Posted on March 27, 2012 by Michael
The Michael O’Neal Chamber Singers are currently performing a program entitled Double Exposure. The concert includes “pairings” of pieces of the same text, but by different composers, e.g., Ave Maria by Busto and Biebl, and Sure on this Shining Night by Barber and Lauridsen. We have three scheduled performances of the concert (we just concluded one at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church and still have two more to go at Berry College and Peachtree Presbyterian Church). In each of these performances we are asking the audience members to pick their “favorite” piece in each pairing. At the conclusion of the series of concerts we will post the “winners” on our website and our FB page. Each audience member is presented with a paper ballot at the beginning of the concert and asked to complete it as the music is performed. The ballots are then collected at the end of the concert. I believe this involvement by the audience is great fun. Not only does it encourage them to listen more intently, but in an age where we seem to crave multisensory experiences in our entertainment (think sound, sight, touch, smell), it also adds an additional element of involvement to a typical choral concert.
So my question for you today is – what other audience participation experiences can you imagine for a choral concert? These can be actual approaches that have already been tried by you or someone else or something you’ve just come up with. Naturally, audience sing-alongs have been around for years, so I’m looking for something other than that. OK, I’m ready for suggestions!
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Alpharetta Presbyterian, audience participation, Barber, Berry College, Biebl, Busto, Chamber Singers, morten lauridsen, Peachtree Presbyterian, sing-alongs, The Michael O'Neal Chamber Singers | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 20, 2012 by Michael
It was my good fortune to recently have the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of New Zealand. My wife and I checked off another item on our “bucket list” as we experienced the amazing sites of this remarkable land on a 13 day sea cruise. One of my most enjoyable experiences in New Zealand turned out to be completely unplanned and the serendipity of that event helped create what will be a lasting memory. One of the ports of call was Auckland, a breathtaking city of over one million residents. Many Pacific Islanders have moved to Auckland seeking employment and education opportunities, and together with the large number of indigenous Maoris, have made it the largest Polynesian city in the world. Judy and I have always enjoyed visiting museums in our travels and the Auckland Museum was of special interest to us because of its concentration on natural history and the Pacific people. Upon entering the Museum we were greeted with that serendipitous experience I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
A choir was singing – completely unexpected and unadvertised – something like the “flash mobs” that have become so popular in public spaces in recent years – but different at the same time. The adult community choir was standing in the Grand Foyer of the Museum and singing unaccompanied songs which were unfamiliar to me, but apparently part of the Maori tradition. After several minutes of singing the conductor announced that the choir would be moving to the second level of the building to sing next, and then on to the third and final level. I walked up to their director and introduced myself as a fellow conductor. I told him what a pleasure it was to enter the museum and hear their beautiful singing. He thanked me and said they were there that day to “sing to the building.”
Since hearing that phrase, and recognizing that the concept probably has its origin in the early native religions where “spaces” could have spiritual connotations, I have thought how fortunate we choral singers are to often have the opportunities to sing in beautiful spaces, both churches and concert halls. Perhaps, in addition to singing to our audiences of living, breathing persons, we should consider offering our music to the places in which we sing. It’s just a thought to ponder.
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Auckland, Auckland Museum, Maoris, New Zealand | 3 Comments »
Posted on March 12, 2012 by Michael
The Michael O’Neal Chamber Singers, our twenty-eight voice ensemble recognized for its ability to perform everything from Renaissance motets to contemporary vocal jazz, will be presenting a program in late March entitled Double Exposure, a fascinating exploration of how different composers have approached the same text. Three performances of this concert will be presented at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church on 3/25, Berry College on 3/27, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church on 3/29.
Choral music has one major difference from instrumental music, and that is the use of words with the music. For choral composers, the text is of enormous importance, and the most common approach is to take an existing text and create music which will complement the meaning found within those words. In Double Exposure we are able to hear how a variety of texts have been treated by “pairs” of composers, and the result is to discover how two individuals can often interpret so differently the same text. As Alice said to Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” This concert answers the question! The audience members will even have the opportunity to get involved in the concert by being asked to vote on their favorite selection in each of the pairings.
A wide variety of texts are included in Double Exposure, including O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, Sure on this Shining Night, Shenandoah, and Little David, Play on Your Harp. Composers will range from Victoria, Bach and Vivaldi to Biebl, Barber, and Lauridsen.
All this makes me wonder if you have some favorite pairings? I’ll start the ball rolling by mentioning two pieces with the same text by two composers (by the way, this is not in the concert!). The text is In the Bleak Mid-Winter and the composers are Gustav Holst and Harold Darke. Okay, now what are your contributions to this list?
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Biebl, Darke, de Victoria, Holst, morten lauridsen, Shenandoah, The Michael O'Neal Chamber Singers, Through the Looking Glass, Vivaldi, Wilberg | 1 Comment »
Posted on March 1, 2012 by Michael
One definition of an amateur is “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” I like that particular definition, for it reminds us that an amateur does what he does merely for the love of doing it, not for fame or fortune. However, it’s important not to automatically equate “amateur” with something “less than professional,” especially if by “professional” we mean “performance of the highest quality.” Amateur performances at their best include both passion and precision and can be of extremely high quality.
The Michael O’Neal Singers, a volunteer community choir (made up primarily of amateur vocalists), is an excellent example of amateurism at its highest level. The members of this group bring their love of choral music to each rehearsal and concert, but recognize that passion alone will not result in an exceptional performance. To achieve the exceptional, MOS members spend the necessary time to do the “nuts and bolts” work of learning their music, both in and out of rehearsal. They have learned there are no short cuts to achieving their best performances. That being said, they also know they must stay diligent to the task of note learning, for love alone will not provide excellence.
Still, when all is said and done, I believe that passion + precision = commitment, and that is amateurism at its best. Robert Shaw once said this about commitment: The point is that while the professional may lose some of his enjoyment and personal commitment to his work without necessarily impairing his craft to a dangerous degree, the amateur, if he loses his commitment and moment-to-moment enthusiasm and concentration is in danger of diminishing his abilities by fifty to seventy-five percent.
I’m thankful for singers who exhibit both passion and precision. From these “amateurs” we often hear some of our finest choral singing.
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