Posted on March 24, 2009 by Michael
The Michael O’Neal Singers recently performed a concert entitled Celebrate Musical Genius. The program included selections by two undisputed geniuses: Kleine Orgelmesse by F.J. Haydn and Requiem by W.A. Mozart. In comments made to the audience prior to the Requiem I mentioned that in conducting this work numerous times over the years I have never failed to find in it something “new.” That’s the way it is with works of musical genius – there are degrees of understanding and appreciation that can only be fully reached with a serious commitment by the performer and/or listener, and there is always something new to be discovered.
I sensed this “serious commitment” by both the audience and the performers (chorus, soloists and orchestra) this past Sunday afternoon. And because of the “commitment” made by all the parties mentioned above there was an environment created that encouraged a “communication” between all the parties. This communication took many paths, paths which included all the possibilities inherent between and among audience, chorus, soloists, orchestra AND composer. That’s right, I said composer, even though Haydn has been dead for 200 years and Mozart for 218. So, how do we communicate with someone long since departed? It is my contention that a musical genius leaves something of his or her soul in a composition. That collection of dots, dashes and squiggles on a piece of paper, when made into sound by sensitive and intelligent musicians, forms a conduit by which the composer “lives” again. What a mystery, and what a responsibility to those of us who desire to perform the music of these geniuses!
Concerts such as we experienced on Sunday are as good an explanation as any as to why I am so thankful to have a career in music, and why I am so appreciative to those who make it possible. The comments I’ve already heard from audience members and performers would suggest that I am not the only one who experienced something special. I’d love to hear from you. What did you feel? How were you affected? Through this blog it is my hope that our Sunday “communication” can continue.
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: audience, choral concert, genius, Haydn, Kleine Orgelmesse, Michael O'Neal, MOS, Mozart, Mozart requiem, performers, The Michael O'Neal Singers | 6 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 December 10, 2008 by Michael
Yesterday afternoon’s concert by The Michael O’Neal Singers, The Michael O’Neal Chamber Singers, and the Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet was a perfect reminder of why I enjoy live performance so much. Admittedly, the fact that everyone performed beautifully added much to my enjoyment, but it was more than that. What struck me most about the concert was the communication that took place between and among performers, conductor, and audience. And let’s face it. This communication can never take place when listening to a CD or mp3 or watching a DVD. Perhaps you can imagine the communication or even recall it (if the recording is one in which you participated), but you can’t experience the communication unless you’re present when it is happening. In a world in which we find ourselves increasingly experiencing music alone as we listen to our iPods and view YouTube videos on our computers, it is refreshing to create live music and experience it with others. What are your thoughts about live vs. recorded performances? Pros and cons are cheerfully accepted.
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet, audience, communication, live performance, recorded performance, singers, The Michael O'Neal Chamber Singers, The Michael O'Neal Singers | 1 Comment »
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 »