Dr. Michael Martin, director of choral activities and music education at Methodist University and artistic director and conductor of the Cumberland Oratorio Singers, takes his work seriously. That’s a win for the community and for local musicians as well. The Cumberland Oratorio Singers’ 2014-2015 season opens on Oct. 24, and it’s a performance that chamber music fans won’t want to miss.
The performance, titled There Is Sweet Music Here, features two local musicians along with the talented singers of the Cross Creek Chorale.
“We are featuring two guest artists — Deanne Renshaw on oboe and Brian Adamski on French horn,” said Martin. “Deanne is going to be featured in the title piece of the concert and it is quite beautiful. Adam will be featured in one of our other pieces.”
J. Michael Hayden, Morton Louridsen and Andre Thomas are just a few of the composers that are showcased in this first performance of the season.
The second concert of the season is the Hallelujah Chorus, a local holiday tradition. The community is invited to join the Cumberland Oratorio Singers in a performance of “The Messiah.” This performance is on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Ann Catholic Church. Those who don’t care to join in are welcome to come and enjoy the performance as part of the audience.
On March 21, don’t miss Maurice Duruffle’s “Requiem” and “Quatre Motets.” Popular in the world of chorale music, Duruffle’s pieces represent comfort, hope and faith. The Methodist University Chorale is set to join the Cumberland Oratorio Singers for this concert. It is at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
During the month of April, the Beth Israel Synagogue hosts The Cumberland Oratorio Singers for Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” In 1965, Rev. Walter Hussey of Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England asked Bernstein to write a piece. It was to be used for the 1965 music festival that included Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals. Bernstein delivered a piece that seemed to mix theatre music with Judaic liturgy.
The season closes with a performance of Francis Poulenc’s “Gloria” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. The Terry Sanford High School Varsity Choir, under the direction of Sean Closz, will join in the performance.
Such a well thought-out season is not only a joy to the performers. Martin searched for pieces that would challenge the performers as well as delight the audiences.
“Last spring, I was thinking about chorale music and what people like about it,” said Martin. “We listen to it and sing it because we like the sound of it. For people who like chorale music, hearing a rich choir piece is ear candy. I was drawn to ‘Sweet Music’ because it has choir and oboe. I called Deanne right away and asked her to join us for this performance. I am driven to make sure this idea of a select choir drawn from Cumberland Oratorio Singers succeeds, so I picked some more difficult pieces for the chorale. There are pieces with eight and even 10-part harmony.”
While There Is Sweet Music Here is sure to entertain the audience and push the chorale to deliver a top-notch performance, Martin admits that there is something in it for him, too.
“This is all the kind of stuff we like to sing. I wanted to challenge the choir and expand their lexicon. The president of Methodist University always says ‘I have the best job in America.’ Well, when I conduct, I have the best seat in the house; I want music that will wash over me like a nice warm shower — and so I chose the kind of music that I think will do that.”
The performance is at Highland Presbyterian Church at 7:30 p.m. Find out more about the Cumberland Oratorio Singers at www.singwithcos.org.