Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Silver Celebration with Maestro Walter Huff

The celebration of 25 years in this Chorus Master position has brought forth so many folks asking me to write or speak on the highlights of these years. Some past events are a blur, yet some are clear as day. My debut as Chorus Master with Atlanta Opera was in the 1988 - 1989 season. As I think back to that start, I also think of how much the world around us has changed since then. 

Believe it or not, there were hardly any cell phones to bring to a rehearsal. Choristers played cards, read, and talked in their dressing rooms during a show. Now, one sees laptops at every dressing station, and phones entertaining our every desire. We experienced the year 2000 Millennium and the life-changing event of 9/11. We actually had a rehearsal on that night of Sept 11, 2001, which I will never forget. 1988 to 2014. Definitely, a changed world now.

Atlanta Opera had no permanent rehearsal space -- for years! We relied on empty floors in various Midtown skyscrapers (with cement floors, no less), churches, and vacant buildings across Atlanta. We never knew where we would be rehearsing from show to show, for many years -- until our first real office/rehearsal "home" on West Peachtree, and now Northside Drive.

We performed in at least 6 venues throughout these 25 years - Alliance Theater, Symphony Hall, the Fox Theater (a big exciting move...going from about 1800 seats at the Arts Center to over 4000 at the Fox), Civic Center, and now the Cobb Energy Center -- with 5 years of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" at Spivey Hall, and several Mozart "Requiem"s at St.Philips Cathedral.

Over 110 opera productions with multiple performances of each. Many ask me: what were some of your favorites? I'm not so good at those kind of answers. I truly try to make whatever I'm presently working on my "favorite" for that period of time. But, if I had to answer, I'd say: our first "Turandot" at Symphony Hall, Verdi's "Macbeth" (a true blast for an opera chorus, especially the women's chorus "Witches"), director Whitfield Lloyd's sparkling production of "Manon", experiencing Richard Strauss with "Der Rosenkavalier" and "Salome" (operas that stay with you forever), our musical theater experience of Gershwin's "Of Thee I Sing" at the 1996 Olympics, the choral showcase of a staged "Carmina Burana", our first Wagner with "The Flying Dutchman", and the excitement of Atlanta Opera bringing "Porgy and Bess" to the Atlanta scene, and eventually an acclaimed European tour for members of the chorus.

 Throughout all of these years, all the changes in the world, and all this music swiftly passing by in front of me, I remember the thousands (!) of choristers that have sung for me. We have lost some of our chorus friends along the way. That is never easy for our close community. The chorus members that Atlanta audiences see on the stage in our productions tirelessly sacrifice their time, energy, and creative talents for the endeavor of quality opera in Atlanta, and for achieving the notion that an opera chorus matters. An opera chorus indeed matters -- for the telling of dramatically compelling stories, and for offering up the glorious music of the masters. The people and the music. That can get one through 25 years. For sure.

Please come and celebrate those that sing the great operas in Atlanta, year to year, in our upcoming September we offer up some of the greatest opera choruses, a wealth of literature for all to enjoy.

Walter Huff and The Atlanta Opera chorus in rehearsal for the Choral Silver Celebration
(Photo courtesy Jeff Roffman)

Photo courtesy Jeff Roffman

Photo courtesy Jeff Roffman




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