Choral Gems

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.”

Showing 4 comments
  • Greg Picciano

    One of the greatest thrills and honors in my radio career was to interview Robert Shaw at his home in Buckhead back in 1984.
    It was for a Christmas special that I wrote,hosted and produced for WSB-AM 750 that ran for several years on Christmas Eve.
    He spent over an hour with me and told me about his career from the early days with Fred Waring and Roy Ringwald,then the famed Robert Shaw Chorale in New York City for RCA and then of course his days in Atlanta in the late 60’s to at that time up to the 80’s.He had just released a new version of his Many Moods Of Christmas album with the ASO/Chorus and was in process of also re-recording the entire Messiah all on the Telarc label.It was funny that Michael would be talking about Mr.Shaw’s interpetation of Messiah last night as we sang the HC! The one thing that I was amazed about when talking with Mr.Shaw was his ability to remember all the details of his career from the early days all the way up to the present day and how he respected the people he worked with like Robert Russell Bennett and Samuel Barber(he called him Sam:). As we sing these “choral gems” with Dr.O’Neal we have all been touched by Mr.Shaw’s style,grace and absolute demand for perfection via the people who knew and worked with him.Use Facebook and other social networking vehicles to get the word out that the tradtion continues in Roswell,Georgia!

  • Sean

    What, Herr Ludvig didn’t make the cut for being famous enough to mention? (he gets no respect, I tells you)

    I find that I’m enjoying the pieces from Elijah, enough so that I wonder why I haven’t performed it in all my decades of Choral singing. (20 years still counts as decades, right?) Perhaps it’s because my previous director loved the various Requiems. (I was glad to see Durufle’s and Mozart’s well represented.)

    Last thought – I would support your decision to rename the concert to “Choral Gutbusters” – I find I am wiped out at the end of the rehearsal!

  • Michael

    Whoops! You caught me Sean! How in the world could I have forgotten to include Brother Beethoven? Especially since the first two selections in the program are by that illustrious gentleman and therefore the tenors’ throats are already bleeding by fifteen minutes into the concert! Anyway, I just edited my post and he’s now there!

  • Lilly Chen

    I remember very clearly hearing Laudate Dominum with the glorious Dame Felicity Lott as a child. It was the first time I think I “almost believe” And since then everytime I hear it, I think “maybe there is a God after all.” I think it was Renee Fleming that said that Mozart is a balm for the throat. I think Laudate dominum is “restoration of the soul.”

    Mendelson is a composer that I have not had much exposure to but I throughly enjoyed the two pieces. “Lift thy eyes” is a pretty catchy toon is I may say so….

    I must say the Oct. 24 concert lifted the status in my traditional Chinese family a couple of notches. Since I’m no good at math or science and have not taken an interest in medicine or computers,or attended an Ivy-my family have never been impressed with anything I’ve done…until now, my double PhD Aerospace engineer and opera connoisseur Uncle Huang said “we were very, very impressive.” I think now my relatives won’t pause and clear their throat when they talk about me. Thanks MOS. If I keep this up they might actually like me!

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