A NOTE FROM THE FOUNDERS
Welcome to the inaugural concerts of the Conejo Valley Choral Society. We started this organization with one thing in mind: improving accessibility to the arts in our community. With school funding in the arts decreasing and COVID-19 forcing many organizations to close, artistic opportunities for our community became more and more scarce.
We at CVCS believe that classical music is not just for the trained, professional musician but for everyone to partake in and enjoy. Classical music at its very inception was written for anyone who was able to play, sing, and collaborate in their own homes. We wanted to bring back the performance opportunities to amateurs and professionals alike and perform inspiring works for our community. In other words: for the community, by the community.
We wanted to provide a free resource for students in our local schools and universities with the opportunity to sing and perform major choral-orchestral works, like this concert we have gather for today. We are here to enhance, contribute, and diversify our communities through music.
We genuinely thank every one of you for coming to support your community members and the ongoing growth of arts in our community. We look forward to continuing to promote music in the Conejo Valley, and hope you will join us.
Happy Holidays to all,
Conor Whalen and Michelle Pina
A very special thanks to our generous donors who provide the necessary foundational support for music opportunities in the the Conejo Valley.
The Pina Family
CONOR WHALEN, Music & Artistic Director
In Terra Pax, op. 39
Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
Keith Colclough, Bass-Baritone
Michelle Pina, Soprano
----- INTERMISSION -----
Requiem, op. 9
Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)
Michelle Pina, Soprano
Ralph Santitoro, Tenor (Saturday)
Ryan Board, Baritone (Sunday)
MEET THE ARTISTS
Bass-baritone Keith Colclough was praised in Opera News for his "rich authoritative" voice. He has been a soloist with a number of arts organizations, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Opera Santa Barbara, Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera, Pacific Opera Project, LACMA Sundays Live, Salastina Society, and the Santa Barbara Choral Society. Past operatic roles include Don Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Doctor Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Publio in La Clemeza di Tito, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Seneca in L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Peter Quince in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dr. Colclough also frequently performs recitals of art songs and musical theater, and he has diverse experience as a choral and studio singer. Dr. Colclough serves as Associate Professor of Voice and Director of Opera at Pepperdine University.
Michelle Pina is a soprano based in Los Angeles, California. Past operatic roles include the title role of Massenet's Cendrillon, Blanche de la Force in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Michelle is also a regular of the concert stage and has performed solos across California and Boston in works such as Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, and Howard Goodall’s Requiem. Michelle is an advocate for accessible music education and works with businesses across the US to provide financial and industry resources for young musicians.
Ryan Board, Director of Choral Activities at Pepperdine University, continues to garner international attention as a conductor, choral artist, teacher, and clinician. In his role as Director of Choral Activities at Pepperdine, Dr. Board directs the Pepperdine Concert Choir and the Pepperdine Chamber Choir and teaches courses in Conducting, Music History, and Music Education. His research interests focus on rhetoric and affections in the sacred vocal music of the Baroque Era.
Dr. Board maintains an active schedule as a professional singer, presenter, and conductor.
Maestro Conor Whalen is currently a Los Angeles-based conductor working in opera, orchestral, and choral fields of music. He has served as the assistant conductor for the Newburyport Choral Society, Boston Conservatory at Berklee Opera, and OperaNEO. Recently, his conducting credits include working on productions of Britten's Turn of the Screw, Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Conor made his European conducting debut in 2021, conducting the Morovian Philharmonic in a performance of Dvorak Symphony 7. He has also appeared in masterclasses with Maestro Charles Olivieri-Munroe and Alice Parker. Conor also was invited to compete in Budapest, Hungary in the Anal Doráti International Conducting Competition in 2021.
THE CONEJO VALLEY CHORAL SOCIETY
Mary Lou Collier
Nancy La Sota
Cheryl Van Gelder
Carolyn Osborn, concertmaster
Debra Price, principal
Scott Yawger, principal
Ilona Geller, principal
Garik Terzian, principal
John C. Dressler
ABOUT THE WORKS
Our concert consists of two works that are very different from one another in sound, style, and sensation, despite being written less than 10 years apart by composers born within a year of each other.
Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) was no stranger to tragedy. By the time the English composer reached adulthood, he had already lost his father and two of his older brothers to physical and mental illness and another brother and his beloved music teacher Ernest Farrar had been killed in action in World War I. These deaths and their impact on Finzi’s understanding of the transience of life would have a profound impact on his music.
After Farrar’s death in 1918, Finzi began studying music and composing in earnest, eventually moving to London and meeting Gustav Holst, Arthur Bliss, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. All three composers had a profound impact on Finzi’s composition, but none so much as Vaughan Williams with whom he shared a deep love of English Folk music. Finzi gained a teaching post at the Royal Academy of Music where he taught for three years before marrying Joyce Black and retiring to the countryside in 1933.
After the move, Finzi devoted himself to apple growing, studying, and editing English Folk music. During this period he composed few works, among them his cantata Dies Natalis. In 1951 Finzi was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and given five to ten years to live. Complications caused by developing chicken pox eventually led to his death in 1956, just two days after the first performance of his final work, his Cello Concerto.
In Terra Pax, written just two years before his death, is a beautiful summation of all that Finzi loved in his music, using both English poetry and a traditional English Christmas carol in its composition. Despite being an agnostic of Jewish descent, Finzi often used Christian texts in his works and In Terra Pax is no exception.
In Terra Pax is inspired by a Christmas eve night when a much younger Finzi climbed to the roof of a church to hear the midnight bells ring across the countryside. The piece is bookended by two verses of Robert Bridges’ poem ‘Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913’, subtitled Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis (Peace and goodwill to all men), opening with a baritone soloist in the place of the poet standing on a hill imagining the very first Christmas as he hears the bells begin to ring. Then the choir enters, becoming the narrator of the Biblical text that fills the center of the piece, the nativity as told in the Book of Luke, with a soprano soloist acting as the angel delivering the news of Christ’s birth to the shepherds. As the choir, now in the role of the angelic choir, begins to rejoice, “Glory to God in the highest”, we too hear the pealing bells of the churches along with a small section of the traditional English Christmas carol “The First Nowell”. In spite of terminal illness and tremendous loss, Finzi saw beauty and joy and hope, even if only in the quiet hills of his home.
For Maurice Duruflè (1902-1986) music had always been a part of his life. At 10, he became a chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School where he studied piano and Organ with Alexandre Guilmant. At 17, he moved to Paris where he began studying with Charles Tournemaire. At 18, he entered the Conservetoire de Paris where he would earn First Prize, a diploma denoting high artistic proficiency, in organ, harmony, fugue, piano accompaniment, and composition. In 1943 he would become the Professor of Harmony at the school where he continued to teach until 1970.
At age 25, in 1927, he became the assistant at Notre Dame at the nomination of Louis Vierne, who he would continue to assist at Notre Dame until Vierne’s death in 1937. Duruflè won multiple prizes for his performances at the organ including the Prix Blumenthal and premiered Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto after assisting in the registration of its organ part, and later toured the world performing with his wife and organ assitant Marie-Madeleine Chevalier. In 1975 he and his wife were injured in a car accident that would end their musical careers. In 1986, Duruflè died in his home at the age of 84.
Despite his impressive musical resume, the perfectionistic Duruflè would compose and publish very few works, most famously his Requiem. The Requiem, composed between the years 1941 and 1947, incorporates disparate pieces of Duruflè’s musical history, taking the Gregorian chants and modal harmonies sung in his youth at Rouen Cathedral and combining them with classical organization, including an underlying modern harmony. Duruflè selected texts from the original service that focused on peace and rest, choosing not to set Dies Irae. In his own program note’s for the work Duruflè writes,
“This Requiem is not an ethereal work which sings of detachment from earthly worries. It reflects in the immutable form of Christian prayer, the agony of man faced with the mystery of his ultimate end. It is often dramatic, or filled with resignation, or hope or terror, just as the words of the Scripture Themselves which are used in the liturgy. It tends to translate human feelings before the unexplainable or consoling destiny.”
Despite their many differences, perhaps there is a small thread that travels through these works, that in the face of the awe inspiring unknown, the terrifyingly real, and the profoundly quiet, there is the possibility of peace.
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes