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The Los Angeles Master Chorale opens the doors of the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the city free-of-charge for its 24th Annual Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choir Festival on Friday, April 26, 2013. One of the largest high school choir festivals in the nation, each year it showcases the remarkable vocal talents of nearly 1,000 high school students from 25 Southland schools in a massive choir conducted by Grant Gershon, the LA Master Chorale’s noted music director. The choral concert also includes several works performed by the professional Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, which joins forces with the prestigious 80-voice Festival Honor Choir, also conducted by Gershon and comprised of students from the 25 participating schools nominated by their teachers. The community is welcome to enjoy the vitality and power of these young voices raised in song in the splendor of Disney Hall. For those who haven’t had the chance to peek inside architect Frank Gehry’s iconic concert hall in downtown Los Angeles, this is an amazing opportunity to hear and see the internationally acclaimed venue in action – for free!
The massed choir performs If Music Be the Food of Love by David Dickau set to text from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; the spiritual Keep Your Lamps arranged by André Thomas; Son de Camaguey, a Cuban folk song arranged by Stephen Hatfield; The Promise of Light by Los Angeles-based composer Georgia Stitt; Johannes Brahms’s Der Gang zum Liebchen; and George Frideric Handel’s Baroque gem With Cheerful Notes Let All the Earth.
The Festival Honor Choir and Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers perform Sure on This Shining Night by National Medal of Arts recipient Morton Lauridsen; Ricky Ian Gordon’s New Moon, which features lyrics by American poet Langston Hughes; and Panda Chant II by avant-garde multi-disciplinary artist Meredith Monk.
In addition, the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers give a brief performance that includes the world premiere of Yama no mizu by Lauren McLaren, which is based on a Haiku by prolific poet Kobayashi Issa translated into English by David G. Lanoue. It was commissioned by LAMC Associate Conductor Lesley Leighton to reflect the Chorale’s deep commitment to commissioning new works as well as to enable the participating high school students to hear a world premiere.
The Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choir Festival is one of the largest high school choir gatherings in the nation. It draws schools from the South Bay, San Fernando Valley and Westside to the San Gabriel Valley, Lakewood and Orange County.
Participating choirs include Agoura High School Mixed Choir (Agoura), John Mosley, director; Arroyo High School Chamber Singers (El Monte), Jennifer Stanley, director; Baldwin Park High School (Baldwin Park), Vicki Salmon, director; Bassett High School Chamber Singers (La Puente), Nona Watson, director; Bellflower High School Vocal Ensemble (Bellflower), Carolyn Kelley, director; California High School Chamber Singers (Whittier), Dan Hawkins, director; Charter Oak High School Advanced Choral Ensemble (Covina), Rebecca Schmalzbach, director; Covina High School Voices (Covina), Susan Silver, director; Culver City High School Chamber Singers (Culver City), Dr. Tony Spano, director; Duarte High School Cantabile (Duarte), Clari Hsu, director; El Monte High School A Cappella Choir (El Monte), Joel Whisler, director; Fullerton Union High School Vocal Ensemble (Fullerton), Scott Hedgecock, director; Grant High School Vocal Ensemble (Valley Glen), Marsha Lynne Taylor, director; Hoover High School Chamber Singers (Glendale), Beth Richey-Sullivan, director; Lakewood High School Madrigal Singers (Lakewood), Ralph Siemsen, director; Mark Keppel High School Aztec Singers (Alhambra), Tony Azeltine, director; Montebello High School Golden Keys (Montebello), Nancy Schwartz, director.
Also featured are Narbonne High School Vocal Ensemble (Harbor City), Carol J. Levin, director; Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Varsity Singers (Rolling Hills Estates), Dan Doctor, director; Ramón C. Cortines High School for the Arts Music Academy Concert Choir (Los Angeles), Desiree Fowler, director; San Gabriel High School Matador Choir (San Gabriel), Cecilia Revilla, director; South High School Southland Singers (Torrance), Elizabeth Turner, director; St. Monica Academy High School Choir (Pasadena), Stephen Grimm, director; William Howard Taft High School Vocal Ensemble (Woodland Hills), Tom Pease, director; Venice High School Allegros (Los Angeles), Wendy Kornbeck, director.
The yearlong in-school program presented by the Chorale has five components. Several months prior to the festival, all participating Choral Directors meet with Gershon to review the repertoire he has selected. Directors then work in the classroom with their choirs on the music. During the spring, members from the LA Master Chorale Chamber Singers, the Chorale’s outreach ensemble, visit participating choirs and conduct masterclasses for the students and directors. A month before the festival, each school attends one of two area rehearsals conducted by Gershon, who works with the singers on their musicianship, musical interpretation and tone balance. The joint rehearsals also provide an opportunity for the students to sing as part of a much larger choir in preparation for the festival, which is the final component of the outreach program. Then, on the day of the festival, all of the schools join together for the first time and Gershon conducts a final dress rehearsal and concert, which is free to the public.
The Los Angeles Master Chorale’s High School Choir Festival is FREE and seating is first come, first served. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue at First Street in Los Angeles. For information, please call (213) 972-7282 or visit www.lamc.org/HSCF.
-Photo by Terry Miller