Camerata Singers Opening Night Gala, October 5

Like many arts organizations, Long Beach Camerata Singers has an annual Opening Night Gala.  This year our event will take place on Thursday, October 5, 2017, just a couple of days before our first concert of the season, The Camerata Peace Project.  Our event will be held at The Modern, Long Beach’s newest and coolest event space.   The Gala will raise much-needed funds for our 2017-2018 season, but it also offers an opportunity for us to award our Beverly O’Neill Arts and Leadership Award.

So, what is the Beverly O’Neill Arts and Leadership Award, and why is it important in our community?  Beverly O’Neill, now in retirement, had a long and distinguished career in Long Beach, first at Long Beach City College and later as Mayor of the City Long Beach.  A little known fact about this greatly beloved figure, is that she began her career as a music instructor at LBCC and spent many years as a choir director.  As the first recipient of our award in 2015, also our 50th Anniversary celebration, Mayor O’Neill agreed to lend her name to future awards as a show of solidarity for her love of the arts and choral music.

Our 2016 award recipient was another very popular  figure in Long Beach, Steve Goodling, President and CEO of the Long Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  Among many other accomplishments, Steve transformed the Center Theater in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center into the Beverly O’Neill Theater and made it available to multiple performing arts group, including Long Beach Camerata Singers.

This year we will honor the Port of Long Beach and the Harbor Commissioners for their long-standing support of the arts in Long Beach.  The Port has donated millions of dollars to the arts in our city over the years and the Commissioners as well as much of the staff have provided tireless support for many organizations, serving on boards and attending performances.   Long Beach Camerata Singers has benefited greatly from their generosity.

We will gather, on October 5, with hope and gratitude for the state of the arts in Long Beach!  If you would like to join us, please use this link for more information:  http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/opening-night-gala-camerata-peace-project/

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Looking Forward — Looking Back — With Gratitude to Rob!

As we begin a new chapter at Long Beach Camerata Singers with Artistic Director Dr. James K. Bass, we would like to take a moment to look back at the journey that has delivered us to this place.  It is not an easy task to transition a community chorus into a symphony chorus and many were part of that effort.  The main architect of Camerata’s transformation, however, was our beloved and recently-departed Artistic Director, Dr. Robert Istad.

Rob became Camerata’s Artistic Director in the summer of 2009, taking over from Jonathan Talberg. The season had already been planned and the choir stood at about 45 people. We had 2 part time employees and our revenue for that season came in at a little under $75,000. Rob was teaching at Cal State Fullerton at that point, and had a freshly minted DMA certificate on his wall.

It was pretty clear to the board that Rob had a vision of how Camerata could progress artistically and as a force in the community. But more importantly, Rob turned out to possess a great organizational and business sense, along with his artistic abilities. This confluence of skills on the artistic side, plus a board that was motivated to see the organization grow, provided just the right environment to move Long Beach Camerata Singers forward.

So, what was Rob’s vision and how did he take Camerata from there – a small community choir – to here – Long Beach’s professional-quality choral organization?

First, Rob focused on artistic quality. He recruited great singers, both for our paid ranks and within our volunteer ranks. His reputation allowed him to attract great talent for us.

Second, he programmed some fantastic concerts – The great classics, such as Carmina Burana, Mozart Requiem, St. John Passion, Bach’s Magnificat, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and of course, Messiah. He hired talented, top-level soloists and made sure that we worked with reputable orchestra contractors to provide quality musicians to accompany the choir.

Next, he made sure that we had well-trained staff to run the day-to-day operations, freeing the board to do fundraising and the singers to polish their skills.

Another great visionary change that Rob urged us to make was to move our concerts from churches to a formal performing arts facility. We made that move in 2013, to the Long Beach City College Auditorium and, last season, to the Beverly O’Neill Theater.

All of these changes created synergy in the community and in the organization. The size and quality of the choir increased; we added new, talented board members; we attracted more donations from individuals, foundations and corporate sponsors. And, finally, Rob helped negotiate an artistic partnership between the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and Long Beach Camerata Singers.

So, there are the accomplishments, but what of the man?  Everyone loves Rob, and there’s a reason for it – he is a genuinely nice person, enormously talented, but still focused on the needs of others.   He has taught us volumes about how to treat people with respect, about how powerful it can be to recognize the worth of others.   He speaks frankly about problems and concerns, but he is not sarcastic or unkind in his conduct.

Rob is smart, funny, silly, talented, thorough and detail oriented, but it is this quality of treating everyone he encounters with respect that stands out as a great, shining reflection of his inner character.

So as we stand on the brink of new adventures and achievements, everyone at Long Beach Camerata Singers would like to acknowledge Rob’s contributions to bringing us to this point.  Thanks to your tireless efforts, we are well prepared for this new journey!

Undercover at the Chorus America Conference

If you are a choral music geek, then you probably know about the annual Chorus America Conference — a choral love-fest and learning/networking opportunity.  The conference is held in a different city each year and is generally hosted by the largest choral organization in each locale.  This year the 4-day event was held in Los Angeles, with the LA Master Chorale acting as the major host.  These conferences don’t usually admit dogs, but Mr. Peanut is a dog-person and the mascot for Long Beach Camerata Singers.  These credentials qualified him to attend, albeit under cover.

Chorus America is a non-profit organization that serves choral groups in the United States with research, articles, advocacy and the annual conference.  It is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.  Visit their website to see their extraordinary offerings:  https://www.chorusamerica.org  

The conference offered many educational opportunities.  Each day featured a variety of breakout sessions on such topics as marketing, fundraising, entrepreneurship, social media, composing and many, many more.  There was also a series of opportunities called “buttonholes,” when you could confer with experts from many organizations one-on-one.  Another excellent session featured 20-minute roundtables hosted by experts in a variety of areas; I was able to participate in 3 different tables.

Every morning started with the “Morning Sing,” each led by a different conductor.  For singers, this is the best way to get energized and motivated early in the day.   The Sings included warm-ups, sight-reading, a little dancing, and a lot of exuberance.

On Friday Morning we were treated to a plenary session featuring Vijay Gupta of the LA Philharmonic as the speaker.  He spoke passionately about his work with his non-profit organization, StreetSymphony.org, which brings classical music to homeless people in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles.  The program has expanded to include choral music.  Very, very inspiring.

Friday ended with a very nice dinner that included a great deal of roasting fellow choral comrades, horsing around, and skits.  It also included many toasts, both humorous (thank you, Peter Rutenberg) and fond (thank you, Marie Bucoy-Calavan).  Don’t let these highly educated, classical music people fool you for a second:  they party like there’s no concert or rehearsal tomorrow — that is, with great enthusiasm and spirit.

Thank you Chorus America!  See you next year in Chicago!

Eight Surprising Reasons Why We Need Choral Music in Our Lives And Community

Many of the articles we read on the importance of choral music focus on the singer and his/her experience.  We have heard plenty about the health benefits of singing in a choir, and how people build friendships.

But what about our audience?  Why should they bother to attend our concerts?  How does choral music impact our community as a whole and our patrons as individuals?  Peanut has a few thoughts on this important topic that he would like to share with you:

  • Classical music repertoire is full of important choral/orchestral masterworks that the community wants to hear.  The Long Beach Camerata Singers is dedicated to singing at the artistic level necessary to partner with the Long Beach Symphony to perform these works. Your financial support and your attendance at our concerts allows us to continue this important mission.
  • The presence of a strong and accomplished chorus in the City of Long Beach is a matter of civic pride.  We are the second largest city in Southern California and the quality of our arts organizations is a reflection of our commitment to our community.
  • Choral singing is a communal activity and is especially important today when we increasingly rely on Internet-based communications, rather than face-to-face interaction.  We bring people together for a moment in time when they can shed their differences and focus their attention on the music.
  • Choral groups and choral singers are diverse.  The criteria for admission to a group like Long Beach Camerata Singers is based solely on ability and is blind to age, ethnicity or income.
  • Choral singing provides “social capital” to animate and address issues of justice, social awareness, health and wellness.  A chorus is more than the sum of the parts.  We promote cultural excellence and community pride.
  • Choral music is important in building connections in community. A choir of human voices singing in harmony is a compelling metaphor  for a community that works.  Every member contributes something unique—a high voice, a low voice, a voice somewhere in the middle.  The choir is a wonderful example of teamwork and a great example to community members of how people can work together
  • Choral music moves people’s minds, spirits and emotions.  The combination of voice, harmony, and text affects  audiences are deeply.
  • Choral music is one art form that people can directly participate in throughout their lives; going to concerts opens up that possibility and inspires people to express themselves through music.

For more information about the Long Beach Camerata Singers, please visit our Website.

Breakfast at Downton Abbey, Part II

ccc4c39e557891689e7e10490a71db75The country house breakfast consisted of “honest” plain food not fancy sauced food, understood as French.  The ingredients were from the walled garden, home farm, and local estate.  Because there were often guests,  the breakfast table was an opportunity for the gentry to display the wealth of their estates in the quality of the meats, vegetables and ingredients produced on the surrounding lands.

Breakfasts were unhurried, leisurely affairs with plenty of silver and glassware on show to impress the host’s guests.   Newspapers were available for the family and guests to catch up on the day’s news. Indeed, it is still socially acceptable today to read newspapers at the breakfast table.

101_0468The menu itself consisted of game (in season), fish, fresh breads, devilled kidneys,  kippers, potted shrimp and crab, fish pies, pickled meat dishes from brisket and goose to ox  and thrush, apple and strawberry fools, and tea, and coffee.  In the era of Downton Abbey,  Indian-style dishes, such as pilau, kedgeree (rice, smoked fish and eggs) and curried lobster were also popular.   Eggs and bacon were also a breakfast staple;  bacon was first cured in the 18th century.

images-49Note that the country house breakfast had little to do with what is today regarded as the “English breakfast:”   bacon, sausage, fried egg, baked beans, and toast.

Please join the Long Beach Camerata Singers for our upcoming concert, “The Music of Downton Abbey,” on October 2 at 4:30pm.  Performed at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach, California, your ticket price includes “Cream Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room in Bixby Knolls to enhance your concert experience!  Click Here to purchase tickets.DA Card

If you purchase a season subscription (3 concerts or more) you will be treated to the “Lady Violet Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room.  Click Here to purchase subscriptions.

Take a cooking class and learn how to make your own Afternoon Tea with ChefTech Cooking School!  Click Here for more information and to register for the class on Saturday, October 1.

For more information about “The Music of Downton Abbey” please visit our Website.

Breakfast at Downton Abbey, Part I

There have been many scenes at the breakfast table in Downton Abbey.  lord-robert-reading-letterIn fact, the show kicks off in that very place, when Lord Grantham receives the letter informing him of the sinking of the Titanic. You will  recall that this is the event that the family’s fortunes turned on, setting the stage for Mary and Matthew’s romance.  Like most aspects of the life of an English gentleman and his family, the mores of the petit dejuner were carefully scripted and rigorously followed.

Breakfast was not consumed immediately upon rising by the upper classes.  Adapting a custom from agrarian communities, most people took tea and then fasted for the next two or three hours.   We know that the Duke of Wellington, for most of his life, rose at approximately 7:00am and spent at least three hours working on his correspondence and military dispatches before he sat down to breakfast.  In a letter to her sister, a639833d-4499-43cb-8566-07fd24a7514a_dCassandra, Jane Austen, while visiting London, wrote of rising near 8:00am, dressing and going out to the draper’s to do some shopping, before returning home at about 9:30am to have breakfast with her brother.  Hence the saying,

“Rise at five, dine at nine, Sup at five, to bed at nine, Makes man live ten times nine.”

Also, breakfast was the only meal that was self service.  char_lg_edithThe food — often an enormous array — was laid out on the sideboard.  It was customary for the diners — primarily gentlemen — to help themselves.  Married ladies would take their meal in bed perhaps due to the fashions and hair styles that required lengthy preparation, including assistance from their lady’s maid.   Edith in Downton Abbey caused some consternation by joining the men at Breakfast.  Her father asks,  “Why don’t you have breakfast in bed?” “Because I’m not married,” she answers.

Tomorrow we will examine the breakfast menu.

Please join the Long Beach Camerata Singers for our upcoming concert, “The Music of Downton Abbey,” on October 2 at 4:30pm.  Performed at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach, California, your ticket price includes “Cream Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room in Bixby Knolls to enhance your concert experience!  Click Here to purchase tickets.DA Card

If you purchase a season subscription (3 concerts or more) you will be treated to the “Lady Violet Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room.  Click Here to purchase subscriptions.

Take a cooking class and learn how to make your own Afternoon Tea with ChefTech Cooking School!  Click Here for more information and to register for the class on Saturday, October 1.

For more information about “The Music of Downton Abbey” please visit our Website.

A Short Biography of Lady Violet

Violet Crawley, “Lady Violet,” is one of the most dynamic characters in Downton Abbey.  As my readers know, I am fascinated by the backstories of the characters on the show, and LV’s story is one of the best!

Born in 1842, Violet was the daughter of a Baronet and had at least one sister, the mother of her niece and goddaughter, Susan MacClare, Marchioness of Flintshire (married to “Shrimpie”), and one aunt.  e1b29e7e2a1bab9b60a30229f926b6cbWhile she was born into the aristocracy, her family was relatively impoverished.   When she married the Earl of Grantham sometime before 1860, she brought her upper class blood but little money into her marriage.  After her wedding, she was “pursued” by Lord Hepworth’s father;  Hepworth’s son later tried unsuccessfully  to marry Violet’s daughter, Rosamunde.  This photo shows Maggie Smith as a beautiful young woman — perhaps this is what the young Lady Violet looked like!

1f452a754548e44640057a0da6f0a1d2Violet gave birth to two children, a son and heir, Robert and a daughter, Rosamunde.  Not following in their mother’s footsteps, her children married into money rather than nobility. The Countess was against Robert’s engagement and marriage to the American heiress Cora Levinson, in 1889, but did reap the benefits of her fortune.

Violet visited Russia in 1874, where she met Prince Igor Kuragin, at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1874.  The Prince’s name is a nod to a character in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Violet later reveals to Isobel they fell madly in love and attempted to elope. They planned to leave on his yacht, but were intercepted by Kuragin’s wife, who had discovered their romance.  Madame Kuragin sent Violet  back to her own husband.

In The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis, Julian Fellowes relates images-48that the character of Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, is based on his tyrannical great-aunt Isie (she served also as the model for Lady Trentham in Gosford Park).  He describes her as ” . . . a woman whose dry wit concealed a good deal of personal suffering and who was no tougher on the rest of us as she was on herself.  It is perhaps that draconian sense of discipline that makes her breed seem admirable to me.”

Please join the Long Beach Camerata Singers for their upcoming concert, “The Music of Downton Abbey,” on October 2 at 4:30pm.  Performed at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach, California, your ticket price includes “Cream Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room in Bixby Knolls to enhance your concert experience!  Click Here to purchase tickets.DA Card

If you purchase a season subscription (3 concerts or more) you will be treated to the “Lady Violet Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room.  Click Here to purchase subscriptions.

Take a cooking class and learn how to make your own Afternoon Tea with ChefTech Cooking School!  Click Here for more information and to register for the class on Saturday, October 1.

For more information about “The Music of Downton Abbey” please visit our Website.

Observations and anecdotes about classical music in Southern California