The Verdi Chorus & the Walter Fox Singers: 36 years on The Walter Fox Singers professional ensemble of the Verdi Chorus Singers. Photo: Tim Berreth.

The Verdi Chorus & the Walter Fox Singers: 36 years on

Jenna Simeonov

The Verdi Chorus is continuing its 36th season in Santa Monica, with a concert featuring its professional ensemble, the Walter Fox Singers. The ensemble is part of the Verdi Chorus’ mission to provide professional opportunities for young singers; for one night only on May 4, the Walter Fox Singers will offer up Love is Timeless, a night of selections form opera and musical theatre.

We spoke with Founding Artistic Director of the Verdi Chorus, Anne Marie Ketchum, about keeping her work flourishing for 36 seasons:

What sort of mission did you have when you started the Verdi Chorus? How does that compare to the Chorus in its 36th season?

The Verdi Chorus had its beginnings in the Verdi Restaurant in Santa Monica, and was composed of opera loving patrons. My mission when I started it all was to give the members involved a chance to actually sing opera, not just appreciate it by going to it. They were so excited by this, and that is still very much a part of my mission, but it has expanded and opened up to sharing this beautiful music with the larger community of Los Angeles - not just with opera lovers, but with those who may not be as familiar.

“These young singers get exposed to a lot of music they would not be performing in school.”

It’s incredibly rewarding to provide opera at an affordable cost, and share with people a great experience that can turn so many on to this kind of music.

My third purpose now is to create opportunities for young singers - beginners and intermediates who are studying opera, to learn more and get a start on a professional career. For every concert I also hire fantastic soloists, professionals in the field, and many times I will hire someone to do a role they are working on, and then they will go off and do the actual opera in New York, Houston, or elsewhere. Soloists love to come in and play with new repertoire. More than anything however, is my continued goal of spreading opera to a larger community of opera lovers and novices.

Anne Marie Ketchum, Founding Artistic Director of The Verdi Chorus. Photo: Shawn Flint Blair.

How have you seen the Chorus support the careers of young singers?

For some of my singers this is their first paying job, which is great! Secondly, these young singers get exposed to a lot of music they would not be performing in school. Much of the music we do is bigger and more expansive than what young voices would be working on: Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Boito, etc. These young singers also get a great deal of exposure themselves. I can use them as soloists in smaller roles, they are featured on the Verdi Chorus website, and will also occasionally conduct interviews with local media. This is also a tremendous opportunity for them for networking.

“Each one is filled with enthusiasm and a desire to create something wonderful in performance. I find that so inspiring.”

What can an ensemble experience offer that is different from a solo-based Young Artist Programme?

Familiarity with an entire opera, as opposed to just looking at the aria being worked on, as we perform several excerpts from any given opera and also explore the entire story of the opera itself. These singers are also part of a whole team where they have a certain amount of responsibility as section leaders of the Verdi Chorus, and it is up to them to know their music better than anyone else and develop their musicianship. And of course, as part of a team, the old adage holds true that “the whole team is better than the sum of its parts.”

What inspired this upcoming programme on May 4?

These particular singers themselves. I had already auditioned them for the Verdi Chorus, and chosen them for not only their musicianship and sound of their voice, but also because of their personal energy. Each one is filled with enthusiasm and a desire to create something wonderful in performance. I find that so inspiring. Secondly I chose music that I really love to work with, which is always the case when I put a program together. And it’s springtime, so this light, fun program totally fits!

Image courtesy of The Verdi Chorus.

Do you have any bucket-list items for the Chorus that you’ve not yet experienced?

First, to bring the chorus to other parts of the Los Angeles area. We are based in Santa Monica, and I would love to bring these concerts to Pasadena, Orange County, the San Fernando Valley, and other areas. Secondly, to develop the Walter Fox Singers into a performance organization on its own as a satellite group of the Verdi Chorus. They are such a perfectly balanced group of strong performers both in terms of talent and personalities and there are infinite ways to use them to create interesting programs.

Click here for details and ticket information about Love is Timeless on May 4, First United Church, Santa Monica, CA.


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