Fortunately for the Moorpark Masterworks Chorale, conductor Roger Wagner doesn't know the meaning of the word retire.
Rehearsing under Wagner's baton for two concerts this weekend "has been a wonderful artistic experience for the chorale," said chorale director James Stemen.
"He's truly one of the great choral interpreters in the country."
Wagner said he tried retirement in 1986, after 22 years as founding director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
"But people keep asking me to do things, and I can't say no," he said. "Conducting is my favorite type of exercise."
Although Wagner has directed professional musicians around the world, he said working with amateur singers is very rewarding.
"Sometimes it's more interesting musically. They respond and are more flexible than some professionals, so what I say gets through to them more quickly."
After rehearsals last week, Wagner praised Stemen for his willingness to consign the chorale to someone else's hands. "I'm delighted," he said. "The group has responded beautifully."
Improved performance and the fresh perspective that comes from work with an unfamiliar director were precisely what Stemen said he hoped for when he asked Wagner to direct.
"Having a notable guest conductor is a challenge for the group, and it's great to stretch," Stemen said. "With Dr. Wagner, it has to be right. The chorale is finding out it can do new and better things."
The final performance will begin at 8:30 p.m. today in St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church, 155 E. Janss Road, at the corner of Janss and Moorpark roads in Thousand Oaks. The program includes Renaissance motets and the Requiem by modern French romantic composer Maurice Durufle for choir and orchestra. General admission is $12, students $10, children and senior citizens $8.