The city of Santa Monica is anything but stagnant, it’s cycle of change perpetual. People filter in and out of the city, mom and pop’s prop up and close down. Wash, rinse, repeat. Anne Marie Ketchum and her Verdi Chorus Choir, however, have survived more than three decades now, their choice of a decidedly old-school service standing the test of time: opera.
The Verdi Chorus Choir will perform excerpts from Italian composer Giussepe Verdi operas this weekend at the First United Methodist Church, April 28 and 29. Four guest soloists will join the choir, who’ll take curated pieces hand-picked by Ketchum and “sing it beautifully.”
Ketchum’s choir will be celebrating their 35 year anniversary with this performance.
“It feels darn good,” Ketchum, artistic director of the Verdi Chorus Choir, said in a phone call in response to her choir’s longevity. “The music we’re working on has lasted longer than Santa Monica itself, so it kind of makes sense.”
Opera, Ketchum says, is the choir’s choice of genre due to how moving the medium can be.
“[It] is theater. Much of the story being told is not just through sounds– the harmonies, the colors of the orchestras, the slow of the line, the rhythm… all those things help to define the characters and what’s going on at the moment. There’s an emotional story.”
One of the pieces the chorus will be performing is from an opera called “La Forza del Destino,” which translates to “The Force of Destiny,” an aptly named choice as destiny has positioned Ketchum for her role in spreading her joy of opera.
Taking its name from Italian composer Giussepe Verdi as well as a former high-end Italian restaurant, Verdi Ristorante di Musica, the Verdi Chorus Choir first formed in the 80s.
According to Ketchum, the restaurant was a dinner theater with around 20 singers of varying talents performing a few shows of opera each night as a choir until, well, the city and its change happened; amid rising costs and less foot traffic, Verdi Ristorante closed its doors in 1991.
Directionless and with nowhere to perform, the chorus asked Ketchum to manage them. She would, she said, if they held auditions (“I wanted the equality of the group to grow,” Ketchum said) and if the group took care of business operations, allowing Ketchum to focus her creative energy towards the group’s artistic decisions. The chorus agreed and destiny has treated them Buono (sorry) ever since.
“There was just no way of knowing what we would grow into as a performing arts organization,” Ketchum said in the choir’s recent press release.
The choir has grown into a “high-class musical organization,” a representative force in the classical music sphere, performing at venues such as the Annenberg Beach House, The Broad Stage, and both the Huntington and Nixon Libraries.
They’ve swelled to over 50 singers from all walks of life, talent levels, and vocations. Ages of performers range from 22 – 80 years of age, all unifying their voices to perform and raise the profile of opera.
“Without art, how would we express ourselves,” Ketchum said. “This is all about giving you an experience. The music is glorious, the experience is rich, and the emotions are complex. That’s opera.”
Performance times are Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica, located at 1008 11th Street.
Tickets are available for purchase at www.verdichorus.org or by calling (800) 838-3006. Priority seating is available for $40, general admission is $30, seniors are $25, and students aged 25 and under with a valid ID are $10.