Maurice Allard, who brings the Master Chorale of Orange County to the new Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa on Sunday, doesn't flinch at challenges.
In 1965, as a recent doctoral graduate of USC, he helped establish, as assistant to Roger Wagner, the choral department at UC Irvine.
Shortly after that, he founded the Irvine Master Chorale, which later became the Orange County Pacific Chorale.
Later, the young voice teacher started his own conservatory, with branches in Hollywood and Santa Ana.
And eight years ago, Allard became conductor of yet another choral organization, the one that today is called Master Chorale of Orange County--and continues to rival the Pacific Chorale.
But Allard's current challenge may exceed in scope all of those previous assignments. As artistic leader of Master Chorale of Orange County, he is overseeing the ensemble's move into a new era as a resident of the new Orange County Performing Arts Center.
The move, though real, is unofficial, of course--there are no official resident companies in the center.
This challenge is "exciting, and scary," the compact musician says enthusiastically, over a French breakfast near the new hall. "We are going, in one year, from a budget of $300,000 to one of $680,000. That means we have to redouble our fund-raising efforts. But I have no doubt that we are going to do it."
Optimism is a necessary characteristic in a conductor; it is also one of Allard's more obvious qualities. He outlines his organization's current season, opening Sunday with a gala performance at which members of the Joffrey Ballet will dance (to the Master Chorale's live singing of Thomas Tallis' "Spem in Alium") "Passage," James Kudelka's 12-minute, four-year-old ballet for six dancers.
A larger ensemble from the dance troupe will also offer "Light Rain" (to taped accompaniment) at the 7:30 p.m. performance. In between the two dance works, the Master Chorale will sing John Rutter's "Gloria" (1974).
For the concert's second half, Allard will conduct a performance of Rossini's Stabat Mater, in which the vocal soloists will be Deborah Voigt, Gail Dubinbaum, Dennis Petersen and Kenneth Cox.
"Our goal, and one we may reach for next season," says the conductor/administrator, "is to give two performances of each of our programs. Since the center staff tells me we will probably be sold out at every event this season, this should probably be the time to do it." He reports a sold-out house for the first performance on Sunday.
Building not only an audience--Allard says the Master Chorale of Orange County has sold more than 2,000 season's subscriptions for 1986-87--but a tradition for choral music is not the usual procedure in this country. Allard attributes "our prejudice against choral performances" to the lack of "the cathedral acoustics so common in the British Isles and in Europe. Without the acoustics which encourage choral sound, our audiences have missed the experience and inspiration which choral concerts offer."
Being a former academic himself, Allard acknowledges "the contributions scholars have made to our fund of information about styles and techniques. But they have also, with their great concern with these things, encouraged dull performances."
Giving concerts, Allard says, "is a matter of craft, courage--and show business. The audience must be entertained and engrossed. Otherwise, the message in the medium doesn't get through."