Classically Trained: Auditions loom for women's chorus

Don't expect a wisecracking Simon Cowell at this audition.

That's a fundamental note Eliza Rubenstein wants all those hopeful singers out there to know when they try out for the Orange County Women's Chorus, whose auditions start next week.

"The first thing they can expect is to not be terrified," she says. "We try to make it as non-threatening as possible."

So what can ladies expect when auditioning for this Newport Beach-based group?

Well, for one, though it may seem obvious, be prepared to sing a song. And, believe it or not, it can be just about anything — anything that will show off your talents, that is.

"It doesn't have to be an aria, formal or even 'serious' music," says Rubenstein, director of the chorus.

Though if you can go operatic and dazzle everyone with Mozart's "Queen of the Night" aria, I say by all means do it!

Similar to many music auditions, you'll also do some sight reading — a musician's term for performing music on the fly, without prior viewing or rehearsal of the notes — of pieces that progress in difficulty. This means that, indeed, you'll have to know how to read musical notation.

Then you'll undergo some vocalization to determine your singing range and do a short interview. The entire process takes about 15 minutes.

Rubenstein says the OCWC accepts new members each year — sometimes as few as two or three or as many as nine — into the group of some 35 singers.

"I don't have a specific number in mind this year of people to accept," Rubenstein says. "I'm just excited to look for new talent."

The ensemble's members range in age, usually from the college-age to retired folks.

The chorus is a well-established ensemble here in the county. Its members have been "causing treble" since 1997.

The chorus' rehearsal home is the wonderful hall of the Newport Harbor Lutheran Church, in Newport's Dover Shores neighborhood. The singers get the place all to themselves on Tuesday nights and give their music its properly beautiful treatment, as I witnessed while attending one of their rehearsals last November.

Rubenstein, an Oberlin and UC Irvine graduate, has been leading the chorus since 2000. She also serves as the choral director at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and leads the Long Beach Chorale & Chamber Orchestra.

Joining the OCWC now comes at the cusp of some exciting news: The group will be performing at the American Choral Directors Assn. convention in Reno, Nev., this March.

Only 14 choruses from the western region were invited to the convention, Rubenstein says, which highlights top performing ensembles throughout the country. It will be the OCWC's second appearance at the event, the last being in 2004.

Rubenstein says it's a great chance to sing for a big audience, but the pressure's on.

"What makes the convention a little bit scary, as well as a lot of fun, is that the audience there is an audience of about 1,000 choral directors," she says. "You can't fool them. They expect top notch."

To schedule an audition, email or call (949) 451-8590.

"If you are a woman who sings beautifully and who is a qualified musician," Rubenstein says, "we will find a place for you in the O.C. Women's Chorus."


They've got that swing …

Some of the best kings of swing join the Pacific Symphony at 8 p.m. Aug. 27 for a concert led by Carl St.Clair at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. Picnicking is welcome in this venue after the doors open at 6 p.m.

The Duke Ellington Orchestra is the guest star and will be performing hits of Duke Ellington, the legendary American composer who penned more than 1,000 songs and did more than 20,000 performances worldwide.

Also on the program are selections by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein — St. Clair's mentor and friend from his early conducting days.

Tickets start at $25. Concertgoers younger than 14 get half-price tickets with the purchase of an adult ticket for most sections of the amphitheater.

For more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at

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