Masterworks Chorale

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Masterworks Chorale is a choral ensemble based in San Mateo, California.

The Masterworks Chorale in concert at San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral on March 4, 1979

About Masterworks Chorale[edit]

Masterworks Chorale is one of the oldest choruses in Northern California. Founded in 1964 [1] by Galen Marshall (born 1934 in Greensburg, Kansas and died December 4, 2014), and currently conducted by Dr. Bryan Baker, the mixed chorus presently consists of 90 members, and performs a wide variety of music from the Renaissance and Baroque to modern masterpieces. Masterworks is a community chorus in the best sense of the word; singers come from all over the Bay Area, and vary in age from the 20s to the 80s. Each season the Chorale performs four concert sets and a summer program. The Fall and Spring concerts generally include major choral works in which the chorus is usually accompanied by a professional orchestra and renowned soloists. The December and March concerts are more intimate and give the Chorale a chance to sing shorter pieces, often without accompaniment. Chorale members must pass an audition to join the chorus, and many of the singers have had voice and/or choral training.[2] Each rehearsal starts with 15 to 20 minutes of varied vocal exercises that are used to improve pitch and tone production. There is a waiting list to join the chorus, especially among altos and sopranos.


Masterworks Chorale was initially called the San Mateo College Community Chorus and performed with an orchestra of students, faculty, and members of the community, either in the Little Theatre or the main gymnasium at the College of San Mateo.[3] During its early years under Galen Marshall the chorus gradually grew in size and started giving concerts throughout the San Francisco Bay area. In 1972 the group was renamed the Masterworks Chorale, and gave its first complete performance of Handel's Messiah that December at St. Bartholomew's Church, San Mateo. In May, 1985 it became a self-sufficient non-profit organization.

In the summer of 1982, Masterworks Chorale sang in three performances of Mozart's Requiem during the Midsummer Mozart Festival. The performances were conducted by Calvin E. Simmons (1950–1982); they were one of his last appearances before his tragic death later that year. In September 1984, Masterworks was one of four choirs to participate in four performances of the Eighth Symphony of Gustav Mahler by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart in Davies Symphony Hall. Other Northern California concerts have included performances with the San Francisco Opera, San José Symphony,[4] and at the Festival of Masses and the Cabrillo Festival.[5]

The 25th Anniversary of the Chorale, in 1989, featured the World Premier of Alexander C. Post's Sea of Light, commissioned by the choir for the anniversary celebration. To celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 1994, Masterworks took a Central European tour; the tour included performances in Brno, Kraków, Budapest, and Prague, accompanied by the Brno Concert Orchestra and the Budapest Concert Orchestra.[6] The tour featured the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with pianist Jon Nakamatsu, who three years later won the acclaimed Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Masterworks Chorale has taken part in seven European tours, tours of the People's Republic of China and gave concerts in New York that featured performances at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, where they performed the Verdi Requiem.[7]

After a hiatus of a few years, the group has again started to travel/tour. 2007 featured a tour of Brazil with concerts in Manaus, Petropolis, Ouro Preto, and Rio de Janeiro. And in 2009 members of Masterworks again sang in New York, performing a new piece by Eric Whitacre as well as short pieces from their repertoire. The New York trip was so successful that it was repeated in 2010, this time with another performance in Carnegie Hall.[8]

In the fall of 1997, Galen Marshall retired and was named Artistic Director Emeritus. He was succeeded by Richard Garrin, a former assistant director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.[4] In 2002 Richard Garrin moved to New York. Dr. Bryan Baker was appointed as the Artistic Director and Conductor. John Hancock, a longtime member of the College of San Mateo faculty, accompanied rehearsals during Marshalls tenure. The present accompanist is Inara Morgenstern, a faculty member at San Francisco State University.

Dr. Baker has remained Artistic Director of the Chorale since 2002. Having taught at Arizona State University, Truman State University, and San Francisco State University, he now serves on the faculty of the College of San Mateo. Dr. Baker has led the Chorale in many of the major choral-orchestral works, including Orff's Carmina Burana, Mozart's Grand Mass, Requiem, and Mass in C,[9] and Faure's Requiem. He has also introduced works that are new to the group, including Vivaldi's Magnificat, Handels' Laudate Pueri, and Corigliano's Fern Hill.[10] Masterworks 40th Anniversary concert featured Borodin's Polovetsian Dances, Brahms’ Nänie, and Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, with pianist Jon Nakamatsu. Metropolitan Opera Soprano Luana DeVol joined in the 42nd Concert year Opera Gala.


  1. ^ Whitson, Helene. "SFBA Choral Archive: Chorus History." About the San Francisco Bay Area Choral Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  2. ^ "SFBA Choral Archive: Chorus Information." About the San Francisco Bay Area Choral Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  3. ^ "Music at College of San Mateo: Masterworks Chorale." College of San Mateo. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  4. ^ a b Richter, Judy. "Taking Up the Baton." San Francisco Bay Area — News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  5. ^ "Decade III: 1980s." Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music 2010. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  6. ^ "Interview - Jon Nakamatsu." The Web Concert Hall. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  7. ^ Richter, Judy. "A Master Conductor Bows Out." San Francisco Bay Area — News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  8. ^ Smith, Steve. "Music Review - Eric Whitacre and His 'Paradise Lost' at Carnegie -" The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  9. ^ Bratman, David. "Celebrating Devotion and Love : San Francisco Classical Voice: ." San Francisco Classical Voice: Classical Music in the Bay Area. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.
  10. ^ "San Francisco Choral Society Artistic Staff." San Francisco Choral Society Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2010. <>.

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