Paul Salamunovich, respected choral conductor, dies at 86

Paul Salamunovich, respected choral conductor, dies at 86
Conductor Paul Salamunovich at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 2001. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Paul Salamunovich, the widely respected choral conductor who led the Los Angeles Master Chorale for 10 years, died on Thursday. He was 86 and was suffering from multiple health complications due to West Nile virus.

Salamunovich served as music director of the Master Chorale from 1991 to 2001, and later became the organization's director emeritus. Under his leadership, the chorale continued to rise in international prominence and take on adventurous programming that put new music alongside classical standards.

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As a conductor, Salamunovich also worked frequently in the movie industry, leading choral performances for the soundtracks of prominent movies including  "A.I.," "Grand Canyon" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula."

In addition, he served for 50 years as the choir director at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood. He brought his expertise in Gregorian chants and other ecclesiastical music to bear in numerous concerts, including an audience with Pope John Paul II.

Salamunovich was born in Redondo Beach in 1927 and attended St. James Elementary School; he graduated from Hollywood High School in 1945. He served in the Navy and eventually returned to L.A., where he began his choral conducting career.

Salamunovich imparted his choral-music erudition to students at institutions around Southern California, including Mount St. Mary's College and and Loyola Marymount University

He is survived by his wife of nearly 64 years, Dottie; sons John, Stephen, Joseph and Thomas; 13 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. His daughter, Nanette, died in 1977.

A full obituary will appear at latimes.com/obituaries.

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