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Up close with the masters

Neighbors treated to a performance by the SCV master chorale

Posted: September 3, 2008 8:34 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Santa Clarita Master Chorale performs in Don and Sherry Klahs' backyard during a recent 'Meet the Conductor' event.

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A Valencia neighborhood received an unexpected concert recently when a slimmed down version of the Santa Clarita Master Chorale treated an invited audience to a selection of chorale music that wafted from the backyard of Sherry and Don Klahs.


The "meet and greet" with Chorale conductor and artistic director Allan Petker, featured wine, hors d'oeuvres and beautiful music.


The annual "Meet the Conductor" event brought dozens of supporters and Master Chorale members together to hear plans for the Chorale's new season of three concerts, which kicks off in December.
The Chorale will begin its 10th year of performances with the season's final concert in June.
Petker is the Chorale's second artistic director, he replaced founding artistic director Peter Pocock in January, 2004.


The Santa Clarita Master Chorale was founded in 1998 by founding directors Jill Hackett and Deb Baur.
Nearly 60 voices strong, the Chorale is holding auditions for new members on Saturday, Sept. 13. An intern program is also available for high school students under age 18.


Pianist Jan Sanborn is the current Chorale accompanist. She has performed as accompanist with the Roger Wagner Chorale and is a published composer/arranger. A CD of her music was distributed in a gift basket with a travel mug and cookies to event guests.


The Chorale rehearses once per week from September through June and performs three concerts per year in December, March, and June. The Chorale performs a wide repertoire including major classical masterworks and works by living composers to Christmas carols and Broadway music.


"We have such wonderful talent in this community," said Diane Trautman, attending her first "Meet the Conductor" event. "I'd love to see more of this group and others. I think the arts is something that everyone can enjoy."


Members of the Chorale shared experiences from a summer tour of Eastern Europe where they performed in a number of historic locations, including Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava, Slovakia.


"We sang in churches where the acoustics are remarkable," said Petker. "It was unbelievable... five to six seconds of reverberation... that sound, you can't replicate, it's a beautiful, beautiful sound."
The tour was the first by the Chorale.


"It was such a wonderful experience," said Sherry Klahs. "It was an exciting and beautiful experience."
Guests listened in rapt attention as the "mini Chorale" of little more than a dozen members sang a short program that included "Lux Aurumque" and several fun American choral pieces.


"I am going to start the program the same way we stared at every venue we sang (on the tour,)" said Petker. "The entire concert program was American composers and it was all acapella music. We started with ‘Hail Sacred Music Hail' - a piece by William Billings."


Billings is regarded as the father of American choral music.


Among those sharing experiences of the Eastern European tour was Chorale singer Tom Burkdall.
"When we were in Vienna, there was one chord near the end, that came together perfectly, and it kept resounding through this beautiful dome above us and it moved our director (Petker) to tears," Burkdall said. "We realized it had been a magically emotional moment."


The group also performed an energetic Hungarian number - "Daemon Irrepit Callidus" by Gyorgy Orban.
"The text is about how the devil, despite his sneaking around during praises and dances, is frustrated because he remains worth less than the heart of Jesus," said Petker.


As the outdoor concert concluded a faint smattering of applause could be heard from a nearby backyard. It brought forth laughter from the "Meet the Conductor" guests.


Petker said the experience of traveling and performing abroad was extremely moving and when he returned to the U.S. found a grateful e-mail from an American ex-patriot living in Trnava, Slovakia.
"Dear Mr Petker, thank you for what you do. Cultural exchange is so important in the world; it uplifts the spirit with hope, broadens and deepens our expectations, exemplifies world citizenship, overcomes lingering national prejudices, sheds light on assumptions formed in the absence of light, and above all redefines quality and expertise as global resources. The Slovaks of our generation in the audience in Trnava greatly appreciated witnessing first hand the best of choral culture from a part of the planet to which many of them were denied access in the past. They were moved. You are travelling with a talented ensemble of voices and all of us (including a couple of ex-patriot Americans) send them and you our gratitude ... Regards, Joseph Roy Sheppherd"


"When you speak to another country through music, you don't realize the impact you have," said Petker.
mbuttelman@the-signal.com

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