For years, the Cumberland Oratorio Singers have been bringing incredible music and cultural opportunities to our region. Originally, the group was an “ensemble,” but more recently the group has expanded and partnered with various other community organizations. COS now includes three choirs: The Cross Creek Chorale, Campbellton Youth Chorus and the Cumberland Oratorio Singers make up the core of the group.
This growth is due in part to the work of Dr. Michael Martin, who will soon be leaving the COS. “I think we have done much to increase the positive reputation of the group and advance a support for choral music. This mission began with my arrival in 2007: to create a local symphonic choral organization that could partner with my choral program and create high-level music opportunities for the community and ourselves,” he said. “With the foundation provided by Alan Porter’s prior leadership, we have partnered with local colleges and professional music organizations. We have also delivered large orchestral and choral works with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra.”
The music produced by the Cumberland Oratorio Singers is phenomenal. It may surprise some audience members to know the members of the group all have day jobs. For Martin, this is one of the best aspects of the group, as it allows for community members to engage deeply with the arts. According to Martin, “It is the community approach to performance that makes these people special. Most members are not driven by anything but the success of the group. We come from all over the community: doctors, lawyers, from different churches, teachers, custodians, etc., all for the purpose to make music!”
Martin acknowledges building a community in Fayetteville has some particular challenges. “People come and go, and in Fayetteville this challenge is even harder given the nature of our military community with frequent moving,” he said. “The one thing we can never forget is why people should do this to begin with: to come together as a community to sing!”
Inarguably, Martin has made a huge impact not only on the Cumberland Oratorio Singers, but also on the local community as whole. Luckily his new focus won’t take him too far away.
“While COS is very respectful of my space with my family, it has become too much to balance with my growing responsibilities at Methodist University. For now, I am focused on being there for my job and family, as well as expanding my role in choral music in North Carolina,” he explained. “I intend to be involved with the COS in the future, hopefully as a member of the board. After a year away, I would like to be involved with them and offer my support to the new director in whatever way he or she would like. I believe in this group and will advocate and support them in any way possible!”
His years of experience have also inspired him to leave a little friendly advice for the incoming director. “If there is one thing that I have learned from my years of conducting community choirs it’s that most people sing simply because they want to do it. It is not a requirement for them, and that needs to be respected and supported. They are not paid, but we tend to expect them to be professional in every way. I have always considered our membership as ‘volunteer professionals’ with families and jobs. Therefore, people will learn and perform with what little time is available.” he said.
There is still time to catch a performance of the Cumberland Oratorio Singers this season. The next concert is May 19. Find out more at www.singwithcos.org.