The Valley Line: Anniversary of ‘Lux Aeterna’ celebrated by L.A. Master Chorale

Twenty years ago, I was fortunate to be sitting in the audience when the L.A. Master Chorale, under the baton of the late Paul Salamunovich, premiered Morten Lauridsen’s masterpiece, “Lux Aeterna.” This singular piece brought a new awareness throughout the choral world. Today it is one of the most performed works from the late 20th century.

On June 18 at Walt Disney Hall, the 115-member Chorale, conducted by Grant Gershon, celebrated the 20th anniversary of this groundbreaking piece with a full orchestra. Taking multiple bows at the end of this magnificent performance was Morten Lauridsen, composer.

Lauridsen, from 1995 to 2001, was resident composer of the L.A. Master Chorale. In 2006 Lauridsen was a National Medal of Arts recipient presented by then President George W. Bush at the White House. Additionally, for 40 years Lauirdsen has been a professor at USC Thornton School of Music.

This monumental concert featured “Iri Da Iri” by Esa-Pekka Salonen; “In Gratitude” a world premiere by composer Billy Childs; the world premier of “Time in Our Voices,” by Moira Smiley; “I Fall,” a West Coast premier, by Eric Whitacre. The latter conducted the piece. He is a two-year artist-in-residence with the Chorale. Shawn Kirchner, who is in a three-year term as Swan Family Composer-in Residence, composed “Heavenly Home: Three American Songs.”

Following the performance there were two different parties that celebrated this evening of song.

Black-tie clad gentlemen and their beautifully gowned women gathered in BP Hall for a sit-down dinner prepared by Patina. The event was co-chaired by Kiki and David Gindler and Raymundo Baltazar.

The highlight of the dinner came when the Chorale members encircled the hall and the diners. Gershon conducted the singers in three compositions: “Abide with Me” by Moses Hogan, and “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal” by Alice Parker. The third, “O Magnun Mysterium,” was a special surprise and was commissioned by Marshall Rutter for his wife Terry Knowles, on their wedding anniversary. Terry was the Chorale’s former president and chief executive. The couple were there to enjoy it.

KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman served as the most capable auctioneer of the live auction. Under his direction, this was a particularly robust auction. Guests were excited to bid on a signed framed manuscript page of “Lux Aeterna” which sold for $18,000. Another popular item was the private musical salon with Gershon and his wife, soprano Elissa Johnson, that went for $15,000. That was such a popular item that a second salon was also offered at $15,000. Also a popular auction item was a Hawaiian vacation at Molokai Sea Ranch that went for $9,500. Another exciting item was the opportunity to conduct the “Hallelujah Chorus” at the Chorale’s Messiah Sing-Along, that was auctioned off for $10,000.

At the exact time that the “black-tie” event was being held in BP Hall, there was another party taking place in the garden and on the Disney Hall Stage in partnership with KCRW. The Disney Hall stage became the dance floor for that party, which was quite fun.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@aol.com with news of your special event.

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