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 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 »