MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

The Los Angeles Master Chorale commissioned Jeff Beal to write a new, chorus-based score for the F.W. Murnau film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Grant Gershon leads the LAMC in the world premiere tomorrow evening. Here’s my essay on the background of this extraordinary film and Beal’s musical response:

On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Awards ceremony took place,
paying tribute to films presented in 1927 and 1928. One of the
big winners was Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which garnered
three awards. Along with distinctions for Best Actress (Janet
Gaynor) and Best Cinematography (Charles Rosher and Karl
Struss), Sunrise was named Best Unique and Artistic Picture.

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Filed under: commissions, film music, Los Angeles Master Chorale, program notes

Bruckner and Golijov: LA Master Chorale’s Opening Weekend


The Los Angeles Master Chorale opens its new season with a pairing of Bruckner and Osvaldo Golijov. Here’s my essay for the program:

It may seem hard to believe that the Los Angeles Master Chorale
is performing the two works on this program for the very
first time in its 55-year history. Though vastly different in
outlook and in the very sounds they demand from the chorus,
Anton Bruckner’s Mass No. 3 in F Minor and Oceana by Osvaldo
Golijov, might have been tailor-made for the
Master Chorale’s signature aesthetic…

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Filed under: Anton Bruckner, choral music, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Osvaldo Golijov

Reena Esmail’s This Love Between Us

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Tonight the Los Angeles Master Chorale gives the West Coast premiere of Reena Esmail’s moving This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity.

Here’s my program essay for tonight’s concert, which pairs her oratorio with Bach’s Magnificat.

I also had the privilege of writing this profile of Reena Esmail for Musical America.

Filed under: American music, Bach, choral music, Los Angeles Master Chorale, new music, Reena Esmail

LA Master Chorale in Big Sing California

Billed as “the biggest choral event in California history,” Big Sing California will link up  10,000 singers from around the world with the LA Master Chorale this afternoon at 2pm PST. The program will include music by Morten Lauridsen, Moira Smiley, Eric Whitacre, Rollo Dilworth, Shawn Kirchner, and other favorites. Complete program, artist bios, list of those participating, videos, and more here.

And it’s being livestreamed, but there will be no repeat screenings.

Tune in to Big Sing California 

 

Filed under: choral music, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Ellen Reid: Excavating American Dreams

Here’s the piece I wrote for the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s world premiere of reams of the new word by the team of composer Ellen Reid, librettist Sarah LaBrie, and researcher Sayd Randle.

“In classical and concert music right now, a lot of people are trying to think of how to reflect the world we feel we are living in and the world we want to be living in,” says composer and sound artist Ellen Reid…

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Filed under: American music, commissions, Los Angeles Master Chorale, new music

Handel in Los Angeles

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Tomorrow night’s performance by the Los Angeles Master Chorale of Israel in Egypt by Handel is sold out. Not surprising, given the remarkable collaboration that is taking place.

The Master Chorale and Grant Gershon have teamed up with the Syrian-Armenian artist Kevork Mourad, who will provide his unique visual accompaniment to the music.

Here’s my essay for the program:

SLAVERY, PLAGUES, AND RESTORATION

“I’m struck by how the Exodus story has spoken to so many different peoples over the last three millennia — especially today, with so many refugee crises and displaced peoples,” says Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Kiki and David Gindler Artistic Director, Grant Gershon. “To me, the heart of the Exodus story is this miraculous and unique restoration of a people to their homeland.”

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Filed under: Handel, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Bach Motets

 

This evening the Los Angeles Master Chorale performs the six Bach Motets, as  Associate Conductor Jenny Wong makes her solo conducting debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

 

Filed under: Bach, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Morten Lauridsen and Lux Aeterna

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Today begins the 2017 Chorus America Conference, hosted by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. There will be a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, which the Master Chorale commissioned when he was composer-in-residence.

My essay for Chorus America on the enormous impact Lauridsen has had on the contemporary choral music has now been posted:

In the last decade of the 20th century, the composer Morten Lauridsen wrote a series of pieces while serving a residency for the Los Angeles Master Chorale that have had a lasting and international impact. This year the choral world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the largest of these milestones, Lux Aeterna. What has given the Lauridsen aesthetic its power to connect and attract? And why does it continue to move performers, composers, and listeners?

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Filed under: choral music, Grant Gershon, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Morten Lauridsen

Adams & Stravinsky with the LA Master Chorale

My essay for tonight’s program by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. On the menu are some of the great choruses from John Adams’s operas (with brand-new piano transcriptions) and one of his favorite works of all time, Stravinsky’s Les noces.

Filed under: essay, John Adams, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Stravinsky

Reactions to LA Master Chorale’s Lasso

img_5830The opening weekend of the new Los Angeles Master Chorale season was devoted to Orlando di Lasso’s late masterpiece Lagrime di San Pietro. I’m still working through the extraordinary effect the performance had on me — and I know I’m far from alone.

Overall, I was left with an experience I associate with late Beethoven and Parsifal. It was genuinely that special. I’m fascinated by the line of development in Peter Sellars’s work from his stagings of the Bach Passions through John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary (also with the Master Chorale) and Kaija Saariaho’s La Passion de Simone. And of course his work on Stravinsky. James F. Ingalls’s lighting design added a rich layer, yet another strand of counterpoint.

The rehearsals — a record total of 26 to bring this to the stage — were reportedly grueling: a combination of boot camp and spiritual retreat. And the incredible technical challenge of committing so much of this music along with the choreography and gestures was taken for granted. Not that this was an “effortless” performance — far from it, the strain and exhaustion entailed in bringing this music and its message to life added to the powerful impact.

Mark Swed’s review I found especially incisive:

Normally, we turn to death-invoking music for its transformative powers. The final great works of Beethoven (the late string quartets), Mozart (the unfinished Requiem) or Mahler (the Ninth Symphony’s probe of dying embers) help us transcend despair.  Di Lasso’s “Lagrime,” however, is by a deeply depressed composer in the days before meds, someone who only wants his misery to end. It did in 1594, three weeks after finishing the score.

[…]

“Lagrime” is a major accomplishment for the Master Chorale, which sang and acted brilliantly. It is also a major accomplishment for music history. The company hopes to keep this production alive, touring it, and if the music business chooses to honor the just, that will be a saint’s compensation.

Remarking on the austerity and challenge of Lagrime that make it an improbable choice for a season-opener, Richard S. Ginell gave this assessment: “[T]he Master Chorale sounded glorious — rich, accurate, seemingly unaffected by all of the physical contortions Sellars put them through, even when singing face-down on the stage muffled their voices.”

Filed under: early music, Grant Gershon, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Peter Sellars

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