Category Archives: James Bass

Captive Audiences: How Many Tickets can one Singer Sell?

Peanut never lacks for an audience because he expects everyone he encounters to pay attention to him.  Perhaps we singers need to take a lesson from him and have higher expectations of our friends and family to attend our choral performances.

Choirs understand that they have great built-in audience potential living in their singers’ address books.  How many friends and close family does each choir member have?  10? 20?  Our goal is to make sure that when we perform, all of those people are IN THE AUDIENCE.

So what should we expect from our singers?   And how do we overcome resistance?  Here’s a look at some of the obstacles and solutions to this problem:

Provide Advertising Materials — This seems like a no-brainer, but most choral organizations are multi-generational; the younger members want on-line information and the older singers like a nice shiny postcard or flyer.   Don’t discount the appeal of a printed card placed a store window, and don’t be surprised if one of the sopranos invites her grandchildren using an email.

Provide Several Purchase Portals — More and more people purchase tickets to events online, but when you are dealing with family and friends, they may need a little help.  A telephone ticket hotline might just be the convenient factor that reaches your new tenor’s Grandpa.

Provide Enthusiasm — Sometimes chatter is your best advertising.  Encourage singers to talk about their upcoming concert and to be open about their love for the music.

Provide Encouragement — People love to be invited to events.  Studies show that almost half of all people who attend concerts were invited by someone else.  Don’t think of it as selling tickets, think of it as extending invitations.

Provide a Culture of Participation — Positive reinforcement is the name of the game.  We’re not talking about contests, or shaming the slackers.  Our best tactic may be to recognize and praise those who do a great job.

Provide Training — Consider investing 15 minutes per concert to simply review ticket prices, purchase options, marketing materials and even a script of talking points.

The bottom line is that singers want that big audience as much as anyone else.  They may not realize how much power they have to make that a reality!

Long Beach Camerata Singers will be performing Handel’s Messiah on November 30 and December 1, 2018.  Tickets can be purchased for $30/$45.  Click HERE to visit our website.

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Peanut Interviews Dr. James K. Bass

In a recent interview with the Artistic Director of Long Beach Camerata Singers, Dr. James K. Bass, we discussed his approach to the group’s upcoming performance of Carmina Burana:

Peanutsez:  What makes Carmina Burana an enduring favorite?

Dr. Bass:  First of all, the piece has a special combination of rhythm, melody and imagery.

PS:  Imagery?

DB:  Yes!  First there’s the big beginning, “O Fortuna,” and then we are immediately introduced to the imagery of spring — the magic of the forest and first love.  Next is the tavern scene — in taberna — with all the images of drinking.  You know, drunken abbots, dozens of toasts, and the swan roasting on the spit.  Finally, we enter the Court of Love, populated with Greek Gods and their “higher” feelings.  The whole thing is a prescription for musical perfection!

PS:  What does it take to reach this music perfection?

DB:  Carl Orff composed the piece in such a way that there is nothing superfluous.  The ideas are repeated, albeit in an old german/latin dialect; the melodies are short and memorable and the rhythmic qualities are strong and appealing.  This music is easily consumed by the ear and the heart.  It is accessible to all levels of music lovers.

PS:  As Artistic Director, what interpretive choices have you made?

DB:  First, I decided to use the version written for 2 pianos and percussion.  This allows us to take the tempos faster and make the piece more exciting.  Also, I want to elicit an emotional response from the audience, so when a key moment or phrase occurs, I can choose to make it last longer, to make it louder or to make it softer, all for emphasis.

PS:  What do you want your audience to take away from the performance on April 22?

DB:  First and foremost, I want our audience to rejoice in the music, to take pleasure in the human voice as it touches the human heart.  I hope this performance will provide a “sonic meal” of different sounds, a live, high-fidelity experience.

If you would like to hear more from Dr. Bass about our performance of Carmina, please join us on Tuesday, April 17 at 3:30pm at the Long Beach Airport Holiday Inn for “Orff Revealed.”  Click here to reserve your free seat: http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/carmina-burana-2/

To purchase your ticket for Carmina Burana on Sunday April 22 at 4:30pm, at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach, click here:http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/carl-orffs-carmina-burana/

Peace Be With You: The Camerata Peace Project

When our new Artistic Director, James Bass, suggested that we perform a concert around the theme of Peace, we were intrigued.  That concept has grown into a community effort that we are calling The Camerata Peace Project, and it will take place on Sunday, October 8 2017.

This first Peace Project — the first of five annual events — will revolve around the theme of diversity and inclusion, the the importance of a sense of belonging.  The centerpiece of the concert is “We Can Mend the Sky” by contemporary composer, Jake Runestad.  Also included are “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson, Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo” and Bernstein’s “Almighty Father.”  We will explore the repertoire more fully in future posts.

Instead of a pre-concert lecture, we have arranged a community roundtable discussion.  We have invited representatives from many stakeholder groups around the area to discuss these issues, including LGBT, Developmentally Disabled, African American, Children, and more.  We will focus on how our diversity is expressed through music and how music leads to inclusion.

According to Dr. Bass, “When we come together to sing, it is almost exclusively in a peaceful manner.  There is no other place like the concert stage to cultivate human relationships:  Relationships with the past, with each other as performers and with the audience. We will ask our audience to  put the thoughts and concerns of the outside world away and join us in a musical celebration of human relationships and of peace.”

Prepare to be uplifted by this beautiful concert; prepare to be moved; prepare to think about important issues; prepare to count your blessings; prepare to appreciate the goodness that comes through human connection.

Please join us on October 8!  Here is the link for tickets:  http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/camerata-peace-project/

All About Camerata’s New Artistic Director, James K. Bass

Artistic Director transitions are important moments in the culture of a chorus.  There is the sad good-bye to the departing individual, the wishing-well-but-holding-on phase.  There is the selection process, where hopes and dreams are lit aflame.  Finally, there is the Choice.

The Choice, in the case of Long Beach Camerata Singers, was Dr. James K. Bass, three-time GRAMMY®-nominated singer and conductor, and  Professor and Director of Choral Studies at the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA. He is the Associate Conductor and Director of Education for the Miami based ensemble Seraphic Fire and is the Artistic Director of the Long Beach Camerata Singers.

Bass is an active soloist and ensemble artist. In 2017 he made his Cleveland Orchestra solo debut singing with Franz Welser-Möst and the orchestra in Miami and in Severance Hall, Cleveland. He has appeared with numerous professional vocal ensembles including Seraphic Fire, Conspirare, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Trinity Wall Street, Apollo Master Chorale, Vox Humanae, True Concord and Spire. He was the featured baritone soloist on the GRAMMY nominated recording Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings with fellow singer Lauren Snouffer, conductor Craig Hella-Johnson and the GRAMMY winning ensemble Conspirare. Bass was selected by the master conductor of the Amsterdam Baroque Soloists, Ton Koopman, to be one of only 20 singers for a presentation of Cantatas by J. S. Bach in Carnegie Hall and was an auditioned member of Robert Shaw’s workshop choir at Carnegie.

During his tenure as Artistic Director for the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, the official chorus of the Florida Orchestra, he was responsible for five recordings and multiple world premieres. In 2012 he served as chorusmaster and co-editor for the Naxos recording entitled Delius: Sea Drift and Appalachia featuring the Florida Orchestra and conducted by Stefan Sanderling.

His professional career has coincided with the development of Seraphic Fire as one of the premier vocal ensembles in the United States. During the summer of 2011 he co-founded the Professional Choral Institute. In its inaugural year of recording, Seraphic Fire and PCI received the GRAMMY® nomination for Best Choral Performance for their recording of Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deuthches Requiem. As the Director of Education for the ensemble he has been involved with annual events that service more than 2000 students in the Miami-Dade county area each year. In 2017 Seraphic Fire and UCLA launched a new educational initiative entitled the Ensemble Artist Program that aims to identify and train the next generation of high-level ensemble singers.

Bass received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Miami, where he was a doctoral fellow, and is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Indications are that The Choice was a good one!  Welcome to Camerata, James!

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/

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!