As the 2015-2016 performance season draws to a close, the Cumberland Oratorio Singers prepare for Ola Gjeilo’s “Sunrise Mass” on May 13. Dr. Michael Martin, the COS artistic director and conductor sees this as a good choice for ending the season on a high note. 

“What’s interesting about the ‘Sunrise Mass’ is that it is not full of conflict and discord. Not that there is anything wrong with dissonance: It’s part of everything and certainly, part of music. Sometimes, we even use the term ‘ear candy’ to describe singers’ ‘giddiness’ to explore the richness associated with that kind of resolution of musical conflict,” he said.  

“While it is great fun to perform that kind of music, it is also nice to enjoy the ease of simple, yet beautiful chords. It’s almost as if Gjeilo wanted to compose something is directly pleasing to sing and easy to hear. It’s quite refreshing!”

According to Martin, the text comes from the Ordinary of the Mass. While Gjeilo set the meaning of the Latin text respectfully and observes the traditions that masses are expected to exhibit, his overall vision for the piece lies within the titles of the work, i.e., “The Spheres” for the “Kyrie,”  are only loosely related to the meaning of the Latin. In so doing, he reveals a metaphysical journey from the heavens to Earth. The Cross Creek Chorale will couple this with pieces by Eric Whitacre, Z. Randall Stroope and Morton Lauridsen. 

Although this is the last official performance of the season, Martin’s love for the community is strong and he is always looking for ways to engage the singers with audiences. Later this summer, they will sing, once again, for the outdoor concert at Festival Park near the July 4 holiday. Martin is also hopeful that there will be more joint ventures with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra.

Next year marks the 25th season for the oratorio singers and Martin is planning with that in mind. “Our first concert will be a nod to the very first piece performed by the COS back in 1991: Mozart’s Requiem,” he said. “We hope to feature area high school choir members as part of this performance and bring back charter members of the organization. Of course, we will perform “Messiah” at the holidays and have pieces featuring organ and brass, as well as feature an area high school choir. For our 25th year, it will be a wonderful celebration of choral music!”

COS continues to grow and prosper, and the group is always looking for new members. Interested singers can contact Martin through the website, www.singwithcos.org. 

The “Sunrise Mass” takes place at 7:30 p.m. at St. Ann Catholic Church on May 13. 

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