When Dr. David Chase assumed leadership of the La Jolla Symphony Chorus in 1973, it consisted of 60 members. Over the succeeding years, Dr. Chase grew the chorus to 130 voices while expanding the group’s repertoire to include contemporary works as well as proven classics.
To mark his retirement after 44 years as Choral Director in June 2017, Dr. Chase assembled and conducted an eclectic program inspired by love and passion under the appropriate title, “The Lovers.” The first piece, the charming “Overture to Beatrice and Benedict,” is a concert staple from Hector Berlioz’s opera comique based on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Next on the bill is Arnold Schoenberg’s tone poem “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), the composer’s interpretation of a German romantic poem. It is widely considered one of this modernist composer’s most accessible works. In the program’s final piece, “The Lovers,” American neo-Romantic composer Samuel Barber sets a cycle of poems by celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda for baritone, mixed chorus, and full orchestra.
Taken as a whole the three pieces form a compelling examination of both the complexities of love and music’s ability to speak directly to the heart. Not coincidentally, the program also reflects David Chase’s passion for music and lifelong devotion to popularizing lesser-known works and is a fitting culmination to his tenure with La Jolla Symphony & Chorus. Dr. Chase will be ably succeeded, but he can never be replaced.
George Bernard Shaw once remarked that “the English take a creepy sort of pleasure in requiems.” I can’t speak to the truth of this statement, but there’s no denying that requiems are among the most popular works in the orchestral/choral repertoire, in England and elsewhere. Composers as diverse as Haydn, Brahms, Berlioz, Dvořák, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Britten have assayed the form, each bringing their own unique sensibilities to the challenge of interpreting a liturgical service in musical terms.
Arguably, the two best-known examples of the requiem are those written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (considered by many to be the template for the genre) and Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, which premiered in Milan in 1874, is based on the Roman Catholic funeral mass and scored for four soloists, double (sometimes triple) choir, and orchestra. Verdi composed the piece in memory of poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, whom he greatly admired. It consists of seven major sections, within which are several sub-sections of varying and often contrasting moods. In order to heighten the inherent drama and poignancy of the liturgical mass Verdi brought to bear the skills and devices he’d mastered as a composer of operas: expressive orchestration, assertive rhythms, beautiful melodies, vocal pyrotechnics, and dramatic contrasts over an exceptionally wide dynamic range. Indeed, following the Requiem’s premiere many traditionalist critics complained that the music was far too “operatic” in style and not appropriate for the solemn subject matter. Fortunately for us, that view has not prevailed.
Undertaking performance of such a mammoth work, involving 300+ performers on stage, requires both abundant skill and a degree of intrepidity, traits which La Jolla Symphony & Chorus have amply demonstrated in their programming choices. Under the baton of conductor Steven Schick the musicians and vocal soloists render the complexities and subtleties of the piece with both confidence and sensitivity, and if it’s not sacrilegious to say so, the result is thrilling.
Contributed by arts and humanities producer John Menier
“One of the things I love most about music is how it helps us remember our lives.” – Conductor, Steven Schick
So begins the second annual Young People’s Concert as Schick guides an audience of children and their families through a presentation of selections from Gustav Mahler’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.
“Gustav Mahler’s symphony number five is a piece about memory,” explains Schick. “Let’s do this, let’s close our eyes… I want you to imagine a person at the end of his life…”
With eyes shut and imaginations open, the young audience is taken on a journey of Mahler’s life, which is the inspiration for his symphony. Schick introduces featured instruments and melodic themes, emphasizes the unique connections both composer and listener draw from musical expression and personal experience, and fields questions from the audience.
In addition to piquing the students’ interest and enriching their musical knowledge, La Jolla Symphony and Chorus hope that the program will, in Schick’s words, “encourage our future Symphony members to pursue their musical education.”
As funding for the arts in San Diego area schools continues to languish, outreach by arts presenters has become a vital component in public education and awareness. It is in this spirit that the community-based La Jolla Symphony and Chorus inaugurated their Young People’s Concert.
A new year affords the opportunity to reflect on what’s gone before while looking ahead to new possibilities. In this spirit, I can think of no better way to kick off 2011 than by presenting new musical contributions from old and valued friends. • La Jolla Music Society SummerFest – During the 18 years (!) […]
A new year affords the opportunity to reflect on what’s gone before while looking ahead to new possibilities. In this spirit, I can think of no better way to kick off 2011 than by presenting new musical contributions from old and valued friends.
• La Jolla Music Society SummerFest – During the 18 years (!) of our association, SummerFest has moved from strength to strength, and the three 2010 concerts which premiere this month on UCSD-TV reflect the range, depth and joyous musicality which have always characterized this chamber music festival.
• San Diego Opera – Since the premiere of San Diego Opera Spotlight in January 1997, our collaboration with the Opera has grown to include two additional series, San Diego OperaTalk and, most recently, San Diego Opera Stars in the Salon (formerly Artists’ Roundtable). To my knowledge this partnership is unique in the opera world, as the three series combine to produce a long-term, comprehensive portrait of the history and evolution of a vital art form. The new season of opera programming premieres this month with a behind-the-scenes peek at Puccini’s Turandot and continues its run through the end of May.
• La Jolla Symphony & Chorus – This community-based ensemble has performed challenging music on the UCSD campus for over 50 years. UCSD-TV’s association with the Symphony (and mine) began in 1993, and it remains a touchstone in my professional life. The Symphony combines respect for tradition with an adventurous spirit, presenting established repertoire alongside challenging new or undeservedly obscure works. Their 2010 concert, Color, premiering in February, is an excellent example of what the Symphony does best. The program spans the 20th century, from Mahler to Bernstein, and includes a dynamic performance of Alexandre Scriabin’s pioneering multimedia composition, Prometheus, the Poem of Fire.
• Rebecca Lytle Memorial Concerts – UCSD-TV has presented Professor Emeritus and pianist Cecil Lytle in annual concerts since 1998. Through the years Cecil has displayed his virtuosity in a wide range of formats and styles, including classical, ragtime, jazz, blues, popular standards and, yes, tango. This year’s concert is a multimedia exploration of the life, influences and legacy of Hungarian master Franz Liszt. The Naked Liszt premieres on UCSD-TV in March.
Berthold Auerbach wrote, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I like to think that UCSD-TV is doing its part to make the world a cleaner place.
(PRESS RELEASE) LA JOLLA, CA— UCSD-TV took home the Emmy Award in the Entertainment-Program or Special category for “La Jolla Symphony & Chorus: Philip Glass’ Cello Concerto.” UCSD-TV’s Arts and Humanities producer John Menier accepted the award — his fifth career Emmy win and UCSD-TV’s thirteenth — at the June 13 ceremony in downtown San […]
(PRESS RELEASE) LA JOLLA, CA— UCSD-TV took home the Emmy Award in the Entertainment-Program or Special category for “La Jolla Symphony & Chorus: Philip Glass’ Cello Concerto.” UCSD-TV’s Arts and Humanities producer John Menier accepted the award — his fifth career Emmy win and UCSD-TV’s thirteenth — at the June 13 ceremony in downtown San Diego.
The award-winning program features La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’ North American premiere of Glass’ “Cello Concerto” and interviews with renowned cellist Wendy Sutter, conductor Steven Schick, and the composer himself.
UCSD-TV and La Jolla Symphony & Chorus have created an ongoing partnership to produce programs that showcase performances and behind-the-scenes interviews with the artists. Two new programs will debut on UCSD-TV in July, including Evan Ziporyn’s “Frog’s Eye” with Tijuana-based dance troupe Lux Boreal, and “Passion,” featuring Elgar’s “Cello Concerto” with guest cellist Maya Beiser. Broadcast information is available at www.ucsd.tv/lajollasymphony.