O.C. MUSIC and DANCE : Hall Chorale to Merge Into Master Chorale

Times Staff Writer

After 33 years of artistic eminence and financial struggle, the Pasadena-based William Hall Chorale will be dissolved at the end of the current season, to be absorbed into the Master Chorale of Orange County in Costa Mesa, officials of the two groups announced Tuesday.

William Hall, who is music director of both organizations, has taught at Chapman College in Orange since 1963.

Pending Master Chorale board approval, Hall will receive a 5-year contract with the group, the first time the organization has departed from its normal policy of year-to-year contracts. He became its music director in March, 1988.


Under the new arrangement, the Master Chorale, which will retain its name and remain in Costa Mesa, will have a combined membership of about 150 singers, Hall said. The Hall Chorale now has 90 to 100 singers; the Master Chorale’s roster lists 115. Auditions for the merged chorale will be held in the summer. Annual auditions are customary for both organizations.

The new group will make its debut Oct. 27 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

The Hall Chorale will have its final concert on April 30 when Hall conducts Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

Hall said Tuesday that the dissolution of his Pasadena chorale was “a difficult thing” but added that the “potential (in Orange County) is staggering. There is much more for us here.”

“This seemed a natural outgrowth,” he suggested, “since we’re combining the two groups anyway for (Britten’s) War Requiem” on May 21 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Hall said the new organization will offer concerts at UCLA’s Royce Hall and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, and will appear with the Inland Empire Symphony, in addition to its subscription season at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. After the Oct. 27 debut, dates at the Center will be Dec. 8 or 9, Feb 9 and April 27.


Hall plans to develop a group of approximately 35 to 40 singers for community outreach programs and contracted services. The Master Chorale’s pops ensemble, the Californians, will remain active, Hall said.

The 1989-90 budget for the newly constituted chorale will be approximately $450,000, an increase over the current Master Chorale budget of $330,000, according to board chairman John Rhynerson.

Hall stepped in to lead the Master Chorale in December, 1987, after the organization’s music director, Maurice Allard, resigned unexpectedly in October.

His appointment as music director the following March came amid discussions to merge with the Master Chorale and the Pacific Chorale, the other major choral group in Orange County. The Pacific is conducted by John Alexander.

Reasons for consolidation given by board members of both organizations included intense competition, not only for corporate dollars but for performance dates at the Orange County Center. It further was suggested that combining audiences would make it easier to fill the 3,000-seat facility.

In September, however, 10 months of negotiations fell apart over the question of who would lead the combined group.

The Master Chorale of Orange County was founded in 1956 as the Anaheim Choraleers, a small community group. Allard took over in 1978 when the organization had grown to include 120 members and shifted toward classical repertory.

The Hall chorale has earned a solid musical reputation and a high place among American choral organizations, having toured Europe and Asia as well as the United States. But the chorale has faced fiscal challenges and difficulties in finding suitable performance spaces.

Hall said Tuesday that his organization had experienced “waning sales in subscriptions and greater reliance on single ticket sales.” He recalled that in 1986, he had proposed merging his chorale with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, but that group chose to move in another direction and subsequently hired John Currie as music director.

Orange County, by contrast, according to Hall, looks like “the land of milk and honey.”