To say that 2020 was a tough year is a massive understatement, so it’s easy to forget that, even amidst all the sadness and strife, we still shared some remarkable moments as a community of choral music lovers. Below are five of our most newsworthy stories of the year. We hope you enjoy taking a look back as we look hopefully toward a better 2021 for all.
5. The World Premiere of Jeff Beal’s Sunrise
On January 26, the Master Chorale performed for a nearly full house in Walt Disney Concert Hall of a new score by Jeff Beal to the 1927 F. W. Murnau film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. The concert was one of LAist’s 24 coolest things to do that weekend and was among Los Angeles Magazine’s Best Things To Do in LA in January.
The Los Angeles Times profiled Beal, award winning composer of the scores for Pollock, Netflix’s House of Cards, and numerous documentaries, in a feature article published in advance of the concert, and the composer also appeared on KCRW’s Press Play program.
4. Another World Premiere: Eric Whitacre’s Sacred Veil Recording
Signum Classics released the Master Chorale’s world-premiere recording of Eric Whitacre’s The Sacred Veil on August 28, an informal finale to the composer’s time as Swan Family Artist-in-Residence, which ended in July 2020.
The album was received positively by the press, including the San Francisco Classical Voice and Tom Schnabel of KCRW, who called the album “a perfect musical anodyne for our crazy times.” Stereophile gave the album a five-star review and noted, “From its first entrance, the Los Angeles Master Chorale surrounds you in room-filling sound in frontal stereo. There is no audible distortion at climaxes—no stridency—just appealing naturalness.”
3. Five More Years for Grant, and a Bold Commitment to Diversity
Along with the inevitable postponement of its 2020–21 season, the Master Chorale also announced two pieces of very good news: Grant Gershon will continue to lead the chorus for the next five years, and he will also commit to ensuring that 50% of all music performed in each season will be composed by composers from underrepresented groups.
Grant explained the importance of this commitment to Jennifer Gelt of the Los Angeles Times, noting that “We have to acknowledge that there is systemic racism in classical music … Most of our classical music institutions were created by white men for other white people. I think systemic bias requires systemic solutions, and the crisis has allowed us to think about these things.”
The Master Chorale also announced the promotion of Jenny Wong, who was profiled in the Los Angeles Times in October, to Associate Conductor.
2. High School Choir Festival Goes Virtual
When the pandemic closed down the Music Center last spring, it also threatened the Master Chorale’s annual High School Choir Festival, which was scheduled to have its annual performance in Disney Hall last May. Thanks to the hard work of its staff, the Master Chorale was able to take the festival online, providing our students some opportunity to share their voices with the world.
Spectrum News did a wonderful story about our Virtual High School Choir Festival that featured an interview with Director of Education Lesili Beard; Brianne Arevalo, the choir director of Van Nuys High School; and student Tsing Miller.
1. Our Donors Show Their Support: Thank You!
Whether it was board members like Courtland Palmer, who led the drive in the early part of the shutdown to raise money for our singers, Bob and Sally Neely, whose support made our video of TaReKiTa by Swan Family Artist-in-Residence possible, or the many who have contributed to our Emergency Fund for Artistic Innovation, all of our supporters deserve a huge round of applause and our heartfelt gratitude. During this tough year, you helped us to survive, yes, but more: you helped us to continue to share the magic of choral music, in new and exciting ways.