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The Crowd: Pacific Chorale director celebrates 40 years

November 16, 2011|By B.W. Cook
  • ARTS ADVOCATES: Duain Wolfe, Ann Meier Baker and Wayne Brown attend the 40th anniversary concert and dinner honoring John Alexander and The Pacific Chorale.
ARTS ADVOCATES: Duain Wolfe, Ann Meier Baker and Wayne… (Laurie Veitch )

Not many people in today's world are fortunate enough to devote a lifetime to a career, a singular purpose and a passion. Even fewer people have the talent, the stamina and the vision to sustain that career and that passion for years, let alone decades.

Last week in Orange County one man was honored for 40 years of service to his lifetime pursuit and for the difference it has made not just in this community, but on a national and international scale.

John Alexander, artistic director of the Pacific Chorale, accepted a multi-encore standing ovation from a full house in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on the occasion, debuting his 40th-anniversary season with the chorus that is considered one of the finest in America.

The milestone event in Alexander's life was marked by a superb Sunday evening program combining both classical and contemporary selections. For many in the crowd, Alexander's conducting of Brahms' "Schicksalslied" was indeed the magical showstopper.

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Following the performance in two acts Alexander, who also conducted the Pacific Symphony in concert with the chorale, shared that the Brahms segment was also among his most cherished performance opportunities.

Among the contemporary works most deserving of praise were Morten Lauridsen's "Ubi caritas et amor" and Jake Heggie's "Seeking Higher Ground." Heggie's piece had previously been featured in 2006 for the formal opening of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Finally, in an appropriate emotional closing encore, Alexander took the orchestra, chorale and audience on a journey to early 19th-century America, performing "Shenandoah." The conclusion of the performance was especially fitting given that the theme of the evening was created around Alexander's boyhood roots, hailing from the "Big Easy" — otherwise known as New Orleans.

Donors underwriting the concert and the chorale were invited to a post-event dinner staged in the Samueli Theatre, which party planners had transformed into "An Evening In New Orleans" theme.

Chaired by major sponsors Phil and Mary Lyons of Newport Beach, both the concert and the dinner were exquisitely orchestrated. Perhaps most important, it was an evening of 40 years of memories for conductor/director Alexander and for so many of his loyal supporters in attendance to mark the occasion.

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