Issue #5 | June 30, 2020
What is your history with The Choral Project that led you to your current role as Board Chair?
The Choral Project’s General Manager Hal Laster and I were singing buddies from our church in Palm Desert. He moved to the San Jose area several years before I did, but we kept in touch. When my partner took a job in Palo Alto, we moved to the Bay Area too, and I called Hal for leads for the best opportunities to sing with a chorus. He was already a member of The Choral Project. After a scary audition and being accepted to sing with the chorus, I became aware of the work that Hal and others were doing behind the scenes. And the more integrated I became, the more I felt I could help from a board member perspective.
What is your earliest music-related memory?
I grew up in what was then a small rural suburb of Dallas. That was in the early 40s, way before television, and our only radio worked about half the time. We had no phonograph or piano. But both my parents loved music and church was a big part of my family life. Because we had nothing that could realistically bring music into our home, we loved the music of the church. Our little congregation had a beautiful grand piano, and I thought it was magical the way our pianist could play. She could pound out those old southern gospel hymns with fire and brimstone. And my dad had a totally untrained, uninhibited voice, but he loved to sing. As a small child sitting beside him in church, I recall looking up at this giant of a man with his head held high and singing “when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there” with all his heart.
Other than The Choral Project, what was the last live music-filled performance experience you enjoyed?
My partner TC—not to be confused with the shorthand for The Choral Project, which is TCP—and I were in Sydney in February, just before the world collapsed. We went outside Sydney to a regional theater in Parramatta, a western suburb, to see a production of Les Miserables. The theater was modern and with less than a thousand seats, but the performance was outstanding. Jean Valjean and Javert were over the top terrific, and the rest of the cast was fantastic as well. I’ve seen Les Miserables multiple times. I was actually in the audience the weekend it opened on Broadway in 1987! But this was the most powerful production I’ve seen.
Do you have an unforgettable concert experience from your time singing with The Choral Project?
Our 2018 Leonard Bernstein concert. I’d never sung Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and that was a wonderful challenge. I also loved the pieces from Candide and the performances by Summer Latimer, Mike Fotinakis, Viva Millán, and all the other soloists. The chorus, the soloists, and the instrumentalists all went together for an exciting and memorable concert.
If you could be any musician in the world, alive or dead, who would you be and why?
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He was a German lyric baritone well known for his recordings of German lieder. During my conservatory days I was a vocal performance major, and part of my student repertoire was lieder. As a lyric baritone myself I was captivated with his sound. It was so natural, smooth, rich, and resonant. His interpretations of lieder were flawless, and he could draw you into the very soul of his voice. I can listen to him for hours.
How has music helped you navigate or maybe lifted you up during quarantine?
Music has always been my navigation, and the accompaniment of all my moods. This quarantine has given me more time to reflect on my past, and music having always been so important, I’m reflecting a lot on my musical past. One of the things which has occupied a lot of my time has been digging out old tapes of concerts I’ve done… some going back as far as 35 years. During my younger days I was quite active both as a baritone soloist and choral director. All rather amateur, but some still pretty good, if I say so myself. Most of these recordings are on cassette tape, so I’ve been digitalizing them. It’s fun to reminisce, not just hearing the tapes, but remembering those people who were a part of my musical life at that time.
Photos of were taken by The Choral Project Board Member, Nada Marriott, who observed all rules of social distancing while using a long-distance camera lens. | © 2020 Nada Marriott