The Film Music Society FMS FEATURE ARTICLE...

June 13, 2003
Los Angeles Master Chorale in Concert
Choral Film Music Celebrated in Season Finale
by Jon Burlingame

The Los Angeles Master Chorale, which has been heard on dozens of Hollywood movie soundtracks, paid tribute to choral film music in its season-finale concert on Saturday, June 7, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

This was the second such event by the Master Chorale in the past three years, but the first under the baton of resident conductor Grant Gershon. As in the May 2000 concert, film and TV composer J.A.C. Redford (The Trip to Bountiful) served as music adviser and, in some cases, arranger.

In terms of musical choices, it was a mixed bag. Highlights included the chorale's opening number, which combined the overture and finale from Sir William Walton's Henry V (1945); the main title from Jerry Goldsmith's The Sum of All Fears (2002); and an eight-movement suite from Cliff Eidelman's melancholy Triumph of the Spirit (1989).

Other selections were "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" from John Williams' Amistad (1997), the folk standard "Down to the River to Pray" from O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), Danny Elfman's music from Edward Scissorhands (1990), a suite from James Horner's Titanic (1997) and Maurice Jarre's theme from Sunshine (1999).

For the finale, Gershon offered another Henry V: Patrick Doyle's 1989 interpretation, including music for the play's "St. Crispin's Day" speech (read by actor Rene Auberjonois) and the perennially popular "Non Nobis Domine."

The odd piece on the program was "Extase," a musical nonsense for choir and orchestra based on a Victor Hugo poem. Video-game composer Jeremy Soule was invited to contribute – ostensibly to demonstrate the choir's ability to stay up-to-date – but he chose instead to create a new work that left most listeners scratching their heads.

Throughout, however, the 100-voice choir performed admirably, reminding concertgoers of both the value of voices in many film scores and of the high standards maintained by the L.A. ensemble. As an encore, the choir remembered its late founder, Roger Wagner, with an a capella "Alleluia" that he arranged many years ago. It was the Master Chorale's final appearance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which has been its home for the past 39 years; they will move to the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in the fall.

© 2003 Jon Burlingame