Pacific Serenades, the chamber ensemble I founded and am the director of, is celebrating its 25th season and just last month premiered its 100th commissioned work—Roger Bourland’s Duarte’s Love Songs, for baritone and piano trio—with lyrics by Mitchell Morris—performed by Vladimir Chernov, Roger Wilkie (violin), David Speltz (cello), and Robert Thies (piano).
Being in the midst of this celebratory season got me reminiscing about one of the things I have done for many years as Artistic Director, and that is to write an introductory blurb published in our annual season brochure and then, usually, in our season program. I think that this is the first of these I wrote, which was in our 1998 season brochure:
Being a Los Angeles artist is one of the luckiest things I can imagine. Here, there is a unique freedom—a freedom to create outside the fossilized boundaries set by European and East Coast traditions, with a fresh palette as diverse as the many people that have come here seeking a new way of life. Here, we unabashedly embrace overt beauty. Here, we know that melody is the newest thing going around the music scene, and that the best music moves us and uplifts our spirit. Here, we are at the forefront of a new musical Renaissance. Care to join us?
It was in the preparation for this season—our 12th—that I decided to be more outspoken about our aesthetic outlook. I wanted to make an overt statement that what we were (and are) doing is about the most adventuresome, most courageous thing going on in the classical music world. Thirteen years later, I stand my ground.
Here’s one I wrote for our 2003 season, and I really think it expresses well what Pacific Serenades is all about:
To sing is human.
There was a time when lyricism was undeniably the soul of music. There was a time when spinning a good tune was as natural to a musician as . . . well, as singing. And though in some circles this gift has been discarded, lyricism remains at the heart and soul of Pacific Serenades.
Lyricism comes in all forms, whether virtuosic or simple, sacred or worldly, profound or light-hearted. But when a good melody begins its journey, it takes you with it, and its beauty resonates within you long after it has been sung.
Lyrical music is meant to carry you away to places beyond the cares of this world, as well as into the depths of those cares—to express the richness of your experience and of the unknown. To sing is, indeed, human—and divine.