Pacific Chorale brings Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and other hits to ‘Language of Love’ concert

Robert Istad conducts the Pacific Chorale.
Robert Istad conducts the Pacific Chorale. The group’s “Language of Love” concert is taking place at Cal State Fullerton’s Meng Concert Hall on Feb. 24.
(Drew Kelley)

Costa Mesa-based choral group Pacific Chorale brings some romance to the stage in February with a mix of modern love songs, from artists including Adele and Ben Folds to Dolly Parton and Elton John, for a “Language of Love” concert at Cal State Fullerton’s Meng Concert Hall.

The eclectic, love-themed concert also spotlights a classical, choral piece composed by Morten Lauridsen, “Les Chansons des Roses.”

“The program is centered around Morten Lauridsen’s beautiful and complex five-movement ‘Les Chansons des Roses,’” said Robert Istad, Phillip N. and Mary A. Lyons artistic director. “The complete work is rarely performed and so we wanted to showcase Lauridsen’s masterful a cappella writing. … This program really features music for every listener, all tied together by the universal language of love.”


The 90-minute concert, which takes place Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m., includes 20 songs and 24 singers. The mix of modern music featured in “Language of Love” is part of a larger effort to reach a broader audience.

“It’s a central focus of mine to pair the choral repertory standards of the last 500 years with newer 20th and 21st century works. I’d say that most of our concerts represent this programming duality,” Istad said. “By weaving classical choral romance with contemporary hits, Pacific Chorale aims to reach a broad and diverse audience. This deliberate mix welcomes music for all generations, including younger audiences who may not be as familiar with the choral art form.”

Singers with the Pacific Chorale perform.
Singers with the Pacific Chorale perform. Morten Lauridsen’s “Les Chansons des Roses” will be performed alongside pop hits at a Pacific Chorale concert Feb. 24 in Fullerton.
(Drew Kelley)

In addition to “Les Chansons des Roses,” the concert will include songs like Elton John’s “Your Song,” Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy,” James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves,” Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest,” Adele’s “When We Were Young” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Many of the songs are arranged for a choral format, but also expect some solos that will sound much like the original song. The lineup includes Broadway songs, pop hits, vocal jazz and choral music. An instrumental trio — including collaborative pianist David Clemensen, Sean Emch on double bass and Matt Smith on drums — will accompany the choir.

Istad said though the Pacific Chorale has done a handful of cabaret-style performances in the past with its chamber choir, there haven’t been many concerts like this one.

“We wanted to explore a concert of choral music centered around the universal themes of love,” he said.

The concert features Pacific Chorale’s smaller chamber choir rather than the full, 100-plus choir. Istad said the Chorale roster includes 200 singers from across Orange County and Southern California.

The Pacific Chorale is bringing modern love songs to Fullerton as part of an effort to reach a broader audience.
(Drew Kelley)

“While many of our singers studied music in college, many did not,” he said. “About one-third of our roster is employed as part-time staff. Due to our annual schedule, we rotate singers across programs, with choir sizes ranging from 24 to 80, to 140 performers.”

Daniel Alvarez, tenor staff singer, has been with the Chorale since the 2018 season. 

“Before my first season with Pacific Chorale, I was a music education student at California State, Fullerton, and was urged to audition for the choir by both peers and teachers,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is currently a choir teacher at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside.

“In addition to [the] hall’s excellent acoustics, I am looking forward to many of my high school students attending the performance,” Alvarez said. “It is a uniquely beautiful experience to sing in a choir filled with friends. I look forward to every rehearsal and performance, and it is the highlight of my week.” 

Stephanie Shepson, alto staff singer, said this is her third season with Pacific Chorale.

“After finishing graduate school, I was looking for a new challenge and the opportunity to meet and collaborate with new artists. Pacific Chorale has been a special answer to this desire,” she said. “Many of my colleagues are alumni of CSUF, but for me performing in Meng Concert Hall will be new. I enjoy being and performing in new acoustic spaces. It is also special to think we might perform this program to a slightly different audience since this is not our regular performance venue.”