How Pacific Chorale bounced back with live concerts, a concert film and Grammy nominations – Daily Breeze


After a rough 18 months, Orange County’s Pacific Chorale is finding itself with plenty to celebrate.

Here are three reasons: The nearly 240-member ensemble is once again performing in front of live audiences at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Pacific Chorale was also recently nominated in two categories for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards in 2022 for its contribution to the live classical album “Mahler: Symphony No. 8, ‘Symphony Of A Thousand.’” As well, the group’s new documentary-style concert film, “The Wayfaring Project,” will be locally televised on PBS SoCal and KCET this month.

“If there’s one thing the pandemic did for us, it was that it created this great appreciation for the level of artistry we experience, especially living in Southern California, but also for these incredible experiences like the Mahler and even now our holiday music rehearsals have become very important all of a sudden,” Pacific Chorale artistic director Robert Istad said during a recent phone interview. “Not that we took things for granted before, but coming back, there’s a sort of newfound soul that people have added to the way that they’re performing and we’re really loving it.”

A virtual ensemble

Back in April, when a surge in COVID-19 cases kept music venues and theaters dark, Pacific Chorale began virtually working on its film, which started with the ensemble individually recording their vocal parts at home. The program included months of coordinating, editing, virtual critiques and rehearsals and eventually led to socially-distanced gatherings in outdoor spaces for the singers to perform the various songs in front of the cameras.

“The Wayfaring Project,” culminated with Pacific Chorale’s very first concert performance back on stage in more than a year at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in July. But with pandemic health and safety protocols still in place, that concert went on without a live audience. Now the public will be able to watch how the project unfolded and its grand finale as it will be locally televised at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17 on PBS SoCal and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22 on KCET.

“When I started putting the program together, it was a cathartic process for me and I didn’t know quite what it was going to be,” Istad said, adding that it was originally intended to just be uploaded to the chorale’s YouTube page.

“I knew I wanted to reach people and acknowledge the moment and what we had been through and also craft a vision of hope for the future.”

The film features a behind-the-scenes look at how Pacific Chorale, members of Pacific Symphony and the soloists came together to perform J.S. Bach’s motet, “Jesu meine Freude,” which is interwoven with contemporary works including Moira Smiley’s arrangement of “Wayfaring Stranger,” Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” and Tarik O’Regan’s “All Things Common.”



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