Master Chorus Eastside summer concert celebrates America

June 21, 2011

By Emily Baer

Master Chorus Eastside kicks off the Fourth of July with its 13th annual All-American Independence Celebration in Issaquah’s historic Pickering Barn on June 26.

The chorus will perform American music of all styles, including early Americana pieces, frontier music, gospel and sing-a-longs. Master Chorus Artistic Director and Conductor Dr. Linda Gingrich and several chorus members will complement the musical arrangements with “tall tales,” Gingrich said.

She uses her signature commentary as a vehicle to help the audience connect with the concert.

“Commentary usually includes some historical information or information about how the composer may have come to write the piece,” she said. “I try to build the commentary into the form of a story to help the audience understand what they’re listening to.”

The theme of this year’s Independence Celebration, American Legends, provides a repertoire of songs and stories representing John Henry, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Chief Joseph and Davy Crockett.

Due to popular demand, the chorus will offer two performances, at 3 and 7 p.m. In past years, the Independence Celebration has attracted more than 300 audience members.

“We’ve been doing this concert every year since 1999 and it just keeps growing in popularity,” Gingrich said. “We tried several different venues in the early years, but Pickering Barn is the perfect place for a down-home celebration like this.”

If you go

Master Chorus Eastside’s All-American Independence Celebration

  • 3 and 7 p.m. June 26
  • Pickering Barn, 1730 10th Ave. N.W.
  • Admission is $12 per person and $36 per family.
  • Tickets are available by phone at 392-8446, online at www.ticketweb.com or at the door.
  • Learn more about Master Chorus Eastside at www.masterchoruseastside.org.

Gingrich began the chorus as a class through the Issaquah Parks & Recreation Department in 1991. Within four years and with the blessing of the parks department, the small, voluntary Issaquah Chorale developed into a nonprofit, 50-person chorus for which people have to audition. Known for its “innovative and imaginative programming,” the chorus is one of the “premiere arts organizations in the Eastside,” according to its website.

The chorus presents a four-concert season, featuring American music, large orchestral works, a capella, multicultural explorations, jazz and Broadway classics, according to singer and chorus General Manager Laverta Dauterman.

The chorus performs primarily on the Eastside, but has appeared in Benaroya Hall, on the Argosy Christmas Ship and throughout Western Washington. The chorus was invited to the Jamestown anniversary celebrations in 2007, appeared in the Lewis and Clark 200th anniversary celebrations on the Columbia River and twice in the Leavenworth Choral Festival, Dauterman said.

The chorus plays several roles on the Eastside, Gingrich said.

“We provide the arts to people that live on the Eastside,” she said. “We give people the opportunity to find music that is well performed here, near their homes.”

With the exception of rock ’n’ roll, the chorus boasts a wide repertoire of musical styles in order to appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes. It offers a musical outlet for community members who love to sing, and often hires orchestral accompaniment and soloists from the Eastside.

The majority of chorus members are Issaquah and Sammamish residents, though quite a few are from Bellevue and Redmond. Chorus members are not professional musicians, but have choral experience and basic music reading knowledge.

“You have to be very good to get in,” said Dan Anderson, bass singer and a chorus member of 18 years.

Anderson was in the Blue Jacket Choir and Blue Jacket Glee Club during his service in the United States Navy and later sang in the MIT Glee Club. He currently serves on the Village Theatre board of directors.

“I get tremendous satisfaction out of creating good music — it’s really world class,” Anderson said. “Objectively, our director is absolutely ingenious and really outstanding.”

Anderson was previously part of a Bellevue chorus.

“Before this group, rehearsals were tedious,” Anderson said. “I was just watching the clock and it wasn’t as fun as it should have been.”

Now, instead of keeping an eye on the clock, he said he is a little disappointed when rehearsal is over.

Chorus members “do music as an avocation, not a vocation,” Gingrich said. “They’re just great people from the community who love to sing and explore lots of different musical styles. They take joy in tackling something that’s challenging.”

Gingrich is a longtime Issaquah resident. She attended Clark Elementary School and Issaquah Junior High School, and then graduated from Issaquah High School. She received her doctoral and master’s degrees in choral conducting from the University of Washington and her bachelor’s degree in voice from Cornish College of the Arts. She is a published composer and a member of the Ladies Musical Club.

Despite the group’s impressive résumé and accomplished director, it doesn’t seem to garner the publicity it deserves, Anderson said.

“The Master Chorus has a lot less impact culturally and financially than it deserves,” Anderson said.

“I think even The Seattle Times thinks we are way out in the country, but you don’t get these invitations without a director that is super respected within the network of directors,” he added, regarding Jamestown and Vienna.

Emily Baer: 392-6434 or isspress@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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