Lister Review: ‘Sacred’ with Metropolitan Master Chorale

On April 1st the Metropolitan Master Chorale christened their new Los Angeles Theatre Center home with a concert titled “Sacred”. The concert was performed in conjunction with the Valley Symphony Orchestra and a host of guest artists were featured in new works.

Getting to LATC was easy. Parking was even easier. The facility is noteworthy, as it was an old bank from the days when it was important to create a sense of grandeur and security. The lobby is the entire public area of the old bank and seems like it should be a performing space. The concert hall was built into space next to the old bank.

The evening started at 5pm, to encourage attendees to extend their visit to downtown by patronizing neighboring eating establishments after the concert. The concert was performed in the main theater of LATC, Theater 1, where the audience area is steeply raked, putting all seats close to the stage.

The program began with Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. It is always exciting to hear the first moments of this piece. Opening strains create an anticipation that great things are to come and the chorale and orchestra did not disappoint, making a strong entrance. Looking down on the stage made it possible to hear the choir beside, rather than through, the orchestra. The doubling of choir parts was more pronounced from this vantage point.

Maestro Michael Arshagouni did an excellent job leading the orchestra and choir. The strength of the vocal quartet’s musical skills showed with the entrance of soprano Sarah Grams and alto Sarah Reynolds. As Bradley Chapman, tenor, and Douglas McDonald, bass, joined in, the ensemble continued to the end of the work. Though all the soloists were good, Reynolds was especially enjoyable to listen to.

The second half of the program featured world premieres of works commissioned especially for MMC. The chorus seemed more connected to this material and had a much fuller sound than in the Mozart. Asking for Kaddish, composed by Ross Wright with a libretto by Kristin Zethren, had been originally written as a one-act opera based on the librettist’s personal experience. For this performance it was adapted into a suite. The soloists were again taken from the chorale. Michael Levin, baritone, had a brief incantation in the third movement, Kara Carrier lent her lovely voice to the second movement and Chapman’s tenor led in the rousing last section, “Barchu”.

Sometimes I Cry is a beautiful poem written by Rhea Rackley, the mother of MMC alto Madeleine, in commemoration of her sister Dorothy. It was a beautifully set to music by director/composer Glenn Carlos.

Convergence: a Jazz Vespers, by Shelton Berg, was the finale of the evening. In this work, a trio of formidable musicians joined the choir and orchestra: David Arnay at the piano, David Tull manning percussion, and Alison Lewis with her vocal stylings. The chorale commissioned Elliot Deutsch to expand the piece from a jazz trio to include choir and orchestra. It was very enjoyable to listen to, although more complex choral and orchestral parts might have been a better match for the trio. As it was presented, the choir was used as a sort of mantra, and the orchestra added accents and texture.

Given that there were so many commissions for loved ones who have passed on, and with the inclusion of the Requiem, the concert was a nice start to Easter week.

The chorale’s next concert, entitled “Green”, is on June 24th and will also be performed at LATC, 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, California 90013. Tickets are $20 & $25 and may be purchased at www.metrosings.org or at the Box Office at (800) 811-4111. For further information, call (323) 342-2263, or email the chorale at info@metrosings.org.

— Steve Grabe,
Community reviewer for Lauri’s List

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