The National Children's Chorus is proud to be supported by its distinguished board of advisors.
Mark Alan Thallander is a free-lance organist, composer, and author; President, The Mark Thallander Foundation; Adjunct Professor of Organ, Glendale Community College in Glendale, California; and Faculty/Artist-in-Residence, Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He resides in Palm Springs, California and Ogunquit, Maine.
Mr. Thallander is probably best known for his long and distinguished ministry at The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. He joined the staff there in January 1976 as a music associate to Don G. Fontana and assisted Dr. and Mrs. Robert H. Schuller with Hour of Power television scripting, service programming and musical guests. Mr. Thallander was Coordinator of Church Music Exploration, a national conference of the Robert Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership. During his 18-year tenure at the church, Mr. Thallander assisted with playing responsibilities for the many worship services, weddings, memorial services, seasonal concerts, and recording projects, as well as for Glory of Christmas and Glory of Easter pageants, and presented 1,000 noon organ recitals for guests touring the Cathedral campus. As Assistant Director of Music and Organist, he conducted The Cathedral Choir and The Summer Choir on many occasions when Frederick Swann was away on concert tours. He coordinated the 1,000 voices for the gala dedication of the Hazel Wright Organ (then the largest church pipe organ in the world), and participated in the 10th anniversary celebration, performing several organ duets with Mr. Swann and playing the gallery organ for The Cathedral Choir’s presentation of Vierne’s Solemn Mass. For the 20th anniversary of the organ, he performed his own signature piece, Toccata on “Hymn to Joy” and Widor’s Toccata from the Fifth Symphony. A “live” recording of the 20th anniversary concert is available. Most recently, for the 50th anniversary of the congregation, Mr. Swann and Mr. Thallander edited the Crystal Cathedral Golden Collection.
In 1993, Mr. Thallander accepted the position of Associate Minister of Worship at Menlo Park (California) Presbyterian Church, where he designed and played for five weekend blended services of worship. In 1995, Mr. Thallander was called to serve as Director of Music and Organist at Lake Avenue Congregational Church, Pasadena, California. For 18 months, he also served as the interim Associate Pastor of Worship at Lake Avenue Church, guiding many of the centennial events of the 100-days of celebration, including the Centennial Festival of Thanksgiving which featured combined choirs, organ, brass, and handbells numbering nearly 1,000 musicians. Under Mr. Thallander’s leadership, the Creative Arts Academy, Friends of the Arts, Organ Concert Series, Tuesday-at-Noon Organ Interludes, and Pasadena’s annual Sing-along Messiah were established.
From 1998-2002, Mr. Thallander was Assistant Professor of Music at Vanguard University of Southern California, Costa Mesa. He served as accompanist for the 100-voice University Concert Choir, performing regularly in many Southland churches, and also at East Coast venues including the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and Times Square Church in New York City, as well as Carnegie Hall and the Annapolis Naval Academy. During this time, he was Organist (and for several months interim Minister of Music) at Glendale Presbyterian Church, and returned to The Crystal Cathedral to assist with organ duties for the seasonal pageants.
Mr. Thallander has recorded two solo compact discs of piano and organ hymn improvisations, “Crown Him” and “Joyful, Joyful,” plus a compilation of favorite organ selections, “God of Grace.” Many of the hymn arrangements performed on the organ recordings have been published by the Fred Bock Music Company, where Mr. Thallander served as an organ editor. Released in November 2008, a new CD, “Doxology,” features organ, piano, choir, handbells and trumpet. His piano accompaniments are heard on the Time Life video, “A Walk with Jesus: A Holy Land Journey with Hymns and Scripture.”
Mr. Thallander has contributed articles to Creator magazine, Theology News and Notes and other periodicals. He has served as a clinician and organist for national music and worship conferences, including American Guild of Organists, Royal Canadian College of Organists, Fred Bock Institute of Music, Calvin Symposium on Worship, and national church conventions, including the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the General Council of the Assemblies of God, and the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. He has held offices with American Guild of Organists, including Dean of the Orange County Chapter for three years, Program Chair of the Pasadena Chapter, a member of the performances committee for the 2004 National Convention held in Los Angeles, a member of the executive committee of the Los Angeles Chapter; and the chapel organ committees at Fuller Theological Seminary and Vanguard University. He is a member of various professional organizations including American Guild of Organists and National Association of Church Musicians.
Mr. Thallander’s solo performances and duet programs have taken him to some of the largest pipe organs in the world, including First Congregational Church, Los Angeles; The Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove; Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles; Lake Avenue Congregational Church, Pasadena; Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles (where he performed for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan); St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach; Central Union Church, Honolulu; Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale; Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, Portland, Maine; and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City. Additionally, he has been a featured artist in many other churches across the United States and also in Canada.
Following a horrific automobile accident in August of 2003, Mr. Thallander has accepted speaking engagements in churches, schools, colleges, universities, and has been interviewed on radio and television programs, and also for newspapers, books and national periodicals. More of Mr. Thallander’s story may be read at www.markthallander.com. A book about his accident and recovery, Champions, written by the Reverend Gary DeVaul, has been a great source of inspiration to thousands of people. An expanded version of the book, Champions… Plus, was released in October 2007, and is currently in its third printing. Mr. Thallander was honored to have been selected as the recipient of the 2004 Life’s Not Fair But God Is Good Award which is presented annually at The Crystal Cathedral.
Mr. Thallander attended Central Bible College and Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri, and played for the weekly Revivaltime broadcast on the ABC radio network. He also attended Simpson University (now in Redding, California), and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities from Vanguard University, where he has held offices as both President and Treasurer of the Alumni Association. At Vanguard University, a fully endowed organ scholarship has been established in Mr. Thallander’s honor. His Master of Arts degree in music was earned at California State University, Long Beach; and he has taken additional graduate study at the University of Southern California.Mr. Thallander has received invitations over the past decade to return as a guest organist for chapel services and alumni homecoming activities at his alma maters, Central Bible College, Evangel University and Vanguard University. He was selected as organist for the first Revivaltime reenactment radio and television broadcasts held in Washington, D.C. in 2003, and then again in 2005 he was chosen to perform at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, with the Revivaltime alumni choir. He is listed in the 2006 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition of Who’s Who in America as well as the 2007 Who’s Who in American Education. Additionally, he is included in Outstanding Young Men in America.
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Conductor Grant Gershon, entering his 10th season as music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, is equally at home with symphonic and choral music, opera and musical theater. In 2001 he was appointed Music Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, which the Los Angeles Times has proclaimed “the most exciting chorus in the country under Gershon’s leadership.” Opera News calls him “a first-rate conductor.” Composer John Adams declares, “Grant Gershon is one of those rarities we call ‘the complete musician.’ My respect for his musicality—for his conducting, his extraordinary musical intuition and his formidable ear—knows no bounds.” In addition to his post with the Chorale, Mr. Gershon was named Associate Conductor/Chorus Master of the LA Opera beginning in the 2007|08 Season.
An ardent champion of new music, Mr. Gershon, who has led more than 75 performances with the Chorale at Disney Hall, has given numerous world premiere performances, including such major works as You Are (Variations) by Steve Reich; Requiem by Christopher Rouse; City of Dis by Louis Andriessen; Sang by Eve Beglarian; A Map of Los Angeles by David O; Spiral XII by Chinary Ung; Dream Variations by Andrea Clearfield; Music’s Music by Steven Sametz; Voici le soir by Morten Lauridsen; Messages and Brief Eternity by Bobby McFerrin and Roger Treece; Broken Charms by Donald Crockett; and Rezos (Prayers) by Tania León. He has also premiered works by John Adams, Ricky Ian Gordon, Billy Childs and Don Davis; and given American premieres of works by Esa-Pekka Salonen, James MacMillan, Sofia Gubaidulina and Mark Anthony Turnage, among others.
In 2008, Mr. Gershon made his highly acclaimed L.A. Opera debut leading eight performances of Verdi’s La Traviata, about which the Los Angeles Times declared, “Grant Gershon, best known as the music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, proved an exacting, sensitive, deeply involving Verdi conductor. Indeed, I could have been tricked into thinking that one of the world’s top orchestras was in the pit, so well did the L.A. Opera orchestra play.” This coming September, Gershon will lead the world premiere performances at L.A. Opera of Daniel Catán’s highly anticipated Il Postino, featuring Plácido Domingo, and he will make his Santa Fe Opera debut in 2011, conducting Peter Sellars’ new production of Vivaldi’s Griselda.
He has worked closely with many leading conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Simon Rattle and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Mr. Gershon has also appeared as guest conductor with Los Angeles Philharmnic, Houston Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Swedish Royal Opera, Juilliard Opera Theatre, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Finnish chamber orchestra Avanti!, among others. He has also led performances at many of the world’s most prestigious festivals, including the Ravinia, Edinburgh, Vienna, Aspen and Helsinki festivals as well as the Roma-Europa Festival and the Festival Otonno in Madrid. Many of these appearances have been as music director for projects by famed director Peter Sellars, with whom Mr. Gershon has enjoyed a long and fruitful artistic relationship.
Additionally, in 2006, he appeared on the Great Performers series at Lincoln Center leading the LA Master Chorale in vocal works of Steve Reich, and on the Making Music Series at Zankel Hall. In 2007, he conducted the Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s acclaimed opera The Grapes of Wrath and led subsequent performances of the work with the Utah Symphony. In 2007, he also conducted the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus presentation of a new opera, The Keepers of the Night, by Peter Ash and Donald Sturrock, and made his debut at the Berkshire Choral Festival. As an educator, he previously served as Music Director of the Idyllwild Arts Festival Chorus.
Mr. Gershon’s discography includes two Grammy Award-nominated recordings: SweeneyTodd (New York Philharmonic Special Editions) and Ligeti’s Grand Macabre (Sony Classical); as well as three with the Chorale: Glass-Salonen (RCM), You Are (Variations) (Nonesuch), honored with the WQXR Gramophone America Award in 2006 and selected by The New York Times, Washington Post and Newsday, among others, as one the top ten classical recordings of the year, and Daniel Variations (Nonesuch), described by UK’s Guardian as “a searching, serious piece… one of Reich’s major statements.” He also conducted the cast recording of the opera The Grapes of Wrath (PS Classics).
Prior to joining the Chorale, Mr. Gershon served as Assistant Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1994 to 1997, during which time he led performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Hollywood Bowl. Mr. Gershon also served as Assistant Conductor/Principal Pianist with LA Opera from 1988 to 1994, where he participated in over 40 productions and garnered a reputation as one of thecountry’s exceptional vocal coaches.
He formerly served as Assistant Conductor at the Salzburg Festival, the Berlin Staatsoper and the Festival Aix-En-Provence, working with conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado respectively. He has also prepared choruses for Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel, Simon Rattle and Zubin Mehta. Mr. Gershon is in demand as a pianist for such leading singers as Peter Schreier, Rod Gilfry and Audra McDonald, and accompanied Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras in separate appearances on “The Tonight Show.” In addition, he has conducted choral recording sessions for the motion picture sound tracks of I Am Legend, Charlie Wilson’s War, Lady in the Water, Click and License to Wed, and recorded vocal solos for The X Files: I Want To Believe. On screen, Mr. Gershon appeared as a pianist in two episodes of the hit television series “Cheers.”
He received his bachelor of music degree cum laude in piano performance from USC, and was named USC Thornton School of Music Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in May 2002. He currently serves on the USC Thornton Board of Advisors and the Board of Directors of Chorus America.
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The music of Morten Johannes Lauridsen, composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1994-2001 and professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than thirty years, occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the Twentieth Century. His seven vocal cycles – Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), Mid-Winter Songs (Graves), Cuatro Canciones (Lorca), A Winter Come (Moss), Madrigali: Six “FireSongs” on Renaissance Italian Poems, Nocturnes, and Lux Aeterna – and his series of sacred a cappella motets (O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, O Nata Lux, Ubi Caritas et Amor and Ave Dulcissima Maria) are featured regularly in concert by distinguished ensembles throughout the world. O Magnum Mysterium, Dirait-on (from Les Chansons des Roses) and O Nata Lux (from Lux Aeterna) have become the all-time best-selling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser, in business since 1783.
In speaking of Lauridsen’s sacred works in his book, Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple describes Lauridsen as “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered… From 1993 Lauridsen’s music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century’s end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer.”
His works have been recorded on over a hundred CDs, three of which have received Grammy nominations, including O Magnum Mysterium by the New York-based ensemble, Tiffany Consort, led by Nicholas White, and two all-Lauridsen discs entitled Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by Paul Salamunovich (RCM) and Polyphony with the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton (Hyperion). His principal publishers are Peermusic (New York/Hamburg) and Peer’s affiliate, Faber Music (London).
A recipient of numerous grants, prizes and commissions, Dr. Lauridsen chaired the Composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990-2002, founded the School’s Advanced Studies Program in Film Scoring, and is currently Distinguished Professor of Composition. In 2006, Morten Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007, he was the recipient of the National Medal of Arts from the President in a White House ceremony, “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.” The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.
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Frederick Swann is the immediate past President (2002 through 2008) of the American Guild of Organists, an organization of over 20,000 members in Chapters throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Organist Emeritus of the Crystal Cathedral and of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, and Organ Artist-in-Residence at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert. Mr. Swann is also University Organist and Artist Teacher of Organ at the University of Redlands, and Organist for the Mark Thallander Foundation choral festivals held in various parts of the country each season.
One reviewer noted that Mr. Swann has probably presided over more ranks of pipes and stopknobs than any other organist in history. This is perhaps true given the size and prominence of the instruments with which his career has been notably associated … Riverside Church in New York City from 1957 to 1982, The Crystal Cathedral from 1982 to 1998, and First Congregational Church of Los Angeles from 1998 to 2001.
Mr. Swann holds degrees from Northwestern University and the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary, each granted “with distinction.” In addition to his prominent church positions, he was for ten years Chair of the Organ Department at the Manhattan School of Music and served on the faculties of Teacher’s College of Columbia University, and the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Although officially “retired,” Mr. Swann continues to perform on a reduced schedule of solo recitals and in concert with orchestras and choral groups. In recent years he has presented recitals in major churches and concert halls in the United States, England, Germany and Russia. In 2004 he was selected by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to perform the Inaugural solo organ recital on the spectacular new organ in The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Prior to that, he played the inaugural recitals on the organs in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, and Davies Hall in San Francisco. In the summer of 2006 he performed on world-famous organs in Australia (Sydney: Town Hall, Opera House, and the Anglican and Roman Catholic Cathedrals, as well as the Town Hall and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne). In the 2007-2008 season Mr. Swann performed 24 solo recitals in Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, DC. In the 2008-2009 season he was heard in California, Illinois, South Carolina, Florida, Hawaii, West Virginia, Maryland, and Arizona.
In June of 2008 Mr. Swann performed two Preview Recitals on the William J. Gillepsie Concert Organ in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and has recorded the first CD on this major new instrument.
Mr. Swann is sought after as a leader of organ and church music workshops and has been retained frequently as a consultant for new pipe organs, including some of the largest and most prominent in the country. His many recordings, past and present, have assisted in making his name one of the best known throughout the music world.
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Lisa Vroman starred for several years on Broadway as Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera. As Christine, she garnered Theatre Critics' awards for the role in a record breaking run in San Francisco, and did a return engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Ms. Vroman starred as Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella, making her New York City Opera debut with Paul Sorvino playing the title role. She played the role of Charlotte in A Little Night Music with Michigan Opera Theatre, starring Leslie Uggams and Ron Raines. She starred as Lili Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate with both Glimmerglass Opera and the MUNY Theater of St. Louis, and played Marian Paroo in The Music Man with Shirley Jones (Mrs. Paroo) and Patrick Cassidy (Harold Hill) at The Bushnell Theatre in Hartford CT. Lisa sang the role of Birdie in Regina with Utah Opera, conducted by Keith Lockhart; made her New Jersey Opera debut as Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus (directed by Ira Siff); and premiered and recorded two Comic Operas by composers John Musto (Bastianello) and William Bolcom (Lucrezia) with the New York Festival of Song.
Her Broadway debut was in Aspects of Love, and she was the first to play both Fantine and Cosette in Les Miserables. For PBS she was featured with Colm Wilkinson and Michael Ball in Cameron Mackintosh's Hey, Mr. Producer! at the Lyceum Theatre in London, a Royal Gala attended by Queen Elizabeth II. She sang the role of Johanna in the San Francisco Symphony's Emmy Award winning Sweeney Todd in Concert, with Patti Lupone and George Hearn. Both are available on DVD. Lisa starred as Laurey in Oklahoma, filmed live in concert for the BBC Proms Festival at Royal Albert Hall in London, and starred as Mary Turner in Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing/Let 'em Eat Cake in concert with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, directed by Pat Birch. Other roles have included Lucy Brown in Threepenny Opera at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco with Bebe Neuwirth, Nancy Dussault, and Anika Noni Rose; Laurie in The Tender Land at the Cabrillo Music Festival, with Marin Alsop, conducting; Maria in The Sound Of Music with Tulsa Opera; Josephine in HMS Pinafore and Yum-Yum in The Mikado with the Utah Opera; and Anna 1 in The Seven Deadly Sins with the Utah Symphony,, Florida Symphony, Portland Symphony, and Parnassus Symphony. She has sung Maria in West Side Story, Guenevere in Camelot, Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, Christine in Maury Yeston's Phantom, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and Amalia Balash in She Loves Me, as well as many other well known musical roles.
Lisa is a George London Competition Grant recipient and a 1999 Minerva Award recipient from the State University of New York at Potsdam. She received an Undergraduate degree in Music Education from the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, a Masters degree in Fine Arts, Opera Performance from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and was recently awarded an honorary Doctor of Music from SUNY Potsdam. She has become an active mentor and sought-after clinician with many colleges and universities across the country and around the world.
With a repertoire that ranges from Stravinsky to Weill to Broadway, Lisa is a frequent guest soloist with theater and opera companies, and orchestras including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, the National, Malaysia, Seattle, Hong Kong, Cleveland, Nashville, Pacific, Utah, Dallas, the Boston Pops with Keith Lockart, the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, and the Philly Pops with Peter Nero. She made her debut at The Hollywood Bowl in Disney's 75th celebration, singing and dancing with legend Dick Van Dyke in a medley from Mary Poppins, (John Mauceri, conductor). She guest starred with SONY artist Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis in his NYC debut concert at City Center; and has performed many times with the New York Festival of Song, including a tribute to Broadway director Harold Prince. Lisa has sung in concert with composer Stephen Schwartz, organist David Higgs, and the Empire Brass Quintet. Her solo CD, Broadway Classic, features Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and 47 of San Francisco's finest orchestral players. Lisa had the honor of singing at the Profiles in Courage Award dinner in Boston at the JFK Library, as a guest of the Kennedy family. She has also sung on separate occasions for Queen Elizabeth, former presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, and former Vice President Al Gore.
This past season has included concert performances of Cole Porter's 1928 "La Revue Des Ambassadeurs" with l'Opéra de Rennes in France, a multi-city concert tour in China, and playing the role of Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's award winning play, Master Class.
Lisa lives in Pasadena, CA with husband Patrick O'Neil and their beautiful dog Barber.
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Frank Brownstead is the Director of Music at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He holds the Master of Sacred Music Degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He has served as Music Coordinator in the Office for Worship, parish musician (most recently at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood) and educator. He has been on the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s College since 1979. He coordinated and conducted the music for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Los Angeles in 1987.
Brownstead is the recipient of the Laudatus Award from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Saint Andrew’s Abbey Sacred Arts Award, and the National Pastoral Musicians “Musician of the Year” Award (2001). He is also on the Board of Directors of the Shakespeare Festival Los Angeles. Mr. Brownstead has also worked extensively in the recording of liturgical music.
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