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Gary Horton: More residents should find the Master Chorale

Posted: March 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Think "inspiration." Think "spiritually beautiful." Think "melodically breathtaking."

Think most all the good stuff you can conjure up in your mind about orchestras and choirs and classical music, and now think about the SCV Master Chorale’s performance this past Sunday of "The French Requiems" over at the COC Performing Arts Center.

Think: "How did I allow myself to miss this grand performance?"

While most of the world was pounding down green beer, the SCV’s own Master Chorale was pounding out musical home runs at the pinnacle of SCV culture, the COC Performing Arts Center.

To tell the truth, I tried to take Carrie boating on Sunday, but the weather out in the Channel Islands was frightening. Carrie used the opportunity to drag my classless ... uh, self ... to the concert she was otherwise wont to attend, and boy am I glad she did.

Like most, I’m not a "natural" for classical music. Back in elementary school, the L.A. Unified School District arranged one or two field trips where we all boarded busses and headed into L.A. for an opera we didn’t understand in a building that’s no longer there.

I remember spending a lot of time drawing patterns on the back of the velour seat in front of me until we could get back on the fun yellow bus again.

I was uncouth and unexposed to art, and admittedly so — as were most of my Mission Hills homies. Even at age 8, I knew the Rolling Stones and Beatles, but Brahms and Beethoven hadn’t yet hit my radar.

And so it would remain until my sophomore year at CSUN, when a stalwart introduction to music professor, much more effectively than L.A. Unified, dragged my tone-deaf ear to the promised land of understanding, appreciation and inspiration.

Three mornings a week I was made to listen to composers, pieces, styles, and instruments. Basic stuff, but for a musical duffer it was musical manna from heaven and a Whole New World of aural wonder, there for the hearing.

That course stuck, and it forever changed my musical habits and tastes and even my marriage to classical pianist Carrie.

Oh, Mick Jigger still certainly owns the rock and roll stage. But to get closer to the sublime, to rise above the din of daily life, something more like Mozart is likely to motivate.

So it is a happy SCV thing that in 1998 founding directors Jill Hackett and Deb Baur established the SCV Master Chorale for the purpose of bringing musical excellence to our local audience.

The chorale has grown each year in size and quality — and Sunday’s performance of "The French Requiems" drove home the reality that the SCV has first-rate classical performances of its own, without the need to schlep over hills and under overpasses to obtain advanced culture.

The shame is in the taking part part. While the performance was riveting, there were a scant 280 souls in the audience to hear it.

In this juxtaposition between super quality and scant attendance, I see reflections of what is currently right and wrong in the SCV.

The right part is that we have a fabulous choir of 64 performers voluntarily pursuing excellence in public performance for the citizens of our city.

These folks’ commitment to artistic beauty, to the higher ideals of advanced music, is remarkable and exemplary. They reflect the enviable traits of personal discipline, of teamwork before self, of patience, and of committing incredible energy over time to long-term objectives.

Classical music is so much the pursuit of the ideal and perfection in performance — traits we’d love to see our own kids absorb and reflect — yet the small audience was overwhelmingly gray-hairs like myself — and older still!

The wrong part was: "Where were the kids?"

I understand we enjoy our chain-store shopping — which is so popular here we’ve got bumper crops of mall rats. And popular movies and computer games are surely required to relieve our kids suffering stressful suburban boredom.

Still, I’m not certain exposure to mall culture and car-jacking, cop-killing video games ensures our kids’ future success the way exposure to classical music has been shown to IQs and creativity.

Right here in Awesometown, real culture and intellectual discipline too often go missing — just for the lack of thinking to take it!

Classical music is an interest for a lifetime; it’s mathematical and logical; it teaches teamwork and personal perfection — and all this comes along for the ride as one appreciates the joy of the music itself.

Parents, I’d suggest if you want to increase your kids’ school performances, keep them out of trouble and increase their chances of entering college, have your kids learn a classical instrument and play classical music in your home.

It may sound odd at first instead of mind-numbing hip-hop bass, but believe me, your ear and brain will soon appreciate it.

Seeing that we’ve got such a wonderful choir right here, drag the family out to the choir’s next performance at COC’s Performing Arts Center on June 2, when members perform a broad range of music in their "A Musical Menu" program.

That’s a great way to launch your own commitment to accessing the better living that good classical and choir music provides.

For more information, visit

Gary Horton is a Valencia resident. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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