Grant Gershon, artistic director of the Los Angeles Angeles Master Chorale, will conduct this Sunday’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Featuring a new score from Emmy winning composer Jeff Beal (House of Cards, The Biggest Little Farm), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans pays homage to F.W. Murneau’s classic silent film while also delivering an immersive live to picture experience. Gershon talked to us about the event as well as his continued work with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
This relatively short Q&A is my doing, as Grant Gershon was patient enough to wait while my phone had issues recording the interview. Thanks to Gershon for being so accommodating, and I didn’t want to take any more of his time after my several minutes of fumbling. All that aside, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is a concert event one (especially if you’re a cinephile and music lover) should not miss.
Why is Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans a perfect film for the live to picture experience?
Even in the milieu of silent film, Sunrise is unusual in the amount of space that it creates and the timelessness that the movie engenders. To me it’s really the perfect vehicle not only to create a new and vivid score but in particular to create music that is really driven by the human voice. Again, there is so much emotional space within the movie.
What are the keys to a successful collaboration with Jeff Beal and the Los Angeles Master Chorale with making Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans come to life in a new fashion?
The key to a collaboration like this, first off, is that everybody involved be open to discovery with the experience. Certainly that’s true for the singers and players this week as we are ramping up with rehearsals. To be open not only to just the music, we’ve screened the film together to be aware of and engaged how the music is helping illuminate the story and the characters in the movie.
Music making is about communication. A project like this where you’re combining new music with this classic of the silent era is, to me, the perfect example of our ability to bridge gaps and overcome barriers. In the end, it’s all about the immediacy of the communication and being able to share a truly resonant experience with everybody in the concert hall.
With your own career, complacency has not been a part of your path. Can you talk about what motivates you with your work as the Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale?
I’ve always felt really strongly, certainly in the arts, there is no status quo. Your eyes are moving forward and growing or you’re receding and becoming irrelevant. There is no middle ground. I really feel that in this position with the L.A Master Chorale we have an opportunity to continue to define what a Choral organization is and what the concert experience is.
We’re constantly looking for projects that open that experience both for the audience and for us as artists as well. Being in Los Angeles, there is no better place to experiment and to find connections with other media and offer an adventurous audience new places to go. (for deeper context regarding Gershon’s career, check out his appearance on the Living with a Genius podcast).
Los Angeles is unfairly categorized as an industry town for film and television. You have a bird’s eye view of how Los Angeles is an underrated cultural center, and I’m assuming that’s one of the main reasons you love your job.
Absolutely. One of the most gratifying things for me as a native Angeleno is to see how the city has blossomed in the creative arts and also how that is more and more acknowledged in the country and around the world that L.A. is in a leadership role not only in the industry with a capital “I” but really in the larger, cultural sense.
All of us who grew up here knew that. In the bones of Los Angeles are all of these cultures coming together and so many different communities and experiences and heritages that are combining and honoring their roots while at the same time cross pollinating. There has always been this exciting brew of influences and traditions in Los Angeles.
Now, more and more, it’s being recognized around the world that we are in a position more than any other place that I can think of to point the way forward. Gustavo Dudamel has a lot do with that, (and) Esa-Pekka Salonen before him. The leadership at the LA Phil was really instrumental as it helped define the cultural resonance of Los Angeles. I’m thrilled for the LA Master Chorale to be a part of that redefinition of what the arts can mean in a major metropolitan area.
This event pretty much sells itself, as there are so many elements to love about this upcoming performance.
It’s true. This classic film, the Disney Concert Hall, the Master Chorale and of course this incredible music of Jeff Beal. It’s a really compelling combination and people are finding it very intriguing. What we really hope is that from this concert event at Disney Hall, this piece with will have a new life and that more and more people will discover this film and really feel this connection between the 21st century and early 20th century. I think it’s really, really compelling.
For tickets to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which premieres January 26 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, go to https://lamasterchorale.org/sunrise.