Passport to the Human Soul:
LA Master Chorale’s Made in LA
Leticia Marie Sanchez
LA Master Chorale’s Made in LA provided audiences with a passport to the human soul. The diverse program not only allowed concertgoers to experience distinct cultures, but also transported them on a journey to understand the human condition in all its complexity: solitude, pain, love and redemption. Prior to the concert, LA Master Chorale’s Artistic Director, Grant Gershon announced that in light of the recent tragic current events, the concert was a “response to nihilism;” the evening’s program was dedicated to “victims of hate around the world.”
Made in LA opened with Morten Lauridsen’s Ave Maria, an uplifting antidote to violence, a work of art that brings us closer to celestial realm. The piece invokes the Virgin Mary, a figure who symbolizes one who has transcended human suffering. The singers of LA’s Master Chorale seamlessly expressed the rich resplendent harmonies; on stage, singers of a multitude of ages and races came together in unity, making it the perfect piece to open the concert.
Continuing the musical journey was the work of Dale Trumbore’s The Whole Sea In Motion, a composition that explored what it means to feel solitude in nature. Pianist Lisa Edwards evoked the waves that flowed in the lyrical prose of Anne Bronte, on which Trumbore’s composition was based. Water proved one of several themes running through Made in LA. For instance, Moira Smiley’s charming In The Desert With You, filled with onomatopoeia, provided a vivid and witty reflection on LA’s drought crisis.
In addition to water, the connection between poetry and music proved another consistent theme of the evening. In Matthew Brown’s Another Lullaby for Insomniacs, the hauntingly beautiful lyrics were reminiscent of Romantic poetry, centering on unrequited love with sleep personified as the elusive mistress. The tragic poetry of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis was powerfully amplified in Jeff Beal’s The Salvage Men, a complex work that explores the human condition. The Master Chorale delved into the nuances of the poetry of both Wilde and poet Kay Ryan in a way that was profoundly moving and healing.
A third theme of Made in LA was the Ave Maria, which also provided inspiration for two of the composers in the latter half of the program, Shawn Kirchner and Paul Chihara. Chihara’s Ave Maria/Scarborough Fair juxtaposed sacred text with folk song. The female oboist represented the earthly emissary, as she subtly heralded the music of Simon and Garfunkle. This overlay of modern and classic also occurred during the Renaissance, when composers would insert popular music into sacred texts, so Chihara is in good company.
The program concluded with the world premiere of Nilo Alcala’s Manga Pakalagian an exuberant and at times hypnotic choral suite. The piece, which marked the first time that the LA Master Chorale sang in Tagalog, contained traditional music from the Southern Philippines, Kulintag, which dates back over a thousand years.
Made in LA’s ambitious program ultimately provided its audience with respite and relief, a sacred space to reflect on humanity and emerge with a sense of healing and hope.
Photo Credit: © Steve Cohn