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'Tis the Season for Choral Conductor Hall

December 20, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

Christmas is typically a busy season for choral conductors, but William Hall has an exceptionally full schedule this week. In addition to performances by his own William Hall Chorale on Tuesday and Thursday, he directs the Master Chorale of Orange County tonight at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

When Maurice Allard abruptly resigned as music director of the Orange County group on Oct. 23, Hall was selected to replace him for the Christmas program. Subsequently, he was named to lead the remaining concerts of the 1987-88 season.

For Hall, it has been "a little like coming home," citing the fact that some of his new singers are graduates of Chapman College, where he is a professor of music.

The veteran choral director is excited about the ongoing experience and is trying to instill his own brand of choral production. "We're literally creating a new sound. Maurice really trained them (the singers) well, and they respond wonderfully."

Allard resigned in a dispute with his board of directors over the direction of the chorale and, in particular, the Californians, its pop-oriented sub-ensemble, which he did not direct. Hall says that he is having nothing to do with the politics of the group and should not be considered a candidate for the permanent position, at least at this time.

He is happy, though, with the authority that the board has given him artistically. Hall had complete control over contracting the orchestra that will accompany the Master Chorale tonight, and has already had an impact in recruiting some new singers.

Though the Master Chorale is organizing a search committee and hopes to have a permanent music director by the beginning of next season, there will not be a parade of guest-conducting candidates this season. Hall will lead the originally scheduled performance of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" March 20, and is planning a classically oriented agenda for April 24. The final program will be a pops concert, though it has been cut from two performances to just one, June 4.

Only the "Missa Solemnis" performance has presented a severe scheduling problem for Hall. The same day he will lead his own chorale in Durufle's Requiem in Pasadena, before commuting to Orange County for the Beethoven.

The Master Chorale's Christmas program dovetails rather nicely with Hall's previously planned efforts. Tonight's agenda includes Poulenc's Gloria, which the William Hall Chorale sings Thursday in the annual daylong County Christmas program at the Music Center. Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" is also shared by the two groups: tonight in the version for mixed voices, and Tuesday sung by the women of the Hall Chorale.

The Tuesday program, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, also features music from the group's new Klavier recording, "Glory of Christmas," with organist Ladd Thomas and the Los Angeles Childrens Chorus. "I try to avoid the things that are cliched to death, what I call 'Christmas Pablum,' " Hall says of his seasonal programming.

Information: Master Chorale of Orange County, (714) 556-6262; William Hall Chorale, (818) 449-7360.

BAH, HUMBUG: "The Glory of Christmas" may be going to the courts. The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, which produces its own Christmas pageant under that name, was not cheered by Hall's use of the title. In October, the legal counsel for the congregation sent the William Hall Chorale a letter, demanding that Hall "immediately cease and desist from any further use" of the name, including distribution of the chorale's new record.

GOLD MEDALISTS: The 10th Gold Medal series at Ambassador Auditorium has been announced. Soprano Dawn Upshaw (Jan. 18) and tenor Eduardo Villa (April 18) are the vocalists; the violin subseries lists Kyoko Takezawa (Feb. 29) and Alexander Markov (Mar. 14); the pianists are Frederick Moyer (Feb. 1) and Anton Nel (Mar. 7). A concert version of Donizetti's "Linda di Chamounix" Jan. 25 completes the series.

"NUTCRACKER" MANIA: Somehow, somewhere, it seemed inevitable: Dec. 7-12 was proclaimed official "Nutcracker" week in Iowa City, Iowa, which also designated itself the Joffrey Ballet's "Home in the Midwest." Gerald Arpino and the Joffrey company developed a new "Nutcracker" during a summer residency at the University of Iowa, and the production opened at the local Hancher Auditorium 10 days ago before moving on to engagements in Washington and New York.

ASCAP AWARDS: Opera Quarterly, edited locally by founders Sherwin and Irene Sloan for the University of North Carolina Press, has won two of the 10 ASCAP awards for articles this year. The winning pieces were "Fritz Busch: A Son Remembers His Father" by Vera Giannina, and Donald Dorr's "Chosen Image: The Afro-American Vision in the Operas of William Grant Still."

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