The Podium

Fall 2016 Concert Announcement

posted Oct 5, 2016, 3:31 PM by admin user   [ updated Oct 5, 2016, 4:56 PM ]

Dear friend of the CPOS, 

G.F. Handel’s Messiah holds a special place in music history among the truly timeless masterworks. Every year, I revisit this great oratorio, and every year it reveals even more from the treasury of its composition. Just from seeing the words, I imagine you can instantly recall the opening notes of “Hallelujah,” “For unto Us a Child Is Born,” or “And the Glory of the Lord,” to name a few. From hauntingly beautiful vocal lines to toe-tappers, the Messiah is possibly one of the greatest collections of Western classical “hits” we have, and for good reason! 

Joined with the Messiah is J.S. Bach’s Cantata 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir,” or “We thank thee, God, we thank thee.” Bach composed it in 1731 for the inauguration of a new town council. As you’ll hear, from the intricate counterpoint of the vocal lines to the high-energy instrumental writing, this cantata is truly a gem, made even more appropriate for the season by the abounding themes of thanksgiving. The music was so good, in fact, that Bach himself copied and used various portions of it in other works of his over the years. The most notable self-plagiarism of the master was taking the first choral movement and unashamedly copying it for multiple places in his famous B-Minor Mass, including the “Gratias agimus tibi” from the Gloria and the closing chorus, “Dona nobis pacem.” 

For our entire twenty-year history, the Central PA Oratorio Singers have been able to pay all production costs through individual donations and ticket sales. We need your help to continue to bring this glorious literature to life for audiences and singers in our area. Please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution to CPOS through thepatronage page.

Tickets may be purchased from singers, or onlinetickets page for $16 plus a small service fee, or at-the-door for $18 (Seniors / students $10). Please give as you can, and please come and enjoy the concert. The concert will be held at Market Square Presbyterian Church at 3:00 PM on Sunday, November 6, 2016. 

Bach, Handel, and the Central PA Oratorio Singers. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I hope you’ll join us for a great afternoon of really great music!

Brett A. Terry, Conductor in Residence

Mass Appeal

posted Aug 9, 2015, 4:33 PM by Bob Rudi   [ updated Aug 9, 2015, 4:59 PM by admin user ]

Mass Appeal is the title of our 2015 program and features two of the most appealing settings of the mass texts in all the literature. I am pleased to introduce a young composer – Ola Gjeilo – whose music is really gaining popularity around the world. He hails from Norway and lives in New York City. His music has been described as “cinematic” and is very satisfying to sing and enjoyable to hear. His Sunrise Mass is a beautiful and different kind of mass setting – using the text to express music, rather than using music to express the text. Every voice part gets wonderful melodies, while the mood shifts from ethereal to concrete. While the music is modern, it is very “accessible” and tonal – very much in the fashion of John Williams and the late James Horner (there’s that cinematic reference). Accompanied by a lush string orchestra, these movements will stay with you for a long time. I conducted this piece in May with the composer present, and had the opportunity to discuss it with him at length.

In complete contrast to the
Sunrise Mass is one of the greats that has stood the test of time – Mozart’s Coronation Mass. This piece is muscular and energetic, colorful, engaging and relentlessly joyful. Full chorus alternates with individual and quartet solos throughout. The orchestra is colorful with winds, timpani and organ included.

These two works provide a tremendous variety of musical expression along with great audience appeal!


French Flair! More from Eric

posted Jun 4, 2014, 2:13 PM by Bob Rudi   [ updated Sep 5, 2014, 2:41 PM by admin user ]

20 May 2014

Some years ago, during the time I was Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Cleveland, OH, Chris and I hitched a ride on a tour bus from our hotel in Rome to the airport in Fiumicino, Italy. We were at the airport on a Sunday morning to catch our flight to Paris. Because we checked in so early for our flight, we were given the opportunity to “bump” to an earlier flight – which we did. Because we arrived in Paris so much earlier than we expected, we were able to attend mass and hear the organ improvisation that follows the mass at the great church of Saint-Sulpice. Fantastic! Great, grand edifice, incredible acoustics, and that growly, massive Cavaille-Coll organ. Following mass, we walked over to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and got there just in time to hear a concert by the Singing Angels of Cleveland, Ohio! This was a group I had not ever heard in their home of Cleveland (where I worked) but, through twist of fate, heard all the way over in Paris, France!

I tell you all this because the great cathedrals of Paris are the backdrop for and a major influence on the literature for the next season of CPOS – particularly the church of Saint-Sulpice. Independently, both Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) and Louis Vierne (1870-1937) spent some time working with the famous Charles-Marie Widor at Saint-Sulpice – Faure as choral director and Vierne as assistant organist. Faure was there for a few years before taking his ultimate church position at Church of the Madeleine. Vierne spent time at Saint-Sulpice before winning the job at Notre-Dame. Generally, in the French cathedrals, there is a large pipe organ in a back balcony (with no room for singers) and a smaller instrument in the front, behind the altar, that accompanies the choir located there. This architecture had an important influence on both of the works for the coming concert – French Flair!

The REQUIEM setting of Gabriel Faure has become one of the very favorites in the literature, both of singers and listeners. Faure chose to emphasize peace, comfort and hope over and above themes of judgment and justice in his REQUIEM. Faure was known as a talented writer of tunes, and this piece is full of great melodies – from the opening Kyrie, to the beautiful Agnus Dei for tenors, to the powerful Libera Me for baritone and chorus, to the famous Pie Jesu solo and the ethereal In Paradisum for sopranos. Great tunes, interesting harmonies, a bit of drama, and a whole lot of beauty – these are just some of the reasons this piece has become so popular. Don’t miss this opportunity to sing one of the favorites; and invite your friends! We will be using the Hinshaw edition, edited by John Rutter, which uses Faure’s original “chamber” orchestra scoring.

While Louis Vierne was at Saint-Sulpice, he wrote the SOLEMN MASS for liturgical use. Originally scored for choir, organ and orchestra, on the advice of Ch. M. Widor he re-scored it for choir and two organs. This is a work of great drama, power and passion, with great tunes and surprising contrasts. Not too long and not too difficult, don’t be surprised if this becomes one of your favorites. We will perform it in a rather authentic way, with the grand organ in the back balcony of Market Square Church growling away and alternating with the chorus and our little Hungarian portative organ in the front. The audience will get “washed” with sound from both directions.

Rehearsals take place on Tuesdays, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, beginning on September 9. Concert is November 16 at 3:00pm, with a dress rehearsal with orchestra on November 15 at 10:00am. I hope you can join us for this exciting sequence!

Eric Riley

French Flair

posted May 20, 2014, 6:39 PM by Bob Rudi   [ updated Sep 5, 2014, 2:41 PM by admin user ]

French Flair! presents two masterworks from turn-of-the-century Paris. With good reason, the REQUIEM setting of Gabriel Faure is one of the most well-loved works in all of the “oratorio” literature. Emphasizing peace, hope and eternal rest, Faure’s work is full of beautiful melodies and interesting harmonies. Gaining popularity each year, a lesser-known work is the SOLEMN MASS by Louis Vierne. Written for liturgical use, it is nevertheless a work of great power, drama and passion.

Both of these works had their “final” versions completed and first performances in Paris right at the turn of the century, in the years 1900 and 1901. Faure originally scored his REQUIEM for chorus, soprano and baritone soloists, organ and chamber orchestra and later re-worked it for full orchestra. Contemporary musical scholars have researched early manuscripts and sources to produce modern editions which convey Faure’s original, more intimate orchestration. Vierne originally composed his SOLEMN MASS for chorus, organ and orchestra and, on the advice of Ch. M. Widor, re-scored it for chorus and two organs.

The great Paris church of Saint-Sulpice links these composers together, as each spent time there working with Ch. M. Widor - Faure as choral director and Vierne as assistant organist. I have been to this wonderful edifice, attending mass and hearing the organ improvisation following mass on the magnificent Cavaille-Coll organ. As is typical in French cathedrals, the “main” organ is in a back balcony with no room for singers, while a smaller instrument accompanies the choir, located behind the altar in the front of the room. We will present the Vierne SOLEMN MASS at Market Square Church in this way, using the “grand orgue” in the back balcony as a foil to the chorus in the front, accompanied by our Hungarian portative organ. The Faure REQUIEM will be performed with the original “chamber” orchestra and organ.

As an interesting aside, both of these composers had to deal with diminished capacity, in terms of their sensory input. Louis Vierne was what we would call today “legally” blind from birth. Later in life, he had a number of successful operations which left him able to distinguish faces and see very large print. Gabriel Faure had to deal with increasing hearing loss as he aged, to the point of being completely deaf near the end of his life. Both overcame personal and professional tragedies to produce incredible bodies of work as composers, all of which express an undeniably French flair!

From the Fall 2013 Program

posted Nov 16, 2013, 4:21 AM by Bob Rudi   [ updated Nov 16, 2013, 4:21 AM ]

As a conductor, one of my real pleasures is discovering “new” music – new to me, that is. This is the case with Haydn’s Seven Last Words. Most of us will associate that title with a work by Theodore Dubois, which has been a staple of the oratorio literature for years. Haydn’s work, approximately a century earlier, began its life as an orchestral suite. A Spanish cardinal commissioned Haydn to compose a series of orchestral “meditations” to be used during services in Holy Week. Sometime later, Haydn produced a string quartet version that remains popular to this day. Later yet, Haydn encountered a performance in which a local musician had added vocal parts to his series of orchestral meditations. Haydn really liked the idea and hired a librettist with whom to collaborate on his own “oratorio” or “cantata” version, scored for orchestra, vocal soloists and chorus. The result was hailed by critics as one of Haydn’s best works, and Haydn himself agreed with this assessment. This was the last work Haydn conducted before his death in 1809.

I have chosen, in part, to present this work in translation from the original German because it lends a certain immediacy and power to the text and music, which is based on Jesus’ utterings from the cross, as related by the New Testament gospel writers. In addition to some moments of real drama (including a closing earthquake!), there is also much music that is disarmingly cheerful here – very much in the vein of his popular Creation oratorio. No doubt we have not only the 18th-century freedom from the weight of “original sin” expressed here, but also the freedom from sin and death that the Christ event represents for the Christian believer.

This oratorio version includes two purely instrumental movements, and each of seven choral movements are preceded by an unaccompanied choral presentation of the “word” on which the subsequent movement is based. The result of all of the above is a fresh and dramatic interpretation on the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. We all have been moved by our study and work on this great oratorio – we wish the same for you, our loyal audience.

Eric R. Riley

Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ

posted Oct 7, 2013, 9:46 AM by admin user   [ updated Oct 7, 2013, 9:51 AM by Bob Rudi ]

The music of Haydn is simply wonderful! There is a certain joy and gracefulness about it, no matter the subject matter. He considered his Seven Last Words of Christ to be among his best works, and the critics of his time agreed. 

This is an unusual work, in that it started life as an orchestral suite. A Spanish cardinal commissioned Haydn to produce a series of orchestral “meditations” on the so-called “seven last words” from the various Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. These were to be used in Holy Week services, alternating with the utterance and sermonizing upon these seven statements of Jesus on the cross. The piece became rather popular and, at the suggestion of his publisher, Haydn produced a string quartet version that still gets performed and recorded with some frequency in our time.

Some years later, Haydn encountered a performance of this work where the local musician had added a choral component. Haydn liked the idea, and hired a librettist to provide a text which he used to compose the choral and vocal solo portions of the “oratorio” version. Each of the seven “words” in the oratorio version is “spoken” by the unaccompanied chorus before the orchestra begins the formal movement.

Performances of the oratorio version are rather rare, so what a pleasure to present some of master Haydn’s best music in a way that is little heard in our time! Though rarely heard, there is also some familiarity here, as all the well-known and well-loved elements of his symphonies, string quartets, and the popular CREATION are here, along with surprising a capella singing and great drama.

The oratorio ends with an earthquake, so you don’t want to miss this!

Eric R. Riley

The Requiem Mass

posted Sep 6, 2012, 3:30 PM by admin user   [ updated Oct 8, 2013, 1:58 PM by Bob Rudi ]

The Requiem Mass (Missa pro Defunctis, Mass for the Dead), “one of the most beautiful and expressive in the Roman Missal,” is of very ancient origin. In pre-Apostolic times the Jews prayed that the immortal souls of the just might have requiem aeternam (“rest eternal”), and sources from the 2nd century mention this celebration of the Eucharist, as do the New Testament apocryphal Acts of John and the writings of Tertullian from the 3rd century.

The name Requiem (which is taken from the first word of the Introit: Requiem aeternam …, Rest eternal …) is used to refer to the Mass itself and to musical settings of the text (i.e., Verdi’s Requiem). The liturgy follows the same order as the Common Mass, but other texts are frequently added by composers as part of the Requiem which belong to the Burial Rite (Libera me, In paradisum) or come from the Psalms or other Biblical writings. Composers do not always follow the liturgical order of the movements in their musical settings; movements are sometimes omitted entirely, or combined in part with other movements, or repeated for musical purposes. These choices always offer insights into the ways a particular composer is thinking musically, theologically, and philosophically and are well worth careful attention.

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