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.”