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The Cumberland Oratorio Singers, a mainstay in Fayetteville’s musical scene, opens its 2015-2016 season on Friday, Oct. 23 with Mozart’s “Coronation Mass.” This choral music group is composed of local singers who are driven by their love of the art. It’s their passion. Through their concerts, the entire community benefits. Under the direction of Dr. Michael Martin, the group continues to deliver performances that keep the singers challenged and audiences enthralled. 

The first piece of the season is the “Coronation Mass” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The piece is a great selection not only because it is so beautiful, but because it gives the group an opportunity to showcase the work of one of classical music’s powerhouse composers. 

On Dec. 12, the ever- popular, holiday piece, “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Messiah Sing” from Handel’s “Messiah” continues as one of the Sandhills’ favorite Christmas traditions on Dec. 12. In April, “Carmina Burana” is set for April 6 and the season closes with Ola Gjeillo’s “Sunrise Mass.”

In selecting this season’s music, Dr. Michael Martin uses the performances to build on the skills of the singers, each one preparing them for what is coming next. 

“All the large works we are doing in the fall help us to prepare for ‘Carmina Burana’ in the spring,” said Martin.

The first concert of the season, Mozart’s “Coronation Mass,” was written after a fairly miserable job hunting trip to Paris and Mannheim.

 “He ended up in Salzburg, a town he did not like, and working for the Archbishop,” said Martin. 

“On April 4, 1779, it was premiered during Easter. Contrary to what the name implies, it was not written for a coronation. The general consensus is that it got the name from the Imperial Court in Vienna in the early 19th century where it became the preferred music for royal and imperial coronations.”

This is paired with Vaughan Williams’ first known choral work “Toward the Unknown Region.”

 “It is very “Brahms-ian” in character; many people  might say that it sounds like the music to a film score,” said Martin. 

The piece was Vaughan Williams’ first one for chorus and orchestra, but it is still somewhat obscure with regard to other popular choices of Vaughan Williams’ choral music. The text is by Walt Whitman, whose
“Leaves of  Grass” remains a source of inspiration for many composers.”

The theme of the 2015 season is Ethereal. 

“If no other reason than because of some of the material we are doing this year,” said Martin. The first features a piece by Vaughan Williams during the opening concert. “The second of these “ethereal” pieces will be performed in May and is called ‘Sunrise Mass,”’ by Ola Gjeillo. In his own words, Gjeillo indicated that the piece works  ‘“... as a metaphor for human development from child to adult, or as a spiritual journey.”’ In that sense, our season takes on a journey of different types of choral music.”

Singers are still welcome to join the Cumberland Oratorio Singers for performances of “Messiah” (December), “Carmina Burana” (April) and the “Sunrise Mass” (May). 

“They need only contact us through our website (singwithcos.org) and set up a voice placement,” said Martin. “It is not an audition but just to find out where your voice best fits in the choir. If you already know what part you sing, that’s great, too. Anyone who has sung music as a hobby or professionally should be part of Fayetteville’s choir. With about 275,000 people who live here, I would like to think we have more  than 65 singers ready to go.”

For more information about the season, visit the website at www.singwithcos.org.

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