Every song must come to an end.
For 17 years, Alan Porter has led the Cumberland Oratorio Singers. In fact, Porter created the COS, over which he has presided as conductor for its entire history.
But on May 18, Porter will exit stage left as he performs his last concert with the choral group.
“It’s time to go,” said Porter, who now lives in Kure Beach. “I’ve commuted for six years from here to Fayetteville to conduct the COS. It’s time for some new blood.”
That “new blood” is Michael Martin, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities and music education at Methodist University. Martin will begin conducting the COS in the fall.
\But before he passes the baton to his successor, Porter has a sensational sendoff scheduled for his last hurrah with the COS. Among the pieces to be performed at the concert — which will be a retrospective of the group’s past work — will be Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Holocaust Cantata.
The COS has about 55 members — a number that has fluctuated and seen many different faces fill the chairs.
Former member Gina Harvey, who is traveling from South Carolina to accompany the choir on violin, is particularly excited about performing Handle’s Messiah, a longtime crowd favorite, and Brahm’s Requiem.
But she also finds the performance bittersweet because it is Porter’s last time on the conductor’s stand.
“He is one of the most passionate and talented musicians I have ever known,” said Harvey, who joined the COS 14 years ago and has been driving all the way from the Palmetto State just to prepare for this show. “Even though they’re getting an excellent replacement, things will never be the same with the COS — Alan built this choir, it’s his baby.”
Another musician hand-picked by Porter for the performance is Fayetteville cellist Zack May, who, like Harvey, conjured the term “bittersweet” in describing the performance.
“It is kind of sad because he (Porter) has been with us so long,” said May, who has played cello at COS performances for four years. “But I am very excited about this show, especially the playing of the Holocaust Cantata.”
May has a five-minute cello solo in the Holocaust Cantata.
A current member of the COS, Su Vick — the section leader for the altos — said she too is saddened to see Porter go, but feels the COS is being left in good hands.
“Allan has been a friend of mine for a long time,” said Vick. “He’s been a wonderful conductor. And we’re fortunate to have an excellent replacement in Michael Martin.
“I will say that the good part is that even though we’re losing a conductor, we’re gaining a place to stay at the beach,” Vick said wryly, in reference to Porter’s Kure Beach home.
Porter himself says he plans to enjoy his beachside retirement, though the COS will never be far from his thoughts.
“It’s been a great run,” said Porter, who will stay on the COS’s board of directors. “This is my baby — I created it. But now I must step away.
“But at least I know I leave it in the capable hands of Michael Martin,” said Porter.
{mosimage} Martin has conducted large choral groups of 120, directed a semiprofessional group set up by audition, and conducted men’s barbershop chorus — singing for 18 years in professional barbershop quartets.
Martin has said he plans to increase the size of the COS and its fans through advertising and by playing more venues in addition to the COS’s home, Methodist University’s Reeves Auditorium.
Porter’s final performance will be May 18, 4 p.m., at Reeves Auditorium.

Contact Tim Wilkins: tim@upandcomingweekly.com

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