Celebratory Season for the Chorale

The new season for the Los Angeles Master Chorale begins Saturday, and music director John Currie promises it will be festive.

“It’s the 25th year of the Music Center and the Master Chorale, so we’ve gone for quite an upbeat season and, on the whole, quite a light-hearted celebration,” says the ebullient Scot. “I would like to see it as a year in which we move to financial stability by conserving our traditional audience while developing a new audience--which would be the very best way to celebrate.”

Fiscally, survival was about all that could be celebrated last season. An ambitious new series of choral chamber-music concerts, funded by a $45,000 grant from the Nakamichi Foundation, was canceled after only two of the five scheduled concerts were completed. The foundation allowed the Master Chorale to apply the unused portion of the grant to its final programs at the Music Center, which were given with reduced forces.

“We felt that we came out of last year OK,” says Robert Willoughby Jones, executive director of the chorale. “We have budgeted this year to be a break-even year, and the tickets are going well.”


A $200-a-plate fund-raiser, the Silver Serenade Ball in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel Nov. 18, may help the finances. Sixty members of the chorale will entertain, as will Benjamin Luxon, the baritone singing the title role in Music Center Opera’s “Wozzeck,” which opens Dec. 1.

The program Saturday lists Orff’s popular choral orgy, “Carmina Burana,” Dvorak’s Te Deum, and the ballet suite from Copland’s “Rodeo.” The latter features the Sinfonia Orchestra, the chorale’s instrumental support, again under the leadership of concert-master Stuart Canin.

Currie says that his soloists--New York-based soprano Katherine Luna and baritone Nickolas Karousatos--must be versatile enough to provide “the darker colors of the very operatic Te Deum, and also cope with the very special demands of ‘Carmina Burana.”’ Local hero Jonathan Mack will also sing in the “Carmina,” as will the Los Angeles Childrens’ Choir.

The season ends April 22, with a Scottish Highland Celebration. There will be pipers and dancing on the Music Center Plaza before the concert, which enlists folk singer Jean Redpath in an encore appearance with the chorale, and Drambuie has funded a post-concert drinks-and-dessert reception.


Three other subscription programs, plus the ninth annual “Messiah” sing-along, round out the Master Chorale’s own Music Center series. As usual, the chorale has several engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and provides the chorus for Music Center Opera.

Additionally, Currie will lead a small group in an Easter Sunday program of Renaissance music--mostly polychoral--in the Rotunda of Los Angeles City Hall, a Chamber Music in Historic Sites concert.

THE CONTEMPORARY VIOLA: Veteran violist Milton Thomas is offering a program entitled Vintage 20th-Century Music for Viola, at Hancock Auditorium, USC, Nov. 6. Thomas will be joined by violinist Yukiko Kamei and pianist Ayke Agus--colleagues from the Chamber Music/L.A. festival--in an agenda including the Los Angeles premiere of Paul Chihara’s Duo Concertante (written for Thomas and Kamei) and Ingolf Dahl’s Divertimento (first performed by Thomas and the composer, 40 years ago).

CONTRACTS SIGNED AND UNSIGNED: The Chicago Symphony and its musicians have agreed to a new three-year contract which will raise the musicians’ base salaries from the current $1,000 per week to $1,140 in 1990-91. The contract also includes changes in scheduling issues, and improvements in the pension plan.

The Baltimore Symphony, which recently successfully completed a $40-million endowment campaign, has now lost its musicians. The players went on strike following a concert Sept. 23, demanding salary parity with a peer group of eight orchestras.

ALSO SPRACH NIETZSCHE . . . UND WAGNER: USC and the Goethe Institute have combined for a lecture/performance series entitled “Wagner and Nietzsche: Prophecy and Provocation.” It begins Nov. 15 with a lecture in English at the Goethe Institute in Beverly Hills, and moves the following evening to the Schoenberg Institute at USC, where music by Wagner, Schoenberg, and yes, Nietzsche, will be performed. Nov. 17, Wagner’s great-grandson Gottfried speaks on the relationship between the composer and the philosopher, back at the Goethe Institute; Nov. 18, actor Christian Doermer gives a staged one-man Nietzsche show, in German, at the USC School of Communications. The series ends Nov. 19 with a screening of “Die Meistersinger,” filmed at the Hamburger Staatsoper with Giorgio Tozzi as Hans Sachs, in the Norris Cinema Theatre, USC.