Music News & Reviews

How Big Sing California aims to bring joy to six cities and 10,000 performers

An artist’s rendering shows the projected video link with Los Angeles at the Sacramento Community Center Theater for Big Sing California.
An artist’s rendering shows the projected video link with Los Angeles at the Sacramento Community Center Theater for Big Sing California.

Everyone knows that a “quartet” means four people in a group. So what do you call a cozy ensemble of 10,000?

Big Sing California will feature approximately that many singers in a simulcast performance connecting six major venues: Sacramento, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Fresno, Riverside and San Diego. The largest site will be at the Sacramento Community Center Theater, where 2,400 people are expected to participate.

The free event is projected to set a statewide record for the number of singers involved in a performance. The major venues will be linked to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and large screens will enable the singers in each location to form one huge ensemble.

Anyone who is interested in singing should attend an open rehearsal on Thursday, July 19, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Community Center Theater. Don Kendrick, music director of the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra, will serve as the master of ceremonies and conductor for both the rehearsal and the main event. Big Sing California starts at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 21.

Kendrick recently retired from his faculty position after 33 years at California State University, Sacramento. Known around the world for his contributions to choral singing, he has every intention to use his new-found freedom from academic chores to continue to promote singing.

“Singing is just a healthy thing to do individually,” Kendrick said, “but group singing is very uplifting in that it really draws the community together and creates such a strong feeling of well-being, of belonging. We are reaching out to tons of area choirs and individual singers to share this experience with us.”

Participants should arrive a half hour early for warm-up exercises. The event should last about 90 minutes and will be livestreamed on the Los Angeles Master Chorale website.

“We want people who love singing to join us and sing as much of the music as they can,” Kendrick said. “We hope that this event will inspire people to make singing, and the joy it brings, a regular part of their lives. The program is open to all ages ranging from young students to seniors.”

Free songbooks will be distributed at the Thursday rehearsal, or can be obtained for a modest fee via an online order.

The program for Big Sing California will have something for everyone, with an emphasis on accessibility for the thousands of participants who are enthusiastic amateurs. Familiar sing-alongs include “Lean On Me,” “Hey Jude” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

Among the composers represented on the program are Bill Withers, Lead Belly, Trent Reznor, Woody Guthrie, Shawn Kirchner, and Lennon and McCartney. Grammy-winning arranger Ben Bram is contributing his version of Pentatonix’s “Sing,” commissioned especially for the Big Sing.

Other arrangements, as well as original compositions, will be provided by Grammy Award-winner Eric Whitacre. He is currently artist-in-residence at the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Whitacre was appointed to that prestigious position after completing a five-year engagement as composer-in-residence at Cambridge University (Sidney Sussex College) in the United Kingdom.

“We know that singing releases endorphins, causes a sense of joy and euphoria, and creates a bonding with our community members,” Kendrick said. “To be able do this on the scale of Big Sing California in Sacramento is nothing short of thrilling. We promise to make it a memorable experience.”

If you go

Big Sing California

What: An open event planned to bring together 10,000 singers for the biggest choral performance in state history.

Where: Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento

Cost: Free

When: Open rehearsal, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19; performance, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21 – singers should arrive by 1:30 p.m.

Tickets and songbooks: