LA JOLLA — Every year the La Jolla Symphony Chorus holds open auditions for new singers, and every year there’s somebody who surprises, said David Chase, choral director. “But, mostly, the auditions are about finding the vocal gems that are hidden in our county,” he said.
What he’s looking for in the auditions is that quality of voice, Chase explained. “We’re not only looking for trained voices but also for good natural voices that sound good in the ensemble.”
A good ear is also crucial for singers, he added, saying that each singer must be able to read music because of the amount and difficulty of the material the chorus covers. Chase is also looking for any previous experience in musical ensembles the singer may have had.
Having that all-around musical ability is what gives Chase the reason to call his chorus a “smart chorus.”
“I often claim that we have the highest IQ in the choral business,” he said. “It’s hyperbole, of course, but it’s based in fact: We are blessed with a membership that includes students and faculty from a highly distinguished university, community members from a community known for its artistic an scientific achievements, and just plain smart folks who are looking for a place to sing with people like themselves. My job is to challenge them to use that ‘high average IQ’ to do music better and faster. And we all love it.”
While none of the singers are paid to be in the chorus, they all commit to it, finding not only hard work, but good humor and good friendships, Chase explained. “But this season will be a bit different than most. Our concert dates, in general, are less regularly spaced, and the preparation of Britten’s ‘Spring Symphony’ is so important because it will be performed both in La Jolla and in New York,” he said.
The New York performance will take place at Carnegie Hall in which they expect to be performing with a large chorus of 150 singers, which will include chorus alumni from the past 37 years, Chase explained.
In addition to performing a unique concert at the Museum of Natural History, the chorus will also perform a special concert at the St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Carlsbad to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Sept.11 attacks.
Once the singer is notified that they have made the choir, it’s all about the focus on music-making, Chase explained. To bring out the best in each of his singers he strives to create a balance of hard work with good-natured fun that keeps them moving towards their musical goal.
“People really need to sing and to be part of the creative process. My job is to keep them focused, but to respect their intelligence — not to badger them. It’s simply amazing how hard this group works!
“Personality is very important,” Chase said. “It’s not that everyone has to have some Pollyanna attitude, but I observe that singers with certain negative attitudes often disappear from our ranks. It’s a matter of ‘birds of the feather.’ And finding those positive people is important to me.”
While not everyone may be suited to sing with choir, Chase believes there is room in the choral world for every level of singer, and he said that everybody should sing. “It’s a natural expression for every person, from singing lullabies to your baby to studying opera.
“We also have members who are very active in non-singing aspects of our group — they serve on the board or organize our social activities. Those individuals become very important to us. What I’m talking about here is the nature of the community that we’ve created.”
Imagination becomes part of the music process, too, Chase explained.
“Over the years, we’ve done a lot of music that is not the standard repertoire and calls for singers to go outside the ‘comfort zone’ of the singing that they are most used to,” he said, which is something that distinguishes the La Jolla Symphony Chorus from others.
“Over that time, I’ve observed that a lot of individuals have learned to ‘go with it,’ rather than complain (or indeed drop out!), and they end up enjoying the process very much. I think that ‘imagination’ is a large part of that phenomenon, and that folks learn to expand their imagination as part of our process.”
The auditions will be held at the UCSD Conrad Prebys Music Center Aug. 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A second audition will be held Sept. 10. To schedule an audition, e-mail chorus manager Mea Daum at [email protected] For more information, visit lajollasymphony.com.
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