In place of its previously scheduled Live Concert on April 18, The Verdi Chorus will offer its first online concert: a streaming of its Spring 2018 program The Force of Destiny led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum. The concert will be launched online April 18 at 7:30pm on the Verdi Chorus website at https://www.verdichorus.org and will also be available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VerdiChorus/
This online streaming of the concert is a way to share the music of the Verdi Chorus with audiences on its originally scheduled concert weekend, even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus, the concert will feature selections from three Verdi operas – La forza del destino, Nabucco, and the opening party scene of La Traviata – and conclude with beloved melodies from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.
The program will feature four guest soloists: soprano Shana Blake Hill, hailed by Opera News for her “flood of glorious sound,” mezzo-soprano Karin Mushegain called “superb” by The New York Times, tenor Alex Boyer, celebrated in The San Francisco Chronicle for his “grit and vocal power,” and baritone Ben Lowe, who returns to the Verdi Chorus by popular demand and who recently made his New York debut at BAM in Matthew Aucoin’s opera Crossing.
Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum says, “During this painful time of uncertainty and social distancing, we have all been even more aware of the need to experience beautiful and meaningful music together. Personally, I have truly missed our Monday evening ’music therapy sessions’ (as Fox Singer Megan McDonald put it). Rehearsing each week with all those wonderfully different personalities to find the essence and humanity of a piece of music by Verdi or Mascagni always puts the world in perspective for me. And now the importance of music in all of our lives is even more obvious. It is in this spirit that we present a streaming of our Spring 2018 concert, The Force of Destiny. In order to continue our tradition of sharing great operatic music with you, our audience, this concert will be presented online on the exact weekend our Spring 2020 concert in Santa Monica was to have taken place. The program includes the famed chorus “Va, pensiero,” from Verdi’s Nabucco, which has always been a sort of “theme song“ for the Verdi Chorus, and which could not be more appropriate at this challenging time.
The Verdi Chorus has been so successful these many years in large part due to our sense of family, and this concert is a true reflection of that, from our chorus of over 50 strong, to the soloists themselves. Shana Blake Hill is not only a dear friend who has joined us as a guest soloist many times before, she is one of the most expressive singers I know. Ben Lowe returned to the Verdi Chorus for this concert after the thrilling dramatic and comic arias he wowed our audiences with in 2017. The concert marked the first time Karin Mushegain and Alex Boyer appeared with the Verdi Chorus, and we were delighted to welcome Alex back in our most recent concert last Fall.”
How to watch:
Go to https://www.facebook.com/VerdiChorus/ at 7:30pm on Saturday, April 18.
“Like” or “Follow” The Verdi Chorus (this requires no return communication from us). Once you have done this stay on The Verdi Chorus page to enjoy the concert. Page may need to be refreshed before program begins.
The Verdi Chorus prepares for concerts with rehearsals that take place every Monday night. There, an amazing thing happens as over 50 singers gather together from every walk of life to become the Verdi Chorus. This wide swath of people includes singers from 22 to 80 who come from a variety of professions, and yet have one thing in common: the desire to sing side by side each week and delve into the rich, dramatic world of opera. They in turn are joined by opera stars at the beginning of their careers, and college students who have just begun to realize their operatic gifts, as all of them become one under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum. Each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.
Raising their voices together they become the lively entourage of renowned courtesan Violetta Valéry, the unruly crowd found inside the inn at Hornachuelos one fateful night, the weary but fiercely impassioned chorus of Hebrew slaves, and finally, the joyful guests of Prince Orlofsky in turn of the century Vienna.
Further demonstrating the organization’s mission to provide performance opportunities to young professional singers, fifteen highly promising singers are hired as section leaders and rehearsal coaches. Known as the Fox Singers, named in memory of long-time Chorus and Board member Walter Fox, these singers assist the Artistic Director, provide direction for their sections in rehearsals, and have opportunities to perform as featured singers in performances. The Fox Singers, who also perform on occasion independently of the full Chorus and serve as a showcase for the singers and as ambassadors for the Verdi Chorus. Performances of special arias and ensembles have been presented at venues in Southern California including the Annenberg Beach House, The Broad Stage, the Huntington Library, and the Nixon Library.
The Chorus is also proud to continue with the Apprentice Singers program that was established in 2015 in which talented vocal music students at the college level gain the opportunity to work with the Chorus in rehearsals and sing operatic music in concert. Sahm Foundation Apprentices for this session, named in honor of a generous grant from the Sahm Family Foundation, are sopranos Krista Schaeffer and Sarah Shields, mezzo Bianca Gutierrez, tenor Joshua Burke, and basses Benjamin Finer and David Peterson. Each receives a scholarship to provide funds with which they can broaden their music studies. Apprentices who successfully complete the program are invited back to sing with the Chorus for subsequent sessions.
Music Director and Founding Artistic Director ANNE MARIE KETCHUM has been the conductor of the Verdi Chorus since its inception in 1983. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Choral Conducting and a Master’s degree in Voice Performance from California State University, Northridge, where she studied choral conducting with John Alexander and served as his assistant conductor. As a singer, she has appeared internationally and is well known for her performances of contemporary art music, vocal chamber music, solo recitals, and opera. She has made several recordings of contemporary music. Among her more recent activities Ms. Ketchum was the Stage Director for the Metropolitan Opera National Council – Western Region Showcase Concerts in Palm Springs for five years. She helped create This and My Heart: A Portrait of Emily Dickinson in Text and Song, a concert/theater piece which she co-wrote and performed with actress Linda Kelsey and pianist Victoria Kirsch. This was presented as part of Grand Performances in Los Angeles and made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles. In February of 2012, she premiered a piece in New York by Aurelio de la Vega entitled Recordatio for soprano and ten instruments, which was written for her.
Accompanist LARAINE ANN MADDEN has garnered acclaim as one of the most sensitive and experienced collaborating artists in the Los Angeles area. Trained in the Bay Area, she made her solo debut with the Oakland Symphony at age 13 performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488. Ms. Madden studied Accompanying at the University of Southern California with its pioneer teacher, Gwendolyn Koldofsky and has accompanied in the master classes of Martin Katz, Geoffrey Parsons, Giorgio Tozzi, Martial Singher, Joan Dornemann and Peter Pears. She has served as “repetiteur” accompanist under conductors Simon Rattle, Christoph Perrick and Richard Buckley, and has appeared in concert with singers associated with New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and Los Angeles Opera including Alan Titus, Rod Gilfry, Erie Mills, Young Mi Kim and Ealynn Voss. Recent engagements include performing on the Jacaranda Concert Series and with the Walter Fox Singers at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, the Huntington Library in Pasadena, and the Richard Nixon Library for the Marshall B. Ketchum University Shared Visions Gala. This is her twentieth year as collaborator with the Verdi Chorus.
For information on the four soloists, please click on the links below:
Soprano SHANA BLAKE HILL: http://shanablakehill.com
Mezzo KAREN MUSHEGAIN: https://www.karinmushegain.com
Tenor ALEX BOYER: https://www.voxartists.com/alex-boyer-tenor
Baritone BEN LOWE: https://www.benlowebaritone.com/bio-1
About The Verdi Chorus
The Verdi Chorus is a Southern California nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting opera choruses in concert and to providing career development opportunities for young professional singers. As the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music of the opera chorus, the Verdi Chorus gives talented amateur singers the unique opportunity to sing side-by-side with professional singers in rehearsals leading up to performances held to the highest artistic standards. Under the direction of its remarkable Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.
The Verdi Chorus was founded in 1983 at the Verdi Restaurant in Santa Monica. When the restaurant closed in 1991, the Verdi Chorus continued. In 1999, the chorus incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Under the continuous direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the chorus presents four concerts each year as well as other collaborative events. Its repertoire includes over 300 choruses from 81 operas in seven languages.
For more information visit: www.verdichorus.org