Posted on April 2, 2012 by Michael
M. Thomas Cousins (1914-1972), was an excellent band and choral composer who wrote a number of fine pieces during the mid-20th century. One of his finest, and most long-lasting pieces is “Glorious, Everlasting,” published in 1950. My fine church choir from Roswell UMC will be performing it on Easter Sunday, along with “Glory” by N. Rimsky-Korsakov and “Hallelujah” by G.F. Handel. ”Glorious, Everlasting” has long been one of my favorite “big” church anthems and I’m looking forward to opening the Service with it this Easter.
One of my choir members just sent me an e-mail she received from her sister, sharing a lovely personal reflection about M. Thomas Cousins. Here is what her sister said:
“…..One of the highlights of the weekend was our visit Thursday afternoon with Brent Cousins, son of Thomas Cousins, who wrote –among many other things — “Glorious Everlasting”. We had a wonderful, intimate visit with Brent during which he brought out many newspaper clippings, concert programs, etc. that his mother had saved. But I was overwhelmed with emotion when I picked up the original penciled manuscript of “Glorious Everlasting” complete with his erasures to make changes. Brent said he watched his father sit at the piano that he, Brent, has inherited, and watched him create music. After his father put to paper — with pencil — his composition and perfected it, he would make the final copy in ink. Of course, this was before the computer age when music is now entered into the computer and edited with ease. I feel honored to have had this intimate association with Thomas Cousins through his son.”
I hope Brent Cousins is pleased to know his Dad’s music is still being performed today.
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Glorious Everlasting, Hallelujah, Handel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Thomas Cousins | 3 Comments »
Posted on December 14, 2011 by Michael
The Messiah Sing-Along has become a very popular event in many American communities, and especially during the Christmas Season there will be hundreds of these celebrations across our nation. What makes them so popular? I have several thoughts as to why that might be. One is that Handel’s Messiah is a work that most choral singers have performed. Another is that during the Holiday Season a Sing-Along provides a wonderful shared experience, whether one comes to participate as an individual or as part of a group. And finally, I suggest that people enjoy participating in Messiah Sing-Alongs just because they are fun!
As The Michael O’Neal Singers prepares to present its 6th Annual Messiah Sing-Along, there will be something new in how we do it! For the first time we will have the solos, as well as the choruses, sung by the audience! Don’t ask me where I got the idea, for I’m not sure! I just remember waking up one morning thinking about our Sing-Along and considering the possibility of having the solos sung by the vocal sections rather than by professional soloists. The more I thought about it the more convinced I became that it was a wonderful idea! Naturally, the “proof of the pudding” will be this coming Sunday at 3 PM when this interesting experiment takes place. Just imagine 200 tenors singing “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted” or 300 or more sopranos warbling “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion.” The excitement is building as we prepare for the day! This is either going to be remembered as one of my best ideas ever, or not! What do you think?
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Christmas choral event, Handel, Messiah, Messiah Sing-Along, The Michael O'Neal Singers, Tom Alderman | 5 Comments »
Posted on August 16, 2011 by Michael
The Seventh Annual Michael O’Neal Summer Singers performed Bach to Broadway to a wildly appreciative audience this past Sunday afternoon. Nearly 750 audience members heard 150 singers perform a program ranging from choruses of Bach, Handel and Haydn all the way to musical theatre selections from Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables. The variety of our programming in that concert is analogous to the variety of backgrounds of the Summer Singers membership. I’ve enjoyed conducting this non-auditioned chorus each summer in part because of the vast background of singing experiences represented. The Summer Singers chorus includes individuals who might never be comfortable going through an audition procedure for our regular chorus membership to singers who are professional musicians and just don’t have the time to participate in a chorus during the regular season. When you take these two extremes and add singers who are at every level between the two, you have The Michael O’Neal Summer Singers! I love working with these folks for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their obvious joy in making music, and making it to the best of their abilities. As I told them in the warm up for our Sunday concert, in choral singing we often experience the Gestalt theory of the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, we are able to accomplish something together we could never achieve individually.
For seven years my summers have been immeasurably blessed by my work with these wonderful and dedicated singers. This summer was especially rewarding. My sincere thanks to all of them.
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: audition, Bach, Bach to Broadway, Gestalt, Handel, Haydn, Les Miserables, Man of La Mancha, Summer Singers, The Michael O'Neal Summer Singers, The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story | 5 Comments »
Posted on May 31, 2011 by Michael
We’re about to begin the seventh season of The Michael O’Neal Summer Singers and our program this year is entitled Bach to Broadway. Selections by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Verdi, and Parry will comprise the first part of the concert, followed by songs from Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables. The variety of musical pieces in this concert in some ways reminds me of the great variety of singers we have in Summer Singers.
The Summer Singers (MOSS), unlike the regular season MOS, is a completely non-auditioned chorus, and open to all interested singers. The wide range of experience found in the individual singers in each summer’s chorus helps make the entire effort very gratifying to me. I love taking people of various backgrounds and skill levels and helping them become a unified and sensitive musical ensemble. In just a few days we’ll have over 150 singers joining together in the shared purpose of making music! I can hardly wait!
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Bach, Bach to Broadway, Brahms, Handel, Haydn, Les Miserables, Man of La Mancha, Mendelssohn, Michael O'Neal, MOSS, Parry, The Michael O'Neal Summer Singers, The Phantom of the Opera, Verdi, West Side Story | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 20, 2010 by Michael
Eight hundred voices joined together yesterday afternoon for the 5th Annual Messiah Sing-Along in Roswell, GA (north metro Atlanta). Sponsored by The Michael O’Neal Singers, it has become a community favorite and increases in attendance each year. What a joy it is to have 800 people gathered together in one place singing with full robost voices the marvelous choruses of Handel’s masterpiece. Since our performance space (Roswell UMC) seats 2000, we should be alright for a few more years!
With soloists drawn from The Michael O’Neal Chamber Singers and instrumental accompaniment provided by the Riverside Chamber Players and organist Tom Alderman, the entire performance was a pleasure from the opening notes of the Overture to the final chords of “Hallelujah.” There is such a sense of satisfaction that comes from so many people gathered in one place to perform (not just hear) the most beloved oratorio ever written.
For many of us, the familiar solos and choruses of of Handel’s “Christmas” Messiah (Part I and the “Hallelujah” from Part II) have become an integral part of our holiday experience. I know that’s true for me, and I’m thankful to all those 800 people who helped make it happen this holiday season.
Filed under: Choral experiences, choral masterworks, Collaboration | Tagged: Handel, Messiah, Messiah Sing-Along, Michael O'Neal Chamber Singers, MOS, Riverside Chamber Players, Roswell, Roswell United Methodist Church, The Michael O'Neal Singers | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 12, 2010 by Michael
A gem can be defined as “something prized especially for great beauty or perfection.” MOS begins its season on October 24 with a program entitled Choral Gems, consisting of music that fits that definition. Chosen from some of history’s greatest choral masterpieces, the selections sung will span 250 years of creative genius and will include many beautiful and recognized melodies. While most of the pieces are settings of sacred Christian texts, I would suggest that the nature of these selections transcends the religious boundaries of specific dogmas. That is one of the reasons I derive so much satisfaction from performing this music, as it provides an opportunity to have a window through which may be glimpsed the “divine other.” If one believes, as I do, that great composers can sometimes create these windows through which we obtain our “glimpses,” we can further understand and appreciate the responsibility that has been given to those of us who perform , as we attempt to faithfully fulfill the wishes of the composer.
One of the greatest experiences ever provided me as a musician was to have the opportunity to sing under the direction of Robert Shaw for nearly twenty years. Shaw, former conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Choruses, and possibly the greatest choral conductor of the 20th Century, gave the reason he so revered Arturo Toscanini to be that “he never felt sorry for himself, he only felt sorry for the composer.” I heard Mr. Shaw repeat those words often and I believe they describe him as well as they did Maestro Toscanini. It was through Shaw’s performances of the masterpieces represented in today’s program that I developed at least a partial understanding of the emotional and intellectual depths explored in this music. So as MOS performs pieces from the repertoire of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Duruflé and Orff, it is my hope that all present, performers and audience members alike, may be transported to a place that will allow us all to experience the enormous beauty and profundity of these “choral gems.”
Filed under: Choral experiences, choral masterworks | Tagged: ASO, Atlanta chorus, Bach, Beethoven, choral gems, Durufle, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Michael O'Neal, Mozart, orff, Rachmaninoff, robert shaw, Toscanini | 4 Comments »
Posted on December 15, 2009 by Michael
MOS will soon hold its 4th Annual Messiah Sing-Along and the approaching event has caused me to think a bit about this whole experience of a Sing-Along Messiah. I conducted several of these Sing-Alongs back in the 1980s, but hadn’t done another one until The Michael O’Neal Singers began its version several years ago. From what I’ve been able to discover, the concept of a Messiah Sing-Along caught on in the USA in the late 1960s and early 1970s . Certainly there have been really BIG performances of Messiah dating back to the early and mid nineteenth century, but these took place primarily in England. Those Brits loved big choral societies and they really adored singing Messiah with big choirs and big orchestras! I think there were even some performances with a thousand singers or more. There were also unrehearsed performances where the audience served as the chorus, and in Great Britain these were called “scratch Messiahs,” as in cooking from scratch.
The Messiah Sing-Along has now become a very popular event in many American communities, and especially during the Christmas Season there will be hundreds of these celebrations. What makes them so popular? I have several thoughts as to why that might be. One is that Handel’s “Messiah” is a work that most choral singers have performed. Another is that during the Holiday Season a Sing-Along provides a wonderful shared experience, whether one particpates as an individual or as part of a group. And finally, I suggest that people enjoy participating in Messiah Sing-Alongs just because they are fun!
So, what do you think?
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Handel, Messiah, Michael O'Neal, MOS, Sing-along, The Michael O'Neal Singers | 2 Comments »