Stage and Cinema Interview: GRANT GERSHON (Music Director of Los Angeles Master Chorale)

by Tom Chaits on October 15, 2012

in Interviews,Theater-Los Angeles

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L.A. MASTER CHORALE’S GRANT GERSHON PIPES UP

The Los Angeles Master Chorale kicks off its 49th season on Sunday, October 21st at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with an organ and choral extravaganza featuring local guest organists Paul Meier (St. James Episcopal Church) and Kimo Smith (1st Presbyterian Church of Hollywood).  Joining the Chorale in the festivities will be the Los Angeles Children’s Choir under the direction of Anne Tomlinson. The program boasts two west coast premieres plus Ubi Caritas, the wedding anthem composed by Paul Mealor for the royal nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Stage and Cinema caught up with Grant Gershon, the über-busy music director of the Chorale, to find out what’s new and exciting with the world renowned L.A. Master Chorale and what we can expect from the opening concert and the upcoming season.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema interview with Grant Gershon of the L.A. Master Chorale

Stage and Cinema: How often does the Chorale perform with the organ?

Grant Gershon: One program per season. It’s such an amazing instrument. It’s one of the great organs in the world. Especially having an organ in a concert hall as opposed to a church you realize just how much potential is locked up in that instrument. With 6100 pipes, you can do just about anything.

S&C: How many pieces will be performed with the organ?

GG: All but one. The one exception is the piece by Paul Mealor that was written for the royal wedding, which is actually a cappella. When I heard that piece last year at that ceremony it struck me as being phenomenally beautiful and rhapsodic and I desperately wanted to do it with the Chorale. It seems to just fit the spirit of this program really beautifully.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema interview with Grant Gershon of the L.A. Master Chorale

S&C: The Los Angeles Children’s Chorus will be joining you as well.

GG: Yes. We’ve worked with L.A. Children’s Chorus for many, many years. It’s one of the great ensembles in the country. I find it’s always really fun to get together with the grown-ups and the kids. As a side note, my daughter Claire is singing with the group these days, so one of my biggest goals for this concert is not to embarrass her too much.

S&C: That’s what Dad’s are for.

GG: It’s an impossible task, but I will try.

S&C: Do you sing as well or does she get that from Mom?

GG: Yeah, I sing a little bit but she really gets that from Mom. Elissa has the real vocal chops in the family.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema interview with Grant Gershon of the L.A. Master Chorale

S&C: Do you have a favorite piece in the opening concert?

GG: It’s a little hard to choose, but I think maybe at this point my favorite piece is Ascending Into Heaven by Judith Weir, which is the final piece on the concert and a piece that I have never performed before. In fact it’s the American premiere. The title,  Ascending Into Heaven,  is certainly evocative; everything about the piece sounds exactly like that. Every vocal line is rising kind of up into the stratosphere and kind of disappearing into a cloud of smoke. It’s phenomenal writing and unlike any other piece I’ve ever heard before. It’s a very unique language that she uses.

S&C: You’re doing double duty these days. Besides the Chorale you are also conducting the L.A. Opera.

GG: That’s right. We start rehearsals for Madam Butterfly next week. I mean what can you say about Madam Butterfly? It’s just one of the great tearjerker operas of all time and I love it. I’m looking forward to it. We have a great cast and it’s a really beautiful production by Ron Daniels who did our production of Il Postino last year.

S&C: Do you have a preference for one medium over the other or do they feed different parts of your brain?

GG: Yeah,  that’s exactly how I feel. It would be like having to choose between your children. It’s so different working in opera and choral music. Opera is much less predictable. There are so many more variables so there are so many more things that can go wrong in an opera performance. It’s kind of fun to have that walking-a-tightrope feeling behind a performance.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema interview with Grant Gershon of the L.A. Master ChoraleS&C: You’ve had an illustrious career which has enabled you to perform literally around the world. Do you have a favorite venue?

GG: For me that’s kind of a softball question because the answer is Walt Disney Concert Hall hands down. As a concert venue, I just feel like it’s second to none. We are so incredibly lucky in L.A. to have this now. Not only does it sound great, it’s become one of the real architectural icons of the city. It’s a fun place to go and hear music. It’s unlike any other concert venue in the world. I just couldn’t be happier there.

S&C: This concert kicks off the 12th season and you have a full line-up ahead. Is there a particular concert you’re looking forward to?

GG: I guess if I had to single out any one thing it would probably be the program that we are doing in January (Saturday 1/26 2pm and Sunday 1/27 7pm). We’re pairing the Brahms Requiem, which is one of the great pieces that everyone can agree on, with a piece by Peter Lieberson called The World In Flower which was written in memory of his wife Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. (Stage and Cinema note: Ms. Lieberson was a Grammy winning mezzo-soprano who’s career was tragically cut short from breast cancer at the young age of 52.) It is absolutely the most transcendent elegy for his wife. It’s astonishingly beautiful and moving and I think pairing those two pieces will be a very deep, profound experience for the performers as well as the audience.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema interview with Grant Gershon of the L.A. Master Chorale

S&C: As a result of the massive million dollar donation the Chorale just received from Kiki and David Gindler, your title has been changed. How weird is it to now be called the Kiki and David Gindler Music Director?

GG: You know what? I love it. David and Kiki are really good friends of mine and when they made this really generous gift to the Chorale I was the one who actually suggested, “Let’s name the music director chair.” Like they do at the L.A. Opera and many other places around. It’s a great way to acknowledge the incredible passion behind the generosity of the gift. Yeah, I love being the David and Kiki Gindler Music Director.

S&C: These days naming rights can be very attractive to potential donors. It’s a great tool that fundraisers have to help meet their goals. I just sometimes find it amusing at what people or companies will slap their names on but I guess it is what it is.

GG: Yeah, not many people realize that when they go in Disney Hall for instance that they are watching a performance on the Food-4-Less Stage.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema interview with Grant Gershon of the L.A. Master ChoraleS&C: Good luck with the season and thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with Stage and Cinema today.

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The evening begins at 6pm with a pre-concert talk including composer Paul Mealor followed by the Organ Extravaganza at 7pm. Tickets can be snatched up for a very reasonable $29 -$134, unless you attend the post-show gala event, which is $500, not including the concert ticket.

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Los Angeles Master Chorale Organ Extravaganza
Sunday, October 21, 2012 7pm
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
for tickets, call (213) 972-7282 or visit http://www.lamc.org
or at the box office on the day of performance 2 hours prior to show time

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