LOS ANGELES, Calif. Like Scheherazade, the Angeles Chorale has become a storyteller extraordinaire, devoting its entire 37th season to âStories Worth Telling.â The season opened last December with the story of Christ when the Chorale presented Handelâs Messiah. Now, on Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena, the renowned choral ensemble will leave the Middle East for the New World, to tell the tale of âThe American Experience: Spirituals, Gospel and Jazz.â
âWeâll share the story of American music, tracing its roots from William Billings, who is credited with being the first truly American composer, to folk tune hymns and early American gospel, to spirituals,â reveals the Angeles Choraleâs Artistic Director, John Sutton. âOver time, a kind of musical melding took place between these cultures and genres, however, which led to the development of jazz and the blues.â
The concert will open with Billingsâ Modern Musick, sung a capella by the Chorale as it enters the sanctuary from the back of the church. Also on the program, as the musical journey through history progresses, are such examples of Early American Gospel as Wondrous Love and Hark, I Hear; and spirituals like Ainât Got Time to Die, Hereâs One, City Called Heaven, Battle of Jericho and Lord, I Know Iâve Been Changed. In addition, the Chorale will perform two jazz pieces â Hereâs That Rainy Day by Jimmy Van Heusen and Hit Me With a Hot Note and Watch Me Bounce by Duke Ellington. The program will conclude with Gospel Mass by Robert Ray.
âThe Gospel Mass takes the traditional structure of the Catholic Mass and infuses it with Black Gospel style,â Sutton explains.
Joining the Chorale for âThe American Experienceâ are soloists Eyvonne Williams-Hines, mezzo-soprano, and Darnell Abraham, baritone.
âTheyâre out of this world, absolutely amazing,â says Sutton.
Sutton has equally high praise for the jazz ensemble that will accompany the soloists and Angeles Chorale during the jazz portions of the program: pianist Bryan Pezzone; bass player Brandon Shaw; Bryan Taylor, drums; Jim Cox, Hammond B-3 organ; guitarist Gary Lee; and Grammy Award-winning saxophone player, Justo Almario.
âTheyâre a cookinâ band, man. Theyâre gonna rock,â Sutton promises. âAnd wait until you hear how they fly on the Mass. Ray wrote that he wanted everyone to experience the sense of joy and celebration that is generally felt in true African-American worship. I guarantee that, with the Angeles Chorale, you will experience all that and then some!â
Tickets for American Experience are available for $25, general seating, and for $17 for students with a valid ID. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.angeleschorale.org or call 818.591.1735.
The First United Methodist Church is located at 500 East Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, 91101.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Born in Oakland, Californiaâs inner city, mezzo-soprano Eyvonne Williams-Hines discovered the best free entertainment her parents could offer was the Public Library, where books and music captured her imagination. Then movies thrust her into the fantastic world of story and song from which she has never returned.
At California State University, Hayward, she fell in love with classical music and literature, then at the University of California, Berkeley she acquired a B.A. in Dramatic Art.
After graduation Eyvonne took off to Haiti as a volunteer during Papa Docâs brutal dictatorship. Leper camps and abandoned children pierced her heart and provoked her to write. Bob Hopeâs USO sent her to Vietnam during the last stages of the war to sing for US troops. World Vision took her to the Philippines right before Marshall Law was declared, and then to Cambodia, where she escaped only days before the Khmer Rouge overran the country. Trying to play it safe, she accepted a role with a San Francisco Shakespearean company and toured the U.S. From there Eyvonne headed for Los Angeles to work in Hollywoodâs entertainment business.
Under the professional name of Phyllis St James she wrote chart songs for various recording artists while working as a studio singer, vocal arranger/contractor, producer, actor, and concert performer. With Andrae Crouch she toured the US, recorded several Grammy award-winning albums, and performed with âgospel legendsâ at the first Gospel Festival at Solomon's Pool in Jerusalem. Signed with Famous Music Publishing and Motown Records she wrote, recorded and released her first album. Another composition âSo Primitive,â recorded by the exiled South African artist Letta Mbulu, was released in England and South Africa. She performed the South African national anthem in a celebrity choir honoring Nelson Mandela, greeted, and shook hands with the soon to be leader of that nation. A great honor. In the course of recording four independent CDs, she has appeared on numerous television shows as an actor and singer; has sung on scores of film soundtracks, television movies, title themes of TV series, and commercial jingles with a substantial discography of Albums, CDs, and Soundtracks. Eyvonne was nominated for best supporting actress by the NAACP Theater Awards in âAchieving the Dream,â starring the late Yolanda King (eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr).
After years in the industry, Eyvonne returned to academic life at California State University, Northridge to earn a Masters degree in Mass Communication (Screenwriting) her long time dream. She received the prestigious Abraham L. Polonsky Graduate Critical Writing Scholarship and graduated with Distinction. She hones her craft in Robert McKee seminars and as a member of Women In Film writersâ workshops. Since then she has completed a Writing Fellowship sponsored by Drs. Bill & Camille Cosby, and has placed in the Page International Screenwriting Competitions for three years as a Quarter and Semi finalists. Now with feature scripts, television shows, short stories, and a wealth of songs in her arsenal Eyvonne looks forward to finding more ways to share her voice with the worldwide community of fans and friends.
Darnell Abraham, baritone, is quickly gaining favorable recognition as a concert, opera, and recital artist. Abrahamâs versatility and commanding performances have won over audiences throughout the United States and around the world. The Inland Empire Daily Bulletin says, âMr. Abraham puts people on the edge of their seatsâ.
Abraham offers a diverse music background in the operatic, classical, gospel, and R&B/soul genres. He was the soloist for the Corona Symphony Orchestra's "Songs from the New World" concert, where he performed Aaron Coplandâs "Old American Art Songs." He has also performed with the Grammy Award-winning Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Other solo-featured concert performances include, Mendelssohn's Elijah (singing the title role), Raphael in Haydn's Creation, Handel's Messiah, Fauré Requiem, Vaughn Williamsâ Hodie and Waltonâs Belshazzarâs Feast.
In 2009, Abraham was the guest solo artist for the Hawaii Governorâs Breakfast in O'ahu, Hawaii. Similar honors include being the featured solo artist for a private prayer breakfast honoring United States Senate Chaplain, Dr. Barry Black and the 2008 Pasadena (Calif.) Mayor Prayer Breakfast.
Abraham received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Vocal Performance from the Azusa Pacific University School of Music in Southern California where he later studied under Dr. Melanie Galloway. He was formerly one of thirty young artists selected nationally for an apprenticeship with the acclaimed Utah Festival Opera. Abraham is currently pursuing his Master in Music degree at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music where he studies under the tutelage of Metropolitan Opera vocal teacher, Mark Oswald.
In early 2012, Abraham will sing the world premiere of a new song cycle entitled "Songs of Love and Death" - a composition based upon the literary works by Italian-poet Eugenio Montale. In addition, Abraham will play the lead role of Coalhouse in the Manhattan School of Music Broadway Musical production of "Ragtime".
John Sutton, Angeles Chorale Artistic Director, has been with the Chorale since its 2004-2005 season. In 1982, Sutton received his Bachelor of Arts in Sacred Music and Bible Literature from Northwest College and in 1997 he earned the Master of Arts in Choral Conducting from San Jose State University, where he was a student of Dr. Charlene Archibeque. In 2010, he was awarded his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from UCLA where he was a student with Professor Donald Neuen.
As a full-time professional musician for more than 20 years, Sutton has distinguished himself in the area of Church Choral Music, establishing programs which have attracted over 400 weekly singers in choir programs for grades Kâ12, and adults. Serving communities in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and California, he is known for impacting the community through his active involvement and leadership in the arts. Sutton has been active in ongoing training for choir members and in 1991 established the Tri-Valley Choral Workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area, which grew to be the largest single day choral event in the nation for church choir members.
In addition, he has performed extensively throughout the United States and abroad in choral concert tours and recording projects, which include performances at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and Constitution Hall.
Sutton resides in Pasadena, California with his wife Dr. Cecilia PatiñoâSutton. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Azusa Pacific University where he lectures in the School of Music and serves as the Director of Choral Activities and as the Director of their Artist Concert Series. He is also currently the Interim Director of Adult Choral Music and Worship at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena.
ABOUT THE ANGELES CHORALE
The 100-voice Angeles Chorale is a volunteer organization of auditioned, professional-level choral singers rehearsing and performing in the Los Angeles area. Its mission is to present choral concerts of the highest caliber, expand the musical abilities of its singers, and broaden appreciation for fine choral music in the Los Angeles community.
In 1996 Donald Neuen became Artistic Director of the Chorale. Under his direction the Angeles Chorale became best known for its productions of the classical masterworks for chorus and orchestra. Currently Neuen serves as the Resident Guest Conductor for the Angeles Chorale and conducted the Chorale in Handelâs Messiah this month in Pasadena.
Dr. John Sutton is the current Artistic Director. He will conduct the other two concerts of this, the Choraleâs 37th season. In March the program will feature the Gospel Mass of Robert Ray and will also include spirituals and jazz. The June concert is titled Stories of our Lives, and will include songs about our shared human experience from childhood to old age.
The Chorale also records music for the âmovie trailer industry.â Their voices are frequently heard in the trailers for major movies, such as Spiderman, The Deathly Hallows, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Chorale has performed with many of the local orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Glendale Symphony, Long Beach Symphony and Pasadena Symphony. The Chorale will participate in the Mahler Project as part of the chorus for the Symphony of a Thousand under Gustavo Dudamel in February.
For further information visit the Angeles Chorale website at www.angeleschorale.org.
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