Inspiration at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Inspiration at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Written by Hazel R. ’24

To kick off the festive Thanksgiving Break, Marlborough’s Chamber and Concert Choirs took the exciting opportunity to attend an invited dress rehearsal of the LA Master Chorale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Also home to the LA Philharmonic, Disney Hall is renowned for presenting the best in classical and contemporary music, international sounds, and jazz, as well as its sophisticated exterior design. It was an honor to be able to visit one of downtown Los Angeles’ most iconic and monumental music buildings. The interior, with sky-high ceilings and dim lighting, accompanied by the lyrics of the pieces projected onto the walls, set the stage for an intimate and moving performance. 

Before the trip, the Chamber Choir received a presentation about the two composers—Billy Childs and Morten Lauridsen—and their pieces. They learned about the musical history and personal lives of the artists, including the meanings and inspiration behind the music. Upon arrival, the choirs were immediately in awe of the grandeur of the center stage, already filled with the LA Master Chorale and an orchestra. The first piece performed was Billy Childs’ In the Arms of the Beloved, inspired by a poem written by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet. In dedication of Childs’ late mother, themes of the afterlife and reflection were observed to be woven into the piece. While somewhat soulful, the piece was dominated by hopeful tones and messages of strength amidst grief. “I noticed the singers were able to emphasize the meaning of the lyrics through clean cut offs and powerful crescendos, which shows how attention to dynamics and singing together can help convey the meaning of the music,” says Juliet S. ’26. The entire progression and details in the performance only made the experience even more special, as In the Arms of the Beloved was partially inspired by Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, performed directly after.

After a short intermission, the choirs returned to find themselves engrossed in Lux Aeterna, a piece in response to Lauridsen’s late mother’s illness. One of his most notable compositions, this piece debuted in 1997 and later received a Grammy nomination. Lauridsen split Lux Aeterna into five different movements, each representing a stage in the process of grief—he includes select lines from traditional hymns, whispered prayers, and extremely high notes (meant to symbolize the bridging between life and death). All these smaller pieces conveyed light as a solace and an illuminator in the literal and spiritual dark. Marlborough’s Choir Director Angela Lin says, “Both musical compositions include many moments of dissonance and emotional turmoil that are then met with tonal resolution and inspiration of hope and peace.”

Overall, both Childs’ and Lauridsen’s pieces were beautifully paired to create a cohesive and touching performance, inspiring many of the students. After the performance, students debriefed with their friends. Many appreciated having some outside knowledge about the musicians, which allowed them to piece together all the small details of the music and immerse themselves completely. “I was heavily influenced by the lyrics that reflected the history of Billy Childs’ relationship with music; the lyrics in relation to the dynamics and music’s chords played a large impact on how emotionally swaying the music was,” says Yuma N. ’24. The choir members were inspired to implement the passion they saw from the Master Chorale into their own future performances, both emotionally and technically. Ms. Lin reflects, “I hope students feel moved by these pieces and always remember the impact that singing and music can hold.” 

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