Donor Profile: Courtland Palmer
DONOR PROFILE: COURTLAND PALMER
Courtland Palmer is the secretary of the Los Angeles Master Chorale board and serves as the chair of the governance and nominating committee. He is also a new member of the Roger Wagner Society, which honors and recognizes individuals who have expressed their commitment to the art of choral music by making an endowment or planned gift benefitting the Master Chorale.
How did you come to be involved with the Los Angeles Master Chorale?
Back when the Master Chorale performed in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a friend took me to see one of the annual Messiah Sing-Along performances. I was hooked: it was the most compelling evening I had ever experienced in the arts. I lived in New York City as a teenager and was was a regular Broadway theatre goer, I saw Richard Burton’s Hamlet, and I went to a lot of musical theater. But the Master Chorale immersive experience was really something very powerfully different; I was standing in the “choir” just in front of a group of sopranos for the Hallelujah Chorus, and the hair on my neck stood up when I heard them.
I started buying tickets regularly about 20 years ago. With Grant Gershon at the helm, the Master Chorale was performing all sorts of interesting stuff, different music by composers I had never heard of. Once the Master Chorale moved to Disney Hall, I started making small donations. And then one day, they asked me to join the board.
You led the effort last spring to raise money for our singers after COVID-19 shut down our performances. Why did you feel it was so important to step up and compel others to give to this cause?
The singers and orchestra musicians are essential to the organization; it is because of them that we are internationally recognized. I do not want any of them to leave us, to feel like they must go somewhere else to work. I would hate to see Jenny (Associate Artistic Director Jenny Wong) laid off, for example. She is a very creative, knowledgeable, and talented person, and the reason, along with Grant (Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director), that we are able to mount the productions we do all over the world. In this business, artists will leave if you do not take care of them.
Thank you for joining our Roger Wagner Society for legacy giving. Why did you decide to make this commitment, and why do you think it is important?
I feel strongly about the need to build the Master Chorale’s endowment, and that is why I decided to join the Roger Wagner Society. I really view the singers and staff as family. I do not want to lose anyone.
You traveled to Europe with the choir and was with them when they opened the Salzburg Festival in the summer of 2019. What was it like, getting to know the singers and their process, sharing in the excitement of a major performance?
When I was in Salzburg, we stayed in the same hotel, and the singers were very welcoming. I also tried to keep my distance so they could remain focused. These singers do not mess around: they are committed artists.
The performances in Salzburg (of Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro) were transformative. I saw the Master Chorale’s first performance of this work in 2016 and later performances as well. It was amazing how the singers could adapt to the venue. They built the stage in an empty church, and the sound was reverberated so much that it was a problem. But they rose to the challenge, and the sound they made was so rich, you could almost see the notes flying out of the choir. It was a very emotional experience. At the end of the last performance, everyone was very still, and then as Peter Sellars came out, the crowd cheered. People had tears in their eyes.
What do you consider to be the most rewarding part of being a supporter of the Master Chorale?
Giving really does make you feel good. It is money I don’t need, and I’d rather see it go to the Master Chorale after I am gone.
To have some input in how the Master Chorale runs has been as exciting as it has been educational. Grant is innovative, and our job as a board is to figure out how we can make his artistic ideas possible. It is always exciting to hear what he and Jenny want to do. The inclusiveness of the Master Chorale and it’s board also makes it very rewarding; I’ve learned a lot about music because of it.