Sad news comes that Paul Salamunovich, legendary choral conductor, passed away last night. He was 86 years old.
Born in Redondo Beach, he attended St. James Elementary School where he sang in the choir and got his first exposure to Gregorian chant. He eventually become a renowned expert in that vocal art form, and he eventually received a Papal knighthood for his contributions to sacred music.
He is perhaps best known for being Music Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1991 to 2001. His tenure marked a resurgence in the Master Chorale, and was especially notable for his partnership with Morten Lauridsen as Composer-in-Residence. Modern choral classics such as O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, and Lux Aeterna were written by Lauridsen and premiered by Mr. Salamunovich and the LAMC during that time. After his retirement, the LAMC named him Music Director Emeritus, a position he held throughout the rest of his life.
Mr. Salamunovich also was Music Director of St. Charles Borromeo for over 50 years. In his youth, he sang with Marilyn Horne and Marni Nixon in Roger Wagner’s Los Angeles Concert Youth Chorus — an early precursor to the Master Chorale. He served as Assistant Conductor to Wagner beginning in 1957, and in that capacity had also prepared choirs for many luminaries, including Igor Stravinsky.
In his memory, below is a YouTube video of Lauridsen’s Ave Maria, which was dedicated to Mr. Salamunovich on the occasion of the conductor’s 70th birthday.
Photo credit: courtesy of the Los Angeles Master Chorale