FOR reasons I don’t entirely understand, I’ve had a harder time with vocal and choral music than most other sorts of classical music. The human voice is the first ostensibly musical instrument we ever hear — why should it not strike strike my ear and naturally as the violin, cello or piano?
In any case, I’ve tried to make up for it this year by seeing more choral music: Yesterday I found myself at Disney Hall to see the season’s final concert of the Los Angeles Master Chorale — a program built around Morten Lauridsen’s Lux AEterna.
Lauritsen’s piece is one of a very few contemporary choral pieces I own and I’ve seen performances of other pieces of his music, but not this one. Twenty years ago April, the piece made its debut with the Master Chorale, and it’s been a popular and influential piece.
In any case, it was a delight to see its 20th anniversary marked with a number of other pieces alongside it. One was a Dante-inspired piece by Esa-Pekka Salonen, another was the West Coast premiere of an Eric Whitacre (the group’s flaxen-haired guest conductor), and yet another was a fresh arrangement of three classic American songs — the Christian music before Christian rock. This last bit, mixed by Shawn Kirchner, was indeed heavenly.
I expected the Master Chorale, headed by the well-regarded/down-to-earth Grant Gershon, to be a fine group with a forward-looking point of view.
The big surprise for me, then, was a recent concert by the Angel City Chorale at an old Methodist church on Wilshire. This was billed as Interactive: An Imaginative Multidimensional Event. I’m still not sure what that means, but the show was a blast. Some of it was exceptional, in fact, like some of the gospel music with black leads.
The interactive stuff that involved cell phones was mostly lost on me because my cell had just died. Some of the kids seemed to be loving it, so what do I know?
The United Methodist Church is a lovely site and quite decent acoustic space. And the singing here was top-notch.
If I were in the charge of the group, the percussion would not hit so hard on Wade on the Water — that song already has plenty o’ rhythmic drive — and the video/ cellphone stuff would not have been so central. But if I were in charge, none of what happened on that Saturday night would have, and I’m very glad it did.