compositions, pieces of tremendous political import, and works with profound moral and spiritual implications.”

The season opens with a provocative mostly a cappella musical exploration anchored by the U.S. premiere of Thomas Jennefelt’s Music for a big church; for tranquility, and Morten Lauridsen’s ethereal Lux Aeterna, inextricably linked to the Chorale since it commissioned and premiered it in 1997. It also features works of contemporary composers Eric Whitacre and Shawn Kirchner, both based in LA, and British choral star Tarik O’Regan.  BNY Mellon is sponsoring the post-concert gala, which will be held in BP Hall, for the 19th consecutive year.

Among other season highlights, Gershon pairs the U.S. premiere of James Newton’s kaleidoscopic Masswith the expanded choral version of David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story.  The world premiere of a new piece by Gabriela Lena Frank, the fifth commission by the Chorale for its acclaimed “LA is the World” initiative, is part of a program that also spotlights Venezuela’s vibrant choral tradition with works by María Guinand, Oscar Galián and Alberto Grau and features Latin American jazz folk ensemble Huayucaltia in its third appearance with the choir.

Major works showcasing the Chorale’s considerable virtuosity include Handel’s beloved oratorio, Messiah; Stravinsky’s stunning Symphony of Psalms; Bruckner’s haunting and romantic Mass in E minor, the first major Bruckner choral work to be performed in Disney Hall; and the highly anticipated Disney Hall debut of Bach’s monumental St. John Passion, an historically informed presentation with leading Baroque ensemble Musica Angelica offered twice on Palm Sunday weekend.  A pair of Bach motets, choral works by Brahms, Poulenc, Ferko and Distler, and a trio of holiday programs – the Messiah Sing-Along, Rejoice!, and two performances of Holiday Wonders – provide additional layers of sonic richness to these ageless masterpieces. 

Capping the season is a tribute to Henryk Górecki, a composer Gershon has championed since he began his tenure with the Chorale a decade ago.  The repertoire, including Górecki’s monumental Miserere, will be recorded for the choir’s second Decca CD, slated for release in Fall 2012.  It comes on the heels of the Chorale’s all-Nico Muhly recording, A Good Understanding, which launched the choir’s recording partnership with Decca in 2010.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale also opens the doors of Disney Hall to the public free-of-charge for its 23rd Annual High School Choir Festival.  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.

The Chorale, which is a resident company of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, continues to present “Listen Up!,” a series of lively pre-concert conversations providing insight into the evening’s program, with KUSC’s Alan Chapman and Gershon.  It also enters the second year of its broadcast partnership with KUSC in which seven two-hour weekly programs of Master Chorale concerts from previous seasons will air in December 2011 and January 2012.

In addition to presenting its own concert series, this season the Master Chorale appears in eight programs with the LA Philharmonic, five of them conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, two under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen and one led by Herbert Blomstedt.
 

Season Detailed

U.S. Premiere of Thomas Jennefelt’s Music for a big church; for tranquilityand Morten Lauridsen’s Transcendent Lux AeternaAre Cornerstones of Musical Exploration Launching Chorale’s 48th Season on Sunday, October 16, 2011, Capped by Post-Concert Gala
The Los Angeles Master Chorale opens its 2011|12 season with an ethereal, mostly a cappella, musical exploration on Sunday, October 16, 2011, 7 p.m., at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Music Director Grant Gershon conducts five diverse pieces, among them the U.S. Premiere of Swedish composer Thomas Jennefelt’s Music for a big church; for tranquility, a mesmerizing rhythmic wall of sound, and the hauntingly beautiful Lux Aeternaby former LA Master Chorale Composer-In-Residence Morten Lauridsen, which quickly became one of the world’s most popular choral works after its premiere by the Chorale in 1997.  Also featured are British composer Tarik O’Regan’s Tal vez tenemos tiempoand works by two LA-based composers, Eric Whitacre’s Her Sacred Spirit Soarsand the bluegrass triptych Heavenly Homeby the Chorale’s own Shawn Kirchner, who drew inspiration for the piece from Shape-Note hymns.  A post-concert Gala in BP Hall, sponsored by BNY Mellon for the 19th consecutive year, caps the season opener.

“Sonically, this is a great opening for the Chorale,” states Gershon.  “It shows off the Chorale’s lush sound as well as the astounding acoustics of Disney Hall.”

Jennefelt, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and former chairman of the Society of Swedish Composers, notes that his piece, a textless soundscape of voices, was commissioned for the centenary celebration of Johannes Church in Stockholm.  “It was composed more than 20 years ago, at the beginning of my ‘quasi-minimalist’ writing for choir,” he says.  “I am honored the Los Angeles Master Chorale is giving the official U.S. premiere.”

U.S. Premiere of James Newton’s Massand Two Bach Motets Frame David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning the little match girl passionSunday, November 13, 2011
With elements of Bach underscoring each piece featured in this concert, the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents on Sunday, November 13, 2011, 7 p.m., at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the U.S. premiere of James Newton’s jazz-tinged Mass, flavored by Charles Mingus, Messiaen and Bach, as well as an expanded choral version of David Lang’s extraordinary Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion, which, while based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, also borrows text from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.  A pair of Bach motets for double chorus – Singet dem Herrn ein neues Liedand Fürchte dich nicht – complete the program.

“This is the most intimate concert of an intimate season,” Gershon says.  “It’s also wonderfully symmetric in its musical arch.” 

Critics across the country have hailed the little match girl passion, one of the most heralded choral compositions of the new century since its riveting premiere in Carnegie Hall, as a true original.  The Los Angeles Timesdescribed the pieceas a “missive from heaven…a stunner” and credits Lang with finding “a radiantly hip spiritual core to a maudlin story that stubbornly refuses to go out of fashion.”  The New York Timesproclaims, “With this work – one of the most moving and original scores of recent years – Lang has solidified his standing as an American master.”  The Washington Postdeclares, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved…(it) is unlike any music I know.”

Composer, flutist, conductor and professor James Newton, who has shared the stage with Grant Gershon to co-conduct the Chorale in Disney Hall on three occasions and has composed some sixty works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, choir and jazz orchestra, crafted his heartfelt Masswith influences ranging from Medieval counterpoint and Bach to the hard bop and free jazz of Charles Mingus.  Premiered in Italy as a vocal quartet, the dense, spare and reflective piece is performed with seven instruments, four soloists and 40 members of the Chorale.

Two Matinees of Holiday Wonders Sparkle with Favorite Carols and Good Cheer Saturday, December 3, and Saturday, December 10, 2011
Sold out for two consecutive years, the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s seasonal favorite, Holiday Wonders, expands to two matinees Saturday, December 3, 2 p.m., and Saturday, December 10, 2011, 2 p.m., at Disney Hall.  Cherished holiday carols such as Joy to the World, The First Noel, Hark the Herald Angels Singand others, sung to perfection by 115 members of the Chorale under Grant Gershon’s baton, set a joyful mood, enhanced by John Rutter’s thrilling three-movement Gloria.  Disney Hall’s iconic pipe organ and brass add dazzling flourishes to make this concert a highlight of the season.  Tickets for children 6-12 are discounted in all sections.  (Children under six not admitted.)  Holiday Wonders is made possible, in part, by a grant from The Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

Voices Ring at Rejoice! Sunday, December 11, 2011
Four Christmas classics herald the holidays at Rejoice!, the second of four Los Angeles Master Chorale seasonal programs, Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7 p.m.  Gershon conducts Hugo Distler’s otherworldly Christmas Story, a four-part a cappella treasure for chorus and soloists based on the carol Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, evoking snowy landscapes and the quiet calm of a traditional Christmas in Germany; and Four Christmas Motetsby Poulenc, composed in 1951 for four-part mixed chorus that were, with their joyful serenity, among the composer’s favorite choral pieces.  Two contemporary classics complete the program – Frank Ferko’s colorful 2002 composition, A Festival of Carols, based on five American Christmas texts from the 18th and 19th centuries, and Morten Lauridsen’s signature work, the extraordinary O Magnum Mysterium, commissioned for the Chorale by Founding LAMC Board Member Marshall Rutter in honor of his wife, Terry Knowles. 
 
Handel’s MessiahPresented Two Ways: Do-It-Yourself Sing-Along, Monday, December 12, and a Soaring Concert Version Performed by 48 Members of the Chorale, Saturday, December 18, 2011
Hallelujah!  This holiday season, the Los Angeles Master Chorale offers two versions of Messiah, Handel’s spectacular oratorio beloved around the globe.  Both feature live orchestra and are conducted by the choir’s amiable music director, Grant Gershon, in Disney Hall.  For those who enjoy the thrill of singing the work’s ethereal high notes and booming bass notes themselves, the Chorale presents its 31st Annual MessiahSing-Along, in which the 2,100-member audience becomes the choir, performing the chorus parts as “back up” for a quartet of professional soloists from the Chorale, Monday, December 12, 2011, 7:30 p.m.  (Scores are available for sale at the door.)  In addition, a “traditional” concert version on Saturday, December 18, 2011, 7 p.m., features 48 members of the acclaimed Los Angeles Master Chorale and four gifted soloists from among the choir’s ranks, providing a special opportunity to hear the piece performed by what many consider to be the best chorus in the country.
 
“For those who are Messiahaficionados and those who have yet to hear this magnificent work live, this is the perfect opportunity to experience it in the soaring wonder of Disney Hall,” Gershon notes.  “Both concerts have their own unique qualities, and nothing says ‘holiday’ quite like the Messiah.  It is always a delight to conduct Handel’s blockbuster.”
 
Composed in 1741 in just 24 days, Handel’s English-language oratorio may well be the most performed classical work of all time.  It is set to the libretto by Charles Jennens, who drew texts from the King James and Great Bibles.

First Major Bruckner Choral Work Ever Performed in Disney Hall and Stravinsky Symphony of PsalmsSlated for Sunday, February 12, 2012
When Music Director Grant Gershon conducts Bruckner’s full-scale choral masterpiece Mass in E minoron Sunday, February 12, 2012, 7 p.m., it will be the first time any of Bruckner’s major choral works have been performed in Walt Disney Concert Hall.  To complement the expressive and poignant masterwork, Gershon has selected Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, a contrasting but equally compelling piece filled with both ritual and fireworks.
 
Bruckner, born to Austrian peasants and a musical protégé from an early age, completed the Mass in E minorfor eight-part chorus and wind orchestra in 1866.  It is a work that illustrates more than any of his others the composer’s unique style – a mix of romantic fully Brucknerian harmony with blending and contrasting vocal and instrumental textures, and the restrained and austere power of Renaissance polyphony.
 
“It is one of my favorite Bruckner pieces and is such an important part of the choral literature,” Gershon explains.  “I’m very pleased to be the first to conduct this seminal work in Disney Hall.”

Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalmswas commissioned by the Boston Symphony on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary in 1930.  The composer eschewed the traditional 19th Century symphonic structure common at the time, using as the root of the piece a pair of interlocked thirds that forms the base of an opening chord so unusual and striking that it is recognizable from the first sound.  The work, whose choruses and stunning softness create a cathedral of sound, “celebrates that most ancient form of communal music making -- one with a healing, even redemptive overtone,” notes the Los Angeles Times.  Esa-Pekka Salonen tapped the Los Angeles Master Chorale to perform Symphony of Psalmswith the LA Phil for his emotional farewell program in April 2009 to conclude his 17-year tenure with the LA Philharmonic, the longest of any music director in the orchestra’s history.

Season Continues with Back-to-Back Performances of Bach’s St. John Passionwith Musica Angelica on Palm Sunday Weekend, Saturday, March 31, and Sunday, April 1, 2012
The Los Angeles Master Chorale presents the Walt Disney Concert Hall debut of Bach’s oratorio St. John Passion– one of the greatest masterworks of all time – in two back-to-back historically informed performances with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, performing on period instruments, on Palm Sunday weekend, Saturday, March 31, 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 1, 2012, 7 p.m.   It completes the Chorale’s multi-season trilogy of historically informed performances with the nation’s foremost Baroque ensemble of Bach’s three major choral works, which also include the B Minor Massand St. Matthew Passion.

More vivid, dramatically intense and unbridled than its later counterparts, St. John Passionis scored for an intimate ensemble of soloists, four-part choir and instrumentalists ranging from lute and viola da gamba to oboe, strings and basso continuo.  A core of 40 singers from the Chorale comprise the choir for this highly-anticipated performance.

“Our historically informed performances at Disney Hall of the great masterworks of Bach have become an important part of the Chorale’s artistic profile,” Gershon states.  “I look forward to joining with our esteemed musical colleagues Musica Angelica to create another profound spiritual experience for our audience.”
 
“Andes to the Sea” Program – a Nod to “Venezuelan Choral Miracle” – Features Gabriela Lena Frank World Premiere Sunday, April 29, 2012
Spotlighting the “Venezuelan choral miracle,” fostered by the same El Sistema that produced Gustavo Dudamel and helped to create over 2,000 new choirs and a brilliant crop of composers to meet an insatiable demand for choral repertoire, the Los Angeles Master Chorale pays homage to California’s South American neighbor with its penultimate concert, “Andes to the Sea,” Sunday, April 29, 2012, 7 p.m.  Music Director Grant Gershon taps this hot-bed of musical innovation to present works by María Guinand as well as Alberto Grau’s Caramba, Oscar Galián’sSalseoand the new generation of Venezuelan choral composers whose compositions run the gamut from evocations of the earth goddess to rhythmically virtuosic popular songs of the barrios and the Ilanos.  Huayucaltia, LA’s innovative Latin American folk jazz ensemble, accompanies the Chorale and is featured in the world premiere of a new work by Gabriela Lena Frank, whose own family tree spreads from South American to China.  Hers is the fifth commission by the Chorale for its acclaimed “LA is the World” initiative, conceived by Gershon as a collaboration among composers, master musicians and the choir to expand the choral literature with works that mirror LA’s vibrant multi-cultural fabric. The concert is sponsored by The James Irvine Foundation.
 
Frank, one of the most sought-after under-40 classical composers in the country, states San Francisco Classical Voice, has “clearly emerged as a major composer.”  In 2009, she earned a Latin Grammy in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and has collaborated with and been performed by some of the world’s leading artists, Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, soprano Dawn Upshaw and Chanticleer, among them.  She is currently at work on an opera with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz regarding Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

“I love the fantastically joyful spirit of Gabriela’s music!” exclaims Gershon.  “It will be great fun for us to feature her along with our good friends Huayucaltia and the great explosion of brilliant choral music emerging from South America.”

 
Chorale Concludes 48th Season with Tribute to Górecki Sunday, June 10, 2012
For its season closer on Sunday, June 10, 2012, 7 p.m., the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents a heartfelt tribute to Henryk Górecki, whom Gershon has championed since he began his tenure with the Chorale a decade ago.  The celebrated Polish composer, at the forefront of the country’s avant-garde movement at the time of the post-Soviet thaw and frequently compared in musical style to Arvo Pärt and John Tavener, left behind a great musical legacy noted for both its rapturous simplicity and monumental style when he passed away last November. 

The centerpiece of the mostly a cappella program, Górecki’s 1981 composition Miserere, concludes both the concert and the season.  Written in support of Poland’s then-budding Solidarity Movement, it was suppressed for six years because of political pressures.  The once-radical plea for peace, consisting of just five imploring words of text – “Domine Deus Noster” (Lord our God) and “Miserere nobis” (have mercy on us) – builds, layer upon layer, from a deep bass chant to the full 115-voice choir swelling to a stunningly rapturous conclusion.  Gershon featured the piece during his first season as music director a decade ago.

The other repertoire features Górecki’s Lobgesang(Hymn of Praise), composed in 2000 for chorus and glockenspiel, and Five Marian Songs, as well as Brahms’ Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz, which serves as an aural palette cleanser for Górecki’s compelling music.
 
Gershon says, “During my time with the Chorale, we have explored the powerful and intense choral works of Górecki.  His music is both timeless and relevant, and it so beautifully fits the sonic profile of the great ensemble.”
 
The Górecki repertoire will be recorded for the LA Master Chorale’s second Decca CD, slated for release in Fall 2012.  It comes on the heels of the chorus’ all-Nico Muhly recording, A Good Understanding, which launched the choir’s recording partnership with Decca in 2010.

Special Event
23rd Annual High School Choir Festival Tentatively Set for May 4, 2012
The Chorale opens the doors of the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the city free-of-charge for its 23rd Annual Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choir Festival tentatively slated for May 4, 2012.  One of the largest high school choir festivals in the nation, it showcases the remarkable vocal talents of more than 1,000 high school students from some two dozen Southland schools in a massive choir conducted by Grant Gershon.  The community is welcome to enjoy the vitality and power of these young voices raised in song in the splendid setting of Disney Hall.

Guest Appearances with LA Phil
In addition to presenting its own concert series, the Los Angeles Master Chorale continues its long and fruitful partnership with the LA Phil, its fellow Disney Hall resident company, appearing in eight programs with the acclaimed orchestra this season.  They include the world premiere of a work by Anders Hillborg November 25-17, 2011; and Shostakovich’s unfinished opera, Orango, December 2-4, 2011, both conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.  The choir is also featured in the orchestra’s three Mahler symphony engagements led by Gustavo Dudamel: Mahler Symphony No. 2, January 22, 2012; Mahler Symphony No. 3, January 24, 2012; and Mahler Symphony No. 8, February 4, 2012.  Herbert Blomstedt conducts the LA Master Chorale and the orchestra in three performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, April 13-15, 2012.  The choir also joins the LA Philharmonic and Dudamel for the fully-staged production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, May 18, 20, 24 and 26, 2012, and the world premiere of John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, May 31 and June 1-3, 2012.

Ticket Information
For further information about the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2011½12 season at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, please call (213) 972-7282, or log on to www.lamc.org.               
 
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