Grant Gershon on the LA Opera Chorus and the Power of Choral Music

Grant Gershon

Grant Gershon

Every season, LA Opera presents multiple mainstage operas. The operas vary season to season, as does the cast. One thing that remains constant is the chorus. Under Resident Conductor Grant Gershon’s direction, the LA Opera Chorus has evolved into one of the nation’s most renowned choirs.

Gershon – a California native – started working as a pianist at LA Opera in its third season (1988). He remained with the company for six seasons, before moving to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He returned to work with LA Opera in 2007, making his company debut conducting multiple performances of Verdi’s La Traviata in 2009. Additionally, he has worked with the LA Opera Chorus ever since.

When asked what makes the LA Opera chorus unique, Gershon says, “I think that the talent pool in Los Angeles for singers is extraordinary and there’s a long-standing tradition of great solo singing and great ensemble singing in the city. From the beginning, LA Opera has always been able to draw on a really deep pool of talent and on singers who are very well trained and very enthusiastic about singing as an ensemble.” Some choristers have been with the company for over 100 productions; others are just starting their careers as vocalists.

Regardless of where the members of the chorus are in their careers, being part of an ensemble helps all artists develop the ability to not only listen to their own sound, but be aware of every sound that’s going on around them and letting that inform their performance. Along with the conductor, chorus members strive for the perfect blending of their voices, while still maintaining a balance between really beautiful, healthy vocalism and being part of the bigger picture.

Gershon says, “It’s a really rewarding opportunity for the singers. I hear a lot from the singers that the level of the chorus is really high, and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work with Plácido Domingo, James Conlon, and all of the amazing guest soloists that we have coming through here. It’s an incredible thing to be on the stage with Renée Fleming or Sondra Radvanovsky and just be able to hear close-up what goes in to their artistry. For the younger singers, it’s a great chance to learn from the pros in a real world situation. You’re just watching how people actually live their lives on stage and how they use their voices to communicate the fullness of the music and of the characters.”

The perfect blending of so many voices is what makes choirs – and choral music – so captivating to an audience. “Hearing the complexities of the harmonies, the human voices, and the way they blend together to create a tapestry of sound is incredibly compelling,” says Gershon. Gershon continues, “There’s a communal aspect to singing in a choir.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the LA Opera Chorus’ upcoming concert Great Opera Choruses, where members of the audience get to sing along. Of this concert, Gershon says, “There’s no separation between the musicians and the audience. It makes it feel half like a concert and half like a party.”

Grant Gershon has served as Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale since 2001, where he has led the chorale to worldwide acclaim in over 100 performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Learn more here.

This Prince tribute featuring 1,000 students was part of the LA Master Chorale’s 27th annual High School Choir Festival conducted by Artistic Director Grant Gershon and guest conductor Tesfa Wondemagegnehu.

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