Tuesday, October 04, 2005


This is the architectural zenith of the Walt Disney Concert Hall at the L. A. Music Center. It is a magnificently shiny, silver structure whose sole purpose is to house the "zenith" of Musical Performing Arts in Los Angeles. The third season premiere concert by the L. A. Master Chorale was a "glorious" event held this last Sunday evening, Oct. 3rd. It was appropriately entitled" "Soar". It certainly was all of what that word connotes and this magnificent edifice symbolizes.

I was able to arrive early and take pictures of the outside of the building before dark. I tried, later, to take some photos of the interior. I was immediately told to stop. No photography allowed, even before the concert. The concert auditorium captures that same "soaring" feeling with its upward sloping, design; almost a "craftsman" look with very angular, smooth, crafted wooden surfaces. Of course the center piece is the massively, slightly curving "pile of gigantic pick-up-sticks" that house the organ pipes. The console, for this concert, was "down-center stage" and yet not used except as an accompaniment. We were assured that later concerts would feature its magnificents and the superb artistry of the resident organist, Christoph Bull. The ceiling of the concert hall is like rounded, draped, wooden curtains with small holes for lights. There are several balconies toward the back and sides and, uniquely, two balconies behind the stage. The total shape is like a "tear-drop" and with all the hard, wood surfaces, there is not a bad seat acoustically. "The hall is unforgiving that way." to quote the Chorale's Conductor, Grant Gershon. He and two of his invited "voices" held forth and the regular pre-show "lecture". Victoria Looseleaf, the Chorale's historian and writer of the "program notes" was the M.C. and on her left was the "voice" of the L.A. Master Chorale on "K-Mozart" 105.1fm. I didn't get her name. She also sings alto in the Chorale. Grant had many selections both live and recorded of the night's concert selections and wonderfully illustrated the theme: "Soaring of Choral Music through the Ages". What a love of this music he conveys. He pointed out the "soaring phrases". I happened to sit next to a lady from Seattle who had flown down just for this performance. She sings in the Seattle Master Chorale.

I really enjoyed my new season ticket seat. It is way down front, third row on the left side(stage right) Lots of leg room and an excellent view of the choir and the conductor's facial expressions. I asked for more leg room and they, graciously accommodated me. I found out that my valet parking ticket was only good for one concert. Can you imagine $20. to park your car? I won't do that again. I had time to eat at their little cafeteria. Had some delicious butternut squash soup. Didn't have time to tour the "Phil Shop" for souvenirs. The conductor uses his voice on the tuning pitches with "Lu, lu, lu" triads. Sounds like an orchestra tuning up. He also introduces the "cautions to the audience" (no recording devices etc.) that way. It get everyone's attention.

Almost every selection the Chorale sang was for multiple choirs. I think the minimum was two and the maximum was 8! Yes, on the "Spem in alium" by Thomas Tallis, there were 8 separate choirs and 40 parts! (5 each) There were about 15 to 20 members in each. (I counted over 110) They were placed all around the hall. Six were in balconies (3 on each side) Two up on the stage. So you had "surround sound" stereo. After a while they all blended together and sounded like a "round". In the first number, "Plaudite omnis terra" by Giovanni Gabrieli there were 5 choirs in these locations. It was "glorious" with all the harmonics and sonority permeating my very being. I was "in heaven" or what I think heaven will be like. There was alot of shifting around between numbers for new configurations. Grant would then "vamp" or segue into the next selection. I particularly liked that he stopped, after starting the last selection and asked the "house lights technician" to turn up the house lights so the audience could read the English translation of the last selection, the longest and most poignantly moving piece, "Figure Humaine" by Francis Poulenc. It was in French based on the poems of Paul Eluard written during the Nazi Occupation of France. The ending chord was full and almost a shock! "Liberte!" I was sitting, probably 10 to 15 feet from the one soprano who was allowed to hit the highest note. I knew it was her, back row, stage right, because she had lowered her held music. This, alone, was worth the whole concert to me. It, and the whole concert, received at least 4 curtain calls and standing ovations. Of course, my favorites musically were the two Schumann pieces with poetry by Ruckert and Goethe. "An Die Sterne" and "Talismane" I used to love to sing German. It remined me somewhat of Shumann's Leider(sp?) his songs. So warm and rich in tone...soothing.

I was so "jazzed" and excited after this concert that I "soared" all 70 miles home and didn't fear falling asleep once at the wheel. I can hardly wait for the next concert "Transform"! Bob


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