Members of the Legal Voices choir divide their practice between the courtroom and the concert hall
By Brian Marks
The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic and Legal Voices formed in 2009 and 2011, respectively, but it might have been much earlier if founding attorney Gary S. Greene’s timing had been better.
“The first time I thought about an orchestra composed of lawyers was in the 1970s,” says Greene. “Before I could do anything with it, all of a sudden I read somebody formed a lawyers orchestra. Within the next year I thought, ‘What L.A. needs is a good pops orchestra, since there isn’t one.’ But just when I was about to form that, I read that the lawyers orchestra was disbanding to become a pops orchestra!”
One of the groups Greene eventually founded, Legal Voices, performs Saturday, March 10, at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica. Their program features a mix of popular songs and a performance of Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48.” A portion of the proceeds benefits people unable to afford legal representation.
After his aborted attempts to start a lawyers orchestra, Greene spent the next few decades focusing on his legal practice in Beverly Hills, where he specializes in real estate and personal injury cases, and leading youth music education efforts. The legal ensembles that he eventually founded are open exclusively to lawyers, judges, law students and legal staff.
Greene grew up in a musical family and was inspired by his uncle, Ernst Katz, who founded the Junior Philharmonic Orchestra for Young People in 1937. From the beginning, Katz’s programs featured a mix of classical music with then-popular tunes. Though a controversial choice among staid audiences at the time, contemporary audiences don’t mind the split, and Greene now programs all his concerts with that same mix of classical and popular music.
The popular portion of this weekend’s program features songs from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” with soloist Anita Olp. Brian W. Anderson performs as soloist with the chorus in an a cappella version of “Danny Boy.” Derrick Lowe accompanies additional performances on piano, including pieces from the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” Linda Hurevitz sings “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues,” a song composed by Duke Ellington and popularized by Ella Fitzgerald. Bill Ryan accompanies Hurevitz on guitar.
“It’s very difficult to maintain your skill level and work law,” says Ryan. “But once it’s in your DNA, I don’t think you can completely dismiss it. At least I couldn’t.”
The finale of Saturday’s concert will be Fauré’s “Requiem,” his most popular work. His “Requiem” begins in D minor, just as Mozart’s “Requiem” from a century earlier does. But unlike that piece, which is full of turbulence and fury, Fauré’s approaches death with calm acceptance, even a faint sense of hope.
“We’ve done the ‘Requiem’ once before,” says Michele Schultz, who sings alto in Legal Voices. “We did the second movement as a solo quartet because the director at that time didn’t think [the full chorus was] capable of doing it. This time around we just ran right through it, and it really shows either the confidence or the improvement in the singers,” she says with a chuckle.
Schultz works in Santa Monica as an entertainment lawyer for the film production and distribution company Lionsgate. She began playing music as a child when her parents bought her a recorder (they weren’t ready to invest in a piano yet), but the origins of her legal career weren’t far behind. While in a Catholic catechism class as a child, Schultz answered a bishop’s question with a legalistic equivocation, prompting him to suggest she become a lawyer.
For the legal professionals of the Lawyers Philharmonic and Legal Voices, the ensembles provide a crucial creative outlet. The City of Los Angeles has proclaimed the Lawyers Philharmonic to be “L.A.’s only legal orchestra,” which makes it sound a bit like all the other orchestras are breaking the law, but it really just emphasizes the importance of music in our lives, regardless of profession. Everyone needs music, even lawyers.
Legal Voices performs at 7 p.m. Saturday (March 10) at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 1227 4th St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $25 to $30 at lalawyersphil.org.