Master Chorus Eastside celebrates 20 years of ‘ingenious’ creativity

November 30, 2010

By Janelle Kohnert

The Master Chorus Eastside opens its 20th season Dec. 4 with ‘A Victorian Christmas.’ File

For 20 years, Master Chorus Eastside has been gracing the Issaquah area with a variety of music and an abundance of skill.

The chorus will open its 20th season Dec. 4 at Eastlake Performing Arts Center in Sammamish with “A Victorian Christmas.” The performance will feature Victorian Christmas songs, like “Masters in This Hall” and “A Virgin Most Pure,” as well as more familiar Christmas songs, including “The 12 Days of Christmas” and “Deck the Halls,” according to Conductor Linda Gingrich.

Gingrich, who has led the chorus since its creation, arranged the version of “Masters in This Hall” that the chorus will sing, and also arranged a challenging rendition of the overture from “The Nutcracker” in which the choir sings syllables that imitate the sounds of the instruments in the overture.

“She’s ingenious, and this is her genius work,” said chorus member Dan Anderson, who has been singing bass and serving on the Master Chorus Eastside board for the past 18 years.

Not only is Gingrich ingenious, she’s also a kind-hearted leader.

“When somebody makes a mistake with Linda, everybody laughs and says ‘Oh! Great solo!’ She never loses her patience,” Anderson said.

Laverta Dauterman, chorus manager and soprano singer, agrees that Gingrich’s innovation helps keeps the group strong.

“She picks a variety of music and assembles different concerts so creatively that it keeps it interesting to not only sing with her, but also to be an audience member, because each concert is different,” she said.

20 years of opportunities

Gingrich created the Master Chorus Eastside, originally Issaquah Chorale, in 1991 because she wanted to expand her opportunities. She hadn’t been conducting for a while and thought a community choir would provide her with plenty of musical choices.

The chorale started as a public class of about 25 people and operated under the Issaquah Parks & Recreation Department. By the third year, Issaquah Chorale had grown large enough to become its own nonprofit organization, which allowed the group to raise funds and gather sponsors.

In its fourth year, Gingrich began holding auditions for the chorale, and the membership continued to grow. Now, the chorus has between 40 and 60 singers.

About five years ago, Gingrich and the chorus decided to change the group’s name from Issaquah Chorale to Master Chorus Eastside, because their performance area had expanded. The chorus now performs regularly in Renton and Kirkland, and occasionally in Seattle or at special events, like the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, for which the group traveled to the Oregon-Washington border in 2004.

However, the standout concert for long-time chorus members Anderson and Dauterman was the trip to Jamestown, Va., in May 2007 for the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

Anderson recalled performing at the Jamestown festival in front of former President George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II of England.

While the choir and orchestra were playing John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Anderson watched Bush climb up onto the podium, and then attempt to borrow the conducting baton from the orchestra’s director. Though she resisted, Bush got his chance.

“He conducted the orchestra, and he knew what he was doing,” Anderson said. “He pointed to the symbols and they went ‘bang!’”

Aside from performing and the Bush sideshow, Dauterman said she enjoyed sightseeing and making memories with her chorus mates while in Jamestown.

This season’s concerts

Gingrich, Anderson and Dauterman all agree that J.S. Bach’s “St. Passion John,” which the chorus will perform in March at the Kirkland Performance Center, will be the group’s biggest challenge.

The chorus has been practicing the music since September, but the song is more than 200 pages long. The piece will be backed by a full orchestra, and Gingrich also plans to incorporate movement and lighting into the performance to bring the song to life.

“I’m looking forward to it coming together,” Dauterman said.

However, she said the “All American Independence Celebration” in late June is usually one of her favorite concerts of the season. Each year, Gingrich picks a new theme for the show. In the past, it’s been important women in history and what influenced American music, but this year’s theme is “American Heroes.”

The concert often includes singalongs to “Home on the Range” or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Donald Haff, who has been watching the chorus for about 10 years, said he enjoys the Independence Day concert the most.

His favorite was a concert of Broadway show tunes that the group sang a few years ago, which included songs from “Showboat.”

Although Haff said he likes light-hearted music best, he said he learns something every time he attends a Master Chorus Eastside concert, because the programs are so varied, from Baroque music to Christmas carols.

“Regardless of what the program is, the group does a fantastic job,” he said. “They have a fantastic sound and we really love what they do.”

Janelle Kohnert is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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