Posted on February 27, 2012 by Michael
This post is being written in the early morning of the day after an amazing concert by The Michael O’Neal Singers. There is no doubt the members of the chorus were tremendously ”aided and abetted” by the excellent Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra, and four outstanding vocal soloists (Katie Baughman, Heather Witt, Adam Kirkpatrick, and John LaForge), but this post is directed toward my beloved chorus. I am filled with thankfulness today for singers who have poured their hearts and souls for the past seven weeks into the preparation of one our great choral/orchestra masterpieces, the Mass in C Major by Ludwig van Beethoven. During the rehearsal process I have observed with appreciation as the singers have exibited a growing understanding of the music and an empathy with the intentions of the composer. All this resulted yesterday afternoon in one of the most satisfying concerts it has ever been my privilege to conduct. A major goal of any conductor is to be “in sync” with his or her ensemble. I felt that connection with MOS yesterday and I am enormously grateful for the experience.
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Adam Kirkpatrick, Beethovhen, Heather Witt, John LaForge, Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra, Katie Baughman, Mass in C Major, Michael O'Neal, MOS, singers | 11 Comments »
Posted on January 29, 2012 by Michael
The Michael O’Neal Singers and Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra will be joining forces at the end of February for two performances of music by Ludwig van Beethoven. The program will consist of the Symphony #3 (Eroica) and the Mass in C Major, two masterpieces from Beethoven’s “middle” period of composition. Although he had not yet arrived at his ultimate style, as evidenced in works such as Symphony #9 and Missa Solemnis, there can still be heard in the Eroica and Mass a genius in the process of developing his “compositional voice.” Beethoven managed to pay homage to the greats who preceded him, men such as Haydn and Mozart, by acknowledging the forms and styles of the Classic period, yet at the same time finding ways to push the limits of those forms and styles.
The Mass in C Major was written as a commission for Prince Esterhazy in honor of his wife, Marie Esterhazy. Beethoven knew as he wrote the Mass in C Major that he was following in the footsteps of Franz Josef Haydn, who had been in the employ of the Esterhazy family for many years and had written several very successful earlier masses for the Princess. Beethoven recognized that his composition would be compared to those of Haydn, and in fact, the Prince was very disappointed in Beethoven’s work. Following the first performance on September 13, 1807, the Prince was overhead saying to the composer, “But my dear Beethoven, what is it you have done now?” The Prince did not hear in Beethoven’s music what he expected and wanted to hear, which would have been something familiar and comfortable. What Beethoven had done, of course, was listen to his own muse and create a work that was pleasing to himself. While we listen to the Mass today and recognize it to be a magnificent piece of music, we hear it with ears “conditioned” not only by Beethoven’s later works, but also by the 200 years of composition that have occurred since its creation.
Perhaps this should be a reminder to all of us to be willing to give music that is new to us a “second listen” before deciding whether we like it or not. By doing so we open ourselves to many remarkable musical experiences. Thank goodness Prince Esterhazy was not the final judge on the Mass in C Major!
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: Beethoven, Eroica, Esterhazy, Haydn, Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra, Mass in C Major, Missa Solemnis, Symphony #3 Eroica, Symphony #9, The Michael O'Neal Singers | Leave a Comment »