The Idyllwild Master Chorale and the Idyllwild Arts Academy are inextricably linked by shared history. They will be linked again with a shared future.
Robert Evans Holmes, who began the Idyllwild Master Chorale in 1975, also inaugurated the Idyllwild (ISOMATA) Summer Program Festival Choir in 1957. The Idyllwild Master Chorale, now conducted by Robert Evans Holmes’ son Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, will be the first musical ensemble to premier the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s new state of the art Lowman Concert Hall when it presents its 40th anniversary “Winter Solstice and Jazz Fusion Concert on Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20.
The concert will be a return to tradition, honoring R.E. Holmes’ vision by presenting the full Christmas version of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” including the stirring “Hallelujah Chorus.” Beginning in 1975, R.E. Holmes introduced Idyllwild to a full choral and orchestral presentation of the Christmas “Messiah,” inaugurating a Christmas tradition that over the years put Idyllwild on the map as a holiday musical destination.
What began modestly grew to a chorus of 125 members, assembled from Holmes’ years of choral conducting – with veterans of his ISOMATA Festival, Beverly Hills and Hollywood High School choirs returning yearly to Idyllwild to join Idyllwild Master Chorale singers accompanied by a full orchestra in annual presentations at Bowman Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Singers even came from Ohio and Indiana, where Evans had conducted both college and high school choirs.
When Buzz Holmes received the baton from his father in 1987, he realized the best way to honor the tradition his father had built was to introduce change – what his dad had built could not, without his father, be replicated in the same way.
Buzz began using a baroque version of the “Messiah” introduced at Covent Garden and usually accompanied by a chamber orchestra. That is the version that will be performed at Lowman Hall in December with a full chamber orchestra and some returning veterans of his father’s choirs joining the present Idyllwild Master Chorale singers.
Said Buzz Holmes of the 40th anniversary concert, “Ever since I was a kid here in the 50s, my father and Max Krone [founder of Idyllwild Arts] had a dream of having a concert hall worthy of this community and this school. Now, with the opening of Lowman Hall and the Master Chorale’s performance of the “Messiah,” that dream will have come true. It will be our opportunity to sing again for all those who have sung before, honoring the many singers no longer with us who established this extraordinary tradition that my father began.”
The 40th anniversary concert continues an old family tradition by building a new family tradition. Buzz Holmes, in changing the choir over his years of stewardship, has introduced new components – spring madrigal concerts and musical theatre in the summer. The most recent innovation was to incorporate Christmas Carol pop and jazz segments – a “Winter Solstice and Jazz Fusion Concert” that introduced a new family of soloists, instrumentalists and fine artists who have made this concert a part of their holiday tradition – Marshall Hawkins and his jazz quintet, dulcet jazz chanteuse Sherry Williams, classical and Tormé tenor John B. Fleming, composer John L. Rodby who composes new contemporary holiday vocal and instrumental creations each Christmas, and fine artists from the Art Alliance of Idyllwild who mount a holiday art exhibition.
“Each concert weekend, beginning in 1975, had two concerts averaging from 250 to 300 attendees,” said Holmes. “Over the years, that added up to about 20,000 people who have attended, as well as the many faithful singers and musicians that were part of these concerts. That is the tradition we will be honoring this December.”
Anyone interested in joining the choir and being the first to sing at Lowman Hall should contact Buzz at (951) 659-2650.