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Master Chorale's long goodbye

June 15, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

In a blur of joyfully sung alleluias and spoken thanks, the Los Angeles Master Chorale bade farewell to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at a gala celebration that had music lovers looking back on 39 seasons even as they looked forward to the group's move into the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

No sooner had the black-tie crowd heard music director Grant Gershon lead the chorus in its final work at the pavilion -- an a cappella arrangement of "Alleluia" by chorale founder Roger Wagner -- than they were engulfed in an encore of the piece at the "Wings of Steel" dinner-dance in the palatial Grand Hall.

A flurry of thank-you's followed, with kudos handed out to everyone from chorale founders Marshall Rutter, Don Nores and Terry Dooley to members of the Disney family and Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry, who was presented with a special "Wings of Steel" award. "Gehry is getting this award because he has created the absolutely perfect interior space for us," said chorale board Chairman Ted McAniff.

Representing the Disney family, Roy Disney, nephew of the theme park visionary, said he wanted to give two speeches at the June 7 benefit that raised $150,000 for the chorale. "One is, I've spent my entire life never presuming to speak for Walt Disney. The other is that I would not presume to speak for any member of the Disney family, because, while we're a family, we don't always agree," he said as he stood under a trio of glittering crystal chandeliers. "But I think I can safely speak for the whole family to say, Frank, thank you. The hall is absolutely, incredibly wonderful and wondrous. And I can't wait to hear the Master Chorale sing in it."

Gehry -- who confessed that, a while back, after "a lot of vodka," he'd sneaked into the new hall with violinist Martin Chalifour to hear him perform -- told guests that Walt Disney had long been "an icon" for him. "I actually met him once, way back," he continued. "He was a model of creativity and perseverance in a tough world where creativity has its difficult times. Walt doesn't need this to memorialize him ... but his relationship to music was very inspired and very important."

The countdown to the Oct. 23 grand opening is an exercise in patience that has begun to wear thin, Gehry said.

"I think the hall is going to sound OK. I've done everything the acoustician has asked me to do. But on June 30 at 10 a.m., the fat lady sings" -- with the L.A. Philharmonic's first rehearsal in the hall -- "and if it works, God bless us all."

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