Posted on January 8, 2013 by Michael
My musical listening habits are quite diverse and I imagine many of the folks who sing in the choruses I conduct might be surprised at some of the things on my iPod! While it certainly includes an obvious representation of all types of choral music, my iPod also contains many musical styles not often heard by most people in the USA. The reason much of the music I listen to might not be readily recognizable by most of our fellow citizens is that I am a big fan of World Music, and this is not something you’re likely to hear on American radio. I have been fortunate to engage in quite a bit of travel around the world during my life and I always make a point of trying to learn something about the folk music of whatever country I am visiting. My life has been enriched greatly by the diverse styles and approaches to music I have encountered.
On a recent trip to Portugal I became especially infatuated with a style of music called Fado. Fado dates from the early 1800s and has been transmitted orally for most of the time since then. It is difficult to describe fado, although it is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. Fado is generally sung by one person (usually female) called a fadista, and normally accompanied by the portuguese guitar and classical guitar. The style of singing includes quite a bit of vocal embellishment and is unlike anything I’ve heard anywhere else in the world.
The good news for all of us these days is that with the internet and YouTube one can be exposed to just about anything (that can be either wonderful or horrible!). To give you a sense of what fado is all about I’ve included a link to one of my favorite fado videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-CW0JuIl6c The video includes three male singers and three female singers, along with the appropriate instrumental accompaniment. If you like it you can hear lots more by searching fado on YouTube and doing a Google search on the internet. Happy listening and tell me what you think!
Filed under: Choral experiences, Musical preferences, Poetry | Tagged: Fado, Portuguese music | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 13, 2010 by Michael
Those of us living in the Atlanta area have just experienced our first real snow fall of the season, and it has been a beautiful site to behold! It is also my understanding that for the first time ever there is snow on the ground in all fifty states. Certainly, in some of those locations the residents would very much like to see it go away, but for us in the south it is a joyous experience. Whether viewing it from the warm indoors, or venturing out for snowball fights, as I did with my wife and granddaughter, it is a marvel.
It made me think about the way choral composers have set words that remind us of this special time of year. Consider John Rutter’s Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind, Morten Lauridsen’s Mid-Winter Songs, or that favorite at Christmas, Harold Darke’s In the Bleak Mid-Winter. The Michael O’Neal Chamber Singers just sang a concert at the Falany Concert Hall of Reinhardt (soon to be repeated at the Alpharetta Presbyterian Church!) which included a beautiful set of songs by Eric Whitacre entitled Five Hebrew Love Songs. The words are by his wife, Hila Plitmann, and the fourth song says, “What snow! Like little dreams falling from the sky.” We are in the midst of snow and a very cold winter and I’m so thankful that we have meaningful choral music to accompany the experience.
Do you have some favorite winter songs?
Filed under: Choral experiences, choral masterworks, Musical preferences | Tagged: atlanta snow, eric whitacre, Falany, Harold Darke, Hila Plitmann, john rutter, morten lauridsen, Reinhardt, snow, winter, winter songs | 4 Comments »
Posted on December 23, 2008 by Michael
MOS just completed its third Messiah Sing-Along and it was for me an extraordinary experience. What made it extraordinary was the level of involvement I sensed from the singers in the room (and essentially everyone in the room that day was a singer!). Looking out at 650 smiling people and knowing that these folks had gathered for the express purpose of singing one of our great pieces of choral literature was a thrill. All of us involved in choral music understand how satisfying it is to sing for others. Still, I believe that to sing with others is even more satisfying, and it is indeed rare when we have the opportunity to sing with 650 people!
For those of you in attendance, how did the afternoon feel to you? Did you also feel the level of anticipation in the room that I felt? Was it fun singing with so many people? What other Messiah Sing-Along experiences have you had over the years and what do you remember most from them?
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
Filed under: Choral experiences, choral masterworks, Musical preferences | Tagged: audience, choral music, live performance, Messiah, Michael O'Neal, Sing-along, singers, The Michael O'Neal Singers | 5 Comments »
Posted on November 3, 2008 by Michael
This is the third “installment” to my blog and I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read it thus far. Let me also offer a special thanks to those of you who have contributed comments. I have found your observations to be both insightful and stimulating and have discovered myself spending even more time considering the topics because of your input. In fact, my subject for this week grows directly out of one of those comments, and I would encourage all of you to use this blog in a similar way. If you wish to “comment” on a “comment” instead of something I’ve said, then please do so. I imagine this blog can only be made richer and more useful with a growing number of readers willing to participate by sharing their thoughts.
Now, to my “thought” for the day. I found Olga Espinola’s remarks about memorization to be illuminating. As the only member of MOS functioning without “visual” sight, I believe she is in a unique position to discuss the topic of memorization. As you may have noticed, Olga sings every concert without the aid of a printed score. Yet, every time I look at her at the end of the first row of sopranos she appears to be totally involved in the experience of making music. Her blog comment mentions what happens when one moves beyond mere memorization and muscle memory to the point of truly “feeling” a piece of music. She states, “You’re no longer focused on the notes, breathing and breaking at just the right places, counting beats…because that’s all a part of you now. Instead, you can rejoice in the sharing, the dialogue among the voices and instruments, that intangible energy generated by all the participants…I guess freedom and elation might come closest to describing what it is like for me.”
What I find especially meaningful about Olga’s observation is that it really goes beyond the subject of memorization. Obviously, much of what she says might be more easily accomplished when music has been memorized, but it seems to me that it could also be experienced while singing with the benefit of a score. The most important thing is to be free to make music “beyond” the printed page (whether that page is in one’s hand or in one’s mind). When we possess that freedom we also have the opportunity to communicate with each other (performers, conductor, audience) in such a way that something miraculous and magical may occur. What do you think?
Filed under: Choral experiences, Musical preferences | Tagged: audience, choral music, chorus, communication, live performance, MOS, singers | 6 Comments »
Posted on October 27, 2008 by Michael
To memorize or not to memorize, that is the question. So, what is the answer? In our recent Celebrate the Future concert, many of the MOS members were impressed by the fact that the two high school choirs sang their selections from memory. I imagine that just about everyone would agree that a choir singing without music in its hands presents an attractive visual image. When singers are looking up at the conductor, rather than down at music scores, there exists a better chance that there will be more consistent communication between the choir and conductor, as well as between the choir and audience. Therefore, we may ask the question, “Why doesn’t every choir memorize?” Reasons often given include: insufficient rehearsal time, complexity of music, age of singers (sorry!). Also, it is important to note that performing with music does not mean that the final result will necessarily be less musical than one obtained performing from memory. In fact, most professional choirs (either in the USA or Europe) perform almost always with music, and the quality of their performances is consistently very high.
Well, this brings us back to the original point – to memorize or not to memorize. What are your thoughts on the subject? Are there pros and cons to either approach not mentioned above? I’m interested in hearing what you think.
Filed under: Choral experiences, Choral rehearsal, Musical preferences | Tagged: audience, choral music, communication, live performance, MOS, practice, singing | 5 Comments »