The Valley Line: Gershon feted as Master Chorale season opens

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The little goblins were howling at my house on Sunday. It seemed that there were a record number of trick-or-treaters that were filling up their candy sacks this "All Hallows Eve."

Ballerinas, princesses, bumble bees, Draculas, and wolf men came knocking at my door. There was a host of unworldly specters that were also there to ward off the evil spirits — all in good fun and for the love of candy, of course.

My three grandkids (Aidan, Lucan and Morgan Neely) who are living in England, were feel candy-deprived because the holiday is not celebrated there in their wee hamlet outside of London.

Seems to me to be a bit of a puzzlement because the holiday came down to us here in the colonies because it originally was a feast celebrated by the Celts and called Samhain. Guess the young Neely trio will just have to wait until they return to the U.S. to do their trick-or-treating.

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I'm still catching up on autumn society news since it has been a very busy season.

To begin with, The Los Angeles Master Chorale recently opened up its new season at the beautiful Disney Concert Hall with the stunning a cappella concert of Rachmaninoff's "All-Night Vigil," which was composed in 1915.

Grant Gershon, music director and conductor, began his tenth year at the choir's helm by conducting the Russian composer's masterpiece, which is considered the crowning achievement of the Golden Age of Russian Orthodox sacred choral music. It was an incredible showcase for the choir's 110 voices.

Following the "sold-out" concert, there was a black-tie gala held at Disney Hall. The gala was sponsored by Bank of New York Mellon. The gala was themed "Bravo, Grant!" in honor of Gershon's 10th anniversary celebration with the Chorale.

The gala first began before concert curtain time with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres served in the lovely Disney Hall garden. It was a mellow late afternoon as the formally dressed guests enjoyed conversation and the anticipation of a grand concert ahead of them.

Post-concert, the specially-invited guests moved into the BP Grand Entertaining Hall, where dinner was served. The hall was beautifully decorated with splashes of colored lights that were also repeated in the magnificent floral center pieces that were created with different colors and types of flowers on each table.

A delightful treat was when guests were serenaded by the Chorale in what has become known as their "Surround-Sing." It is an amazing audible experience to behold as the singers encircle the room as they perform several songs.

Gershon was showered with tributes both musical and spoken from such luminaries as composer/pianist Ricky Ian Gordon, opera star Suzanna Guzman and Elissa Johnston, a celebrated soprano who is also Gershon's wife.

Mark Foster, president of L.A. Master Chorale said, "The extraordinarily high level of music making, the range of repertoire, and the wonderful adventures we've taken with Grant and the Chorale are simply unforgettable. Now, we have the opportunity to thank Grant for all of this and more."

It was an incredible way to begin a season. This Sunday the Chorale will be celebrating its French connections with an all French a cappella program that captures the subtleties of this country's unique musical legacy. This is music that Gershon is very familiar with because he worked with France's top musicians in the country's leading opera house and festivals for several years before assuming his post here.The concert begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are still on sale at the Disney Hall box office.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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