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Seven Days, Music, Santa Monica

Benjamin Britten Centenary To Be Observed With Shows In Santa Monica, Southland

Posted Nov. 19, 2013, 8:06 am

Mitch James / Mirror Contributor

Conductor James Conlon, Music Director of LA Opera, will lead a series of Britten performances across the Southland as part of the Britten 100/LA celebration, in commemoration of the 2013 Benjamin Britten centenary.

Over the course of two weeks (from Nov. 22 through Dec. 6), he will lead five Britten performances in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Santa Monica.

“Several years ago, I realized that by taking advantage of the centenary of Britten’s birth I could motivate many people to try a sustained diet of his music,” Conlon said.

These performances highlight Maestro Conlon’s commitment to educating the community about Britten’s music.

Throughout his career, in addition to maintaining his rigorous conducting schedule, Conlon has focused on educating the public, including children, students in public and private schools, at conservatories and universities about the works of important composers.

He has done this through collaborations with singers, musicians, teachers, professors, directors, and community institutions.

Conlon returns to Los Angeles after leading a revival of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Metropolitan Opera. The New York Times said, “Just a revival, yes, but an exciting one. Superbly cast and beautifully conducted by James Conlon, this Midsummer makes a persuasive case for a work both exquisite and exhausting… [Mr. Conlon] gave the score clarity and weight.”  

Conlon is spearheading Britten 100/LA: A Celebration, a yearlong festival taking place throughout Southern California featuring performances, conferences, and exhibitions centered on Britten and his legacy (

The festival will conclude in the spring with LA Opera’s presentation of Billy Budd, staged by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Mr. Conlon.

On Friday, Nov. 22, Britten’s birthday, Conlon will conduct an afternoon Britten Birthday Bashpresenting the composer’s Friday Afternoons, Ceremony of Carols and Simple Symphony performed by students from the Santa Monica–Malibu Unified School District at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica.

Kimberlea Daggy, national classical radio host and musicologist, is coordinating and hosting the presentation.

The program will begin with the Elementary Honor Choir singing Friday Afternoons. 

The Middle School Trebles will sing choruses from Ceremony of Carols, and the Santa Monica High School Chamber Orchestra will conclude the concert with Britten’s Simple Symphony.

Conlon, following in Britten’s footsteps, is bringing emphasis to music written for young people by the English composer.

The concert coincides with Aldeburgh Music’s international singing project, Friday Afternoons, where on Nov. 22, children throughout England will be singing the same Britten’s songs.

Conlon will conduct another centenary celebration that evening at St. James’ in the City Church.

He will lead the Choir of St. James and the UCLA Camarades String Ensemble in performances of Britten’sRejoice in the Lamb (Op. 30, 1943), Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (Op. 31, 1943) and Cantata Misericordium (Op. 69, 1963).

The performance features soloists Joseph Kaiser, tenor, Philip Addis, baritone, and Steve Becknell, horn.

The Choir of St. James' led by James Buonemani, music director, is made up of amateur and professional adult musicians from the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

It is the first American choir to have sung with the Choir of Westminster Abbey, where it has held three residencies.

The St. James’ Choir has also been host to some of the world’s finest choirs including: The Sixteen, the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, the American Boychoir, the Gloriae Dei Cantores, the Choir of Canterbury Cathedral, the Choir of the Royal Holloway, and the Choir Abbey.

The Camarades String Ensemble, under the musical direction of Neal Stulberg, is one of the flagship projects of UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Camarades participants are given the unique pedagogical opportunity of performing with their faculty mentors at prestigious venues.

Camarades highlights include 2012 appearances in Italy and Armenia.  Locally, the Camarades appears regularly on LACMA’s "Sundays Live" Series, and at Zipper Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and UCLA's Schoenberg Hall.

On Sunday, Nov. 24, Conlon will conduct Britten’s War Requiem at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, presented by thePhilharmonic Society of Orange County.

On Monday, Nov. 25, as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Sounds About Town series, Conlon will conduct War Requiem at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

One of music’s greatest anti-war statements, Britten’s masterpiece poignantly combines the moving First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen with the Catholic Mass for the Dead.

The performances will feature soprano Tamara Wilson, tenor Joseph Kaiser and baritone Phillip Addis. The performance also features the full 95-piece Colburn Orchestra, and includes members of the USC Thornton Symphony, the USC Chamber Singers and Concert Choir, the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir from CSU-Long Beach, CSU-Fullerton Singers, Chapman University Singers, New Zealand Youth Choir and Los Angeles Children’s Chorus. War Requiem performances are produced by The Colburn School.

On Friday, Dec. 6, Mr. Conlon will lead members of the USC Thornton Symphony and Opera, and a cast of professional singers, in a performance of the church parable The Prodigal Son at First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, directed by Ken Cazan, Chair of Vocal Performing Arts and Opera and Resident Stage Director for the USC Thornton School of Music.

The cast includes baritone Phillip Addis (Elder Son); bass Valentin Anikin (Father); tenor Vladimir Dmitruk (Younger Son); and tenorJoshua Guerrero (Tempter). Jacqueline Saint Anne is the costume designer and Azra King-Abadi is the lighting designer. 

The program also features eight singers from the USC Thornton Opera Program, members of the USC Thornton Symphony and singers from the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus.

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