Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Coming and Going

June 06, 2016

Artist-in-Residence Eric Whitacre conducts the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Photo: Marie Noorbergen & Tao Ruspoli
It was a busy Sunday evening. The Los Angeles Master Chorale performed their final show of the season this weekend, and, though it was an a cappella performance with the full chorale, it was packed with activity. Not to mention some incredibly beautiful music. The variety of selections on the program was no surprise – diversity has always been a staple of the LAMC’s repertory. The evening careened from Allegri’s 17th Century Miserere to an arrangement of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence. But the real news of the night was all the comings and goings for the ensemble. While Artistic Director Grant Gershon remains at the helm, Sunday marked the end of Associate Conductor Leslie Leighton’s six-year tenure with the ensemble. She choked back tears as she paid tribute to her musical family and then she led them in a thoughtful performance of the late Steven Stucky’s Three New Motets.

This lovely so-long was followed by a hotly anticipated hello in the form of the newly appointed inaugural LAMC Swan Family Artist-in-Residence, Eric Whitacre. Whitacre has cultivated a choir geek rock star persona that at times has cleverly masked his immense talent as a composer and conductor. He led two pieces after the intermission in the evening’s program that said much about what he may bring to the LAMC in coming seasons. First was that arrangement of Depeche Mode’s 1990 hit Enjoy the Silence. He explained the choice as a tribute to his love of pop music from his adolescence and certainly paid tribute to the geek in many of his audience. But the arrangement was much more than a gimmick. His arrangement was skillful and haunting in a way that sincerely added to the source material. Following this was Anders Hillborg’s Mouyayoum, a wordless percolating postmodern piece with dozens and dozens of parts melding in an elaborate aural tapestry. Whitacre has many tricks up his sleeve, and it’s as much an exciting time to be listening to the Chorale now as it ever has been. And if one needed further evidence of that, there wasn’t any need to look any further than the sparse glow of Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna. Gershon and his vocalists know how to fill a room with spirit and they did so over and over again at the end of the season.


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