There were “Kings” and “Queens” and “Celebrations” and awards at the Verdi Chorus’ 30th anniversary Spring concerts this past weekend at First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.
During the concert, founding director Anne Marie Ketchum was presented with two certificates for all her accomplishments and devotion to the chorus and bringing beautiful music to the city for 30 years.
One was from LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and was presented to Ms. Ketchum by president emeritus and long-time Verdi Chorus member Tom Redler. The other certificate, also presented by Redler, was from the City of Santa Monica.
Ms. Ketchum was also presented with a delicate and radiant crystal glass slipper as a special gift from members of the chorus presented by current president and chorus member Thelma Sherman.
Kudos must also go out to long-time, Julliard-trained accompanist Laraine Ann Madden, who makes the piano sound like a symphony, and to assistant director DeReau K. Farrar who leads the men’s rehearsals and was given an opportunity to conduct a piece at this concert.
And, finally, to Barbara Miller-Fox Abramoff, whose generous donation created “The Walter Fox Singers” in memory of her husband, a long-time member of the chorus. These talented singers are the section leaders and are assigned various solo roles within the performances.
Three internationally-renowned professional soloists were recruited by Ms. Ketchum – soprano Suzan Hanson, Mexican bel canto tenor Raul Hernandez, and baritone Roberto Perlas Gomez.
For this special concert, Ms. Ketchum chose to honor their namesake, Giuseppe Verdi, and songs from his compositions which included Don Carlo, Macbeth and Nabucco. Also on the program were Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda and Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. All grand opera.
Of the many bright spots during the course of the program, here are a few – Ms. Hanson’s rendition of “Ben io t’invenni, o fatal scritto!” from Nabucco, Mr. Hernandez’s interpretation of “O figli, o figli miei!” from Macbeth, and chorus section leader, baritone Babatunde Akinboboye’s rendering of “Carlo il sommo Imperatore” from Don Carlo with The Men’s Chorus.
Three duets also stood out – Mr. Gomez and chorus section leader, bass Mauricio A. Palma III singing “Giorno non vidi mai” from Macbeth with The Woman’s Chorus, “Dio che nell’alma infondere” from Don Carlo sung by Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Gomez with The Men’s Chorus, and “Gran scena e preghiera” from Maria Stuarda sung by Ms. Hanson and chorus section leader, dramatic soprano Laura Schmidt with the Chorus.
The concert concluded with Strauss’ “What a Joy to Be Here!” sung by the Chorus, “A Toast” by The Walter Fox Singers with lyrics by Mr. Farrar to the music of “Champagne’s Delicious Bubbles,” and “Sing to Love.”
The audience members were treated to a pleasant surprise when Ms. Ketchum turned around on her directors stand to join Ms. Hanson, Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Gomez and the Chorus during the singing of the final piece, “Sing to Love” from Die Fledermaus.
The Chorus’ signature piece, “Va Pensiero,” was sung twice, both to standing ovations. The second time was a surprise encore after flowers were given to Ms. Ketchum, Ms. Madden and the three hired soloists to close out the program.
It was “a joy to be here.”
Go to www.verdichorus.org for information about their Fall concerts in November.