Morrow Harnesses the Many Voices of Symphony, Chorus

lynnespotlight.jpgWhen Lynne Morrow, Sonoma State's Opera and Musical Theatre program director, recently stepped on the stage of Oakland's Paramount Theatre to conduct the Oakland East Bay Symphony and Chorus, she wasn't quite out of her comfort zone.

It was her first solo conducting the two musical forces and she was appreciative of music director Michael Morgan's generosity.

Morrow is normally the conductor of the 120-voice Oakland Symphony Chorus where her duties include preparing the singers for their regular appearances with the OEBS under Morgan. For this concert, "Sky Above, Sea Below," Maestro Morgan shared the podium with Morrow and Brian Nies, the orchestra's assistant conductor, for works by Handel, Britten and Fauré.

Morrow dedicated her performance to the memory of her uncle, Charles Darden, who passed away February 20. Darden, who conducted the Oakland Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, "was a great musician and an exemplar for me."

She told SF Gate reporter Jesse Hamlin in an interview that she sees her role as making classically trained musicians and audiences more comfortable with new music, "to bridge us to living composers," as she puts it.

"I'm always looking at the score and asking, what does the composer want, and what are we communicating to our audiences? So much 20th century music turned its back on the audience. I'm just turning us around."

Morrow was named music director of the Oakland Symphony Chorus in 2005, the same year that she was picked to lead another Bay Area chorus, the Pacific Mozart Ensemble. PME under Lynne's direction has recorded two CDs of Dave Brubeck's choral music and in 2006 received a Grammy nomination for "Best Choral Performance" for its recording of Bernstein's Mass.

Currently, PME is commissioning two Cuban artists - composer Roberto Valera and dance master Manuel Suarez - to make a performance work called "To Cuba With Love." Morrow launched the project with a trip to Cuba last December to learn folkloric dance movements. She blogs about it at

Back on campus, She enjoys working with singers who want to sing professionally, as well as non-singers who are nervous about singing in public.

On May 2 at 7:30 p.m. and May 4 at 2 p.m. in Warren Auditorium, her music and theatre arts students will present the annual Musical Theatre Scenes Workshop.

-Ruth Wilson

Requiem interview with SF Chronicle

To Cuba with Love project

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