The Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC) concludes its year long 50th Anniversary Season celebration on Sunday, June 8, 2014, 7 pm, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with “Today, Tomorrow & Beyond,” a forward-looking program conducted by Music Director Grant Gershon featuring the world premieres of three works commissioned by the acclaimed choir in honor of its 50th jubilee. They include Iri da iri (“Rainbow by rainbow”), a piece commissioned by the singers themselves from eminent composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, with whom the Chorale has shared a rich history both in his capacity as a composer and Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the national anthems, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, which features the masterful Calder Quartet; and Inscapes by LAMC Swan Family Composer in Residence Shawn Kirchner. The Chorale, joined by the 80-member LAMC High School Choir Festival Honor Choir, reprises Es Tu Tiempo by MacArthur Fellow Francisco Núñez led by the composer himself. Additionally, the Chorale reprises Gabriela Lena Frank’s Los Cantores de las Montañas (“The Singing Mountaineers”) performed with the innovative Latin American folk ensemble Huayucaltia and conducted by Associate Conductor Lesley Leighton. It was premiered by the Chorale in April 2012 and is the fifth work in the LAMC’s highly regarded LA is the World commissioning project, conceived by Gershon as a collaboration among American composers, master musicians and the choir to expand the choral repertoire with works that mirror LA’s vibrant multi-cultural fabric.
Salonen’s new work, Iri da iri, for a cappella chorus, is based on Dante’s Paradiso, the final section of Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. Drawn to the universal perspective in the poem’s conclusion, Salonen says, “It goes beyond the religious. At the end Dante has to admit that the only thing he knows is that love is what makes the planets and stars, the whole cosmos work.” Salonen took musical cues from the poem’s meter and three-line stanzas, which provided an inherent structure at times linear and others “densely contrapuntal.” He also says that, given his strong ties with Gershon and the Chorale, the commission, “is very personal for me — more so than usual.” The Chorale has sung under Salonen’s baton in more than 200 concerts. Additionally, the Chorale gave the US premiere of his choral works Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jäderlund (later retitled Two Songs from Kalendar Röd), of which the chorus also made the world premiere recording (RCM 2003) that earned a coveted four-star rating from the Philadelphia Inquirer and was hailed by critics as “razor sharp” (Daily News) and “ethereal and impelling” (Los Angeles Times).
Lang has set the national anthems to excerpts from national anthems worldwide. He describes the piece, composed for a large choir and string quartet, as a “meta-anthem of all the hopes and dreams that everyone in the world has in common.” With its range of just over one octave – consistent with the range of most anthems for relative ease of singing – Lang says it is “something that everyone can conceivably sing, from start to finish.” The piece was commissioned through the generous support of Lenore and Bernard Greenberg. The Calder Quartet, which is featured on this work, has been hailed as “superb” (The New York Times) and “one of America’s most satisfying – and most enterprising – quartets” (Los Angeles Times). Winner of the 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant, the group continues to work and collaborate with artists across musical genres, spanning the classical and contemporary music world, as well as rock, and visual arts; and in venues ranging from art galleries and rock clubs to Carnegie and Walt Disney concert halls.
Núñez, founder and artistic director of the renowned Young People’s Chorus of New York City, is acclaimed for seamlessly fusing a wide range of cultural and musical idioms. In keeping with the closing concert’s forward-looking theme, the Honor Choir from LAMC’s Annual High School Choir Festival – the next generation of singers – for whom Es Tu Tiempo was commissioned on the occasion of the 25th Festival in May 2014, reprises it with the Chorale members. Composed for mixed chorus, piano, percussion and electric bass, Núñez wrote the lyrics specifically for students about the milestone of transitioning from a youth in high school to adulthood. While there is a sense of loss about experiences that will never happen again, it also offers comfort to those to come that all will be fine, regardless of the path that journey takes. The piece was underwritten by Judi and Bryant Danner.
Kirchner’s Inscapes is an a cappella work for double choir set to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, considered “a nature mystic” and one the Victorian era’s greatest poets. A longtime tenor in the Chorale, Kirchner describes the cycle of four settings of Hopkins’s poetry as “a grand and celebratory choral symphony that calls for the Chorale’s exulting voice.” Wishing to stay true to the poetry and the poet’s intent, he says, “I’m trying to connect with that level of awe in perceiving a part of nature, a tree or a kingfisher. These aren’t just pretty pictures of nature; they’re all part of the ‘royal perception’ of the intrinsic patterns of being.” Named the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Swan Family Composer in Residence in July 2012, he is only the second Composer in Residence in the Chorale’s history, succeeding Morten Lauridsen. Kirchner’s works have been performed around the globe, including his popular arrangement of the Kenyan folksong Wana Baraka, which was performed at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Windsor Castle celebrating the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Frank, who is based in California but whose family tree spreads from South America to China, set Los Cantores de las Montañas (“The Singing Mountaineers”) to the poetry of José María Argueda. The Los Angeles Times describes it as “fond, alluring music that sounds like a vivid memory of a place that doesn’t exist.” One of the most sought-after classical composers in the country, the Latin Grammy Award-winning composer has “clearly emerged as a major composer” (San Francisco Classical Voice). She has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, soprano Dawn Upshaw and Chanticleer, among others. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. She has traveled extensively throughout South America, and her pieces blend Latin-American folklore, poetry, mythology and native musical styles into a Western classical framework that is uniquely her own. Huayucaltia, LA’s innovative Latin American folk jazz ensemble, is featured with the Chorale. Formed in 1985, the instrumental group, rooted in the ideals of Latin America’s nueva cancion (new song) movement of the 1970’s, skillfully fuses Andean, Afro-Peruvian, jazz, rock and classical influences. The piece was funded by The James Irvine Foundation.
Tickets range from $29 – $129. Group rates are available. For tickets and information, please call (213) 972-7282, or visit www.lamc.org. (Tickets cannot be purchased at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Box Office except on concert days starting 2 hours prior to the performance.) The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue at First Street in downtown Los Angeles.