August 12, 2014
On the next two Monday evenings, Aug. 18 and 25, Masterworks Chorale will hold auditions for its 51st season — yes, half a century plus one — following a notable anniversary celebration. Singers picked by Artistic Director Bryan Baker will participate in performances of:
(The auditions are held in the the Choral Room, College of San Mateo, 1700 West Hillsdale Blvd. Go online to make an appointment.)
The programs, especially the pairing of Bach and Berlin, are a bit out of the ordinary, clearly trying to appeal to different audiences. (It's not unheard of: in fact, mighty San Francisco Symphony opens the season with a program featuring Yuja Wang and Bonnie Raitt.)
Asked about the season and programming, Masterworks Executive Director Cheryl Blalock says:
Many new singers from the 50th Anniversary Season are returning, and we are thrilled. We want to share our passion to keep music alive and well, and both to build audiences and participation with new singers. Much of that comes from excellent programming.
Just as San Francisco Opera now programs cross over works like Showboat, and Gilbert and Sullivan companies program musicals, Masterworks has expanded its own offerings, with works from the Baroque, Classical, and Contemporary Classical genres all the way to Broadway.
We have a really balanced season, with two grand works in the Mozart Mass and the Durufle Requiem, the more intimate Bach Cantata and finally the ever-popular Les Mis concert in June. Sneaking in a bit of learning while creating glorious sound with a friendly group of people.
Asked to explain the "sneaking and learning" reference, Blalack added:
For many younger folks who have grown up with less music in the public schools, these are great and sometimes new works and experiences. Our primary programming has selections from 1600s, 1700s, 1940s, and then 1980s Broadway. The genres of each are unique, with different musical styles and interpretive elements. Thus, there is actually a lot of learning, but done in the context of actual singing with a very supportive group.
I think singers are hugely intrigued by big works that they long to sing in: for example, we grew by 18% last spring when we performed Carmina Burana. So, singers as well as the audience may come to us for different elements of our programming, which is the beauty of such a broad span in the works. Come for what you know, and grow to love something new.
Every year, audience members tell me that Masterworks' December concert brings them into the spirit of the season. These are people who love the holly jolly aspect and those who love the sacred aspect. So it seemed good to me to pair sacred J.S. Bach with secular Irving Berlin. The cantata Gloria In Excelsis Deo contains some of the most marvelous music ever written, and the music from the movie White Christmas is irresistible. So different but somehow complementary.
Founded in 1964 by Galen Marshall, Masterworks has a remarkable Darwinian record of survival of the fittest: As of the last season, seven choir members have been singing with the chorus for 40 years or more. There were 24 new members added for the anniversary season. This past March, Masterworks performed in Carmina Burana at a return engagement at Avery Fischer Hall, where they first sang in 1987.