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For more than 20 years, the Cumberland Oratorio Singers have entertained the community through the presentation of professional symphonic choral music. The 65 members, under the direction of Director Dr. Michael Martin, perform throughout Cumberland County and the Sandhills Region. 

“I think what I hear most from others is that they are quite surprised that we have a choir in this area that is capable of singing so many different genres of music,” said Martin, who has lead the group for the past seven seasons.

Martin hails from the great state of Maine. Following 18 years of teaching, he attended Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and completed his Ph.D. in Music Education. 

He is the Director of Choral Activities and Music Education at Methodist University and was appointed artistic director and conductor of Cumberland Oratorio Singers in 2008. 

“From folk music to spiritual, or small to major choral works with orchestra, it seems we always hear from people that they didn’t know we existed,” he continued. “While that’s a compliment, we really do try to reach into our community.” 

With a choir as large as the COS it takes 8 or even 10 weeks to prepare for any given concert. The COS strives to sing, share and listen, while giving the community live choral music. 

The choir also affords local college students and other vocalist the opportunity to share their talent with others and entertain audiences. Being a part of a musical group can be a musician’s greatest desire. Learning from a group that’s been around for decades can help build an artist’s craft.  

On Saturday, May 2, the choir will exercise its vocal prowess during a performance, which features the Terry Sanford High School Choir, at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The performance will focus on two multi-movement works: Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Francis Poulenc’s Gloria.

“In terms of picking the music, I try to ensure the music is accessible, yet challenging, to the choir. It also means choosing the repertoire in February to advertise the next season,” said Martin. 

“My greatest enjoyment is to make choral music accessible to the singers in Cumberland County. Between the Cumberland Oratorio Singers, the Cross Creek Chorale, and our endeavor to create a youth chorus in Fayetteville, we feel we are doing our best to make all levels of choral music accessible to all singers,” he added.

The Cross Creek Chorale, an auditioned group, will feature a more expanded choral experience for those wanting advanced rigor. This ensemble is featured, along with the entire membership of the COS, in its opening and closing concerts of every season. The addition of the auditioned group allowed the organization to offer something for all singers, which will allow it to better meet its mission of providing choral music to more people in the Sandhills region.

Season tickets to Cumberland Oratorio Singers concerts are $23 per person. Students are admitted free with an ID.  

For more information about the Cumberland Oratorio Singers, visit the website at www.singwithcos.org

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