Sometimes, opportunities come from unexpected places. Yesterday we saw the melding of classically trained voices with the rough and tumble world of professional football, and what an experience it was!
About a month ago, The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay was approached by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a question. Would we be willing to perform the National Anthem on October 30th at Raymond James Stadium? It would be at 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon, just before the kickoff when the Bucs played the Oakland Raiders.
This request put a lot of wheels in motion, ably handled by our Managing Director, Kara Dwyer. The first task would be to approach the Chorale and determine the interest level as to whether we could put together an ensemble of singers available on that Sunday. During rehearsal, Kara asked if there was interest. There were enough hands raised that we decided to proceed.
Next, we needed more details on the commitment from the Buccaneers. We found out that the task would consume a good part of that Sunday with a rehearsal and sound check on Sunday morning, followed by lunch courtesy of the Buccaneers, then performing at 1 PM on the field. We were also offered free tickets to any singers who wanted to stay for the game. Finally, we would be provided free parking in the employee parking lot and shuttle service to and from Raymond James Stadium. It was an excellent opportunity….a chance to sing before thousands and thousands of fans!
On Sunday, we had to be at the stadium at 9:45 AM, so we had to plan on being there with enough time to get from the parking lot to the stadium. Even at that time of the morning, the area around Raymond James Stadium becomes a very busy place, with traffic cones and police everywhere. Upon arriving at Raymond James Stadium, we were met by our escorts from the Buccaneers organization who would shepherd us to and from the field.
At 10:15 AM, we stood at the fifty-yard line for a sound check and rehearsal. Raymond James Stadium had recently upgraded their sound system, but Kara and Kevin decided to bring choral microphones from USF to ensure that our sound quality was optimized. We lined up and sang the arrangement arranged by Tenor William Renfroe. We sang a cappella, with only a b-flat from the pitch pipe by Alto Laura Smith-Weyl to get us started. Wow… the sound was amazing! After some microphone adjustments, we ran it a couple more times. The audio engineer who designed the sound system said it was the best choir he had ever heard.
We now had some time to get changed and enjoy our lunches, but a slight change in the schedule pushed the timeline forward a bit, as we had a photo opportunity at the pirate ship in the stadium that required us to be there in our concert dress by 11:30. We lined up along the railings on the ship and offered up our best smiles for the camera.
The next task was to get lined up to be out on the field by 12:45. The pre-game festivities included introducing the players and a demonstration by the cheerleaders got the fans noisily to their feet and ready for the game to start.
We then moved onto the field. Facing the players and behind them, thousands of fans, we prepared to do our duty. When we were introduced, a hush came over the crowd, Kevin gave us the downbeat and we began, singing The Star-Spangled Banner confidently from memory, our faces lifted towards the crowd. Behind us a military color guard stood at attention as a huge American flag was unfurled across the field just behind them. As we sang “and the rockets’ red glare”, rockets sped skyward, erupting loud booms as they exploded above us. As we reached the song’s conclusion, a KC-135 Strato-Tanker from MacDill Air Force Base flew over the stadium, an airborne salute to those who put their lives on the line to keep us free. Our finale was punctuated by thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd.
So much happened in so short a time with so many people involved that it is a bit difficult to absorb. However, I do believe that the music we offered made a difference to people who were watching and listening. Our voices joined as one, uniting all of us in our common love for our nation. Melody joined with harmony to create a sound that celebrated both our common experience and the differences that we offer. As we walked off the field, we received affirmation from people who thanked us for our musical contribution.
It left me feeling proud to be an American and thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a meaningful endeavor as a member of this Chorale.
by Brian Hathaway
by Brian Hathaway
This is a tale of three friends named Mike, Brian and Ludwig. It is a tale that transcends time and space, a tale of mortality and immortality. It is a tale of things that last and things that don’t, of joy and sorrow, but mostly it is about friendship through music. Let me start at the beginning.
I had just graduated from high school and as a boy from upstate New York was faced with changes my life. For the first time in my life, I was going to be away from home for an extended period of time as I began my freshman year at the SUNY at Buffalo. At the same time, my friend, Mike Debatt was facing a similar situation. The boy from Brooklyn was away from home too as a part of that same freshman class. We met each other when we joined the AFROTC Program. As classmates, we got to know each other well and discovered that our interests intersected in many ways. We both ended up as Political Science majors, and we both loved classical music. Within two years we were roommates in an apartment near school.
As we shared that apartment, we also shared our interest in music. Even with our meager resources as college students, we grew our collection of classical albums. The real cherished albums were produced by either Angel Records or Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, or DGG. They usually had the finest orchestras and the greatest selection of repertoire. Among the many composers we listened to, one of our favorites was Ludwig van Beethoven. There were times when the three of us would gather in that apartment, Ludwig, Mike and me, sharing in some of the greatest music of the last two centuries.
In 1970, the focus on Ludwig van Beethoven became quite intense, as Beethoven’s 200th birthday would fall on December 16th, 1970. I was always able to remember Ludwig’s birthday, as mine was one day earlier on December 15th. On that day, we all gathered in the apartment and I was given several gifts to open. I will never forget Mike’s gift. It was a DGG boxed set of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic. I was ecstatic! Beethoven’s birthday was going to be very special that year.
We spent many hours listening to that wonderful set. Beethoven’s famous symphonies like the “Eroica”, the “Pastoral” and his monumental 5th were a joy to hear, articulated by one of the great Beethoven interpreters of that age, Herbert von Karajan. Of all these symphonies, one stood out above all others, Beethoven’s 9th. In a stroke of genius, Beethoven included a choral finale in the fourth movement based upon Schiller’s poem “An die Freude” or “Ode to Joy”. The joining of orchestral and choral voices during the finale was a revolutionary step, but the product is simply amazing and unforgettable. Ludwig, Mike and I became fast friends, cemented in a common love of Ludwig’s amazing 9th.
In less than two years, our friendship entered a new phase. We graduated from college, accepted our USAF commissions and went to different parts of the country. Mike went to Navigator Training in California. I went off to Illinois to Aircraft Maintenance Officer Training. In a way our lives intersected again, as we both ended up in the Strategic Air Command, Mike as a B-52 crew member in Georgia, and I as a Maintenance Officer in New Hampshire. We still got together on a few occasions. He was in my wedding party and I was in his. We maintained contact with letters and phone calls as time went on. We both ended up separating from the USAF and moved into civilian jobs. Mike moved to Rhode Island and went into the investment community. I moved to Saratoga Springs, New York and went into manufacturing.
Living in Saratoga had a neat benefit. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center was only four miles from my home and was the summer home of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. While there I had the chance to visit our friend Ludwig. The Philadelphia Orchestra was performing Beethoven’s 9th! I had never seen Beethoven’s 9th performed live and couldn’t wait to go to the concert. What an experience! As I sat on the lawn on a gorgeous summer night, I looked at the heavens above me while I was transcended by Schiller’s words and Beethoven’s music; “Ahnest du den Schopfer, Welt? Such ihn uber’m Sternenzelt. Uber Sternen muss ehr wohnen.” Yes, I felt the creator, knowing that He dwelt beyond the stars. O Freude, what joy!
As the years went by, our respective lives changed yet again. I moved to Florida many years ago and began feeding my love of music by joining our church choir and singing. Mike moved into management with his company and accepted a position as Branch Manager in Albany, New York, my hometown. We had an opportunity to visit while we were on vacation in New York about fifteen years ago and had a chance to reminisce and share our friendship.
In 2005, I had yet another opportunity to visit with Ludwig. The Florida Orchestra and The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay were performing Beethoven’s 9th. Lynn and I went to the concert and savored that wonderful music yet again, but with a slightly different feeling as we knew several of the orchestra members and had friends who sang in the Master Chorale. During that concert, I told myself that, should my schedule permit, I would love to be a part of the Chorale.
In late 2005, the lives of Mike and I intersected again. Mike had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. As he and his wife Jan sought treatment from doctors throughout the northeast, they were given the news that the tumor was inoperable. They came to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, where surgeons felt that they may be able to excise the tumor and offer Mike a chance to recover. The surgery was scheduled for November. Mike and I made tentative plans to meet for dinner once the surgery was complete. Unfortunately, the surgery did not go as planned and complications set in. The next time I saw Mike at Moffitt, he was in a coma from which he would not recover. I did my best to support Jan and her family as she faced difficult decisions. Mike was placed in a hospice facility in Dade City. I made several trips to the Hospice to see Mike. My last trip was the night before he passed away in January, 2006.
A year later in April, 2007, we all returned to the Dade City Hospice for a reunion. Mike’s family had made a donation to the facility and was awarded a plaque to honor their contribution. Lynn and I went to the reunion, where we met Mike’s former B-52 crew. I decided to honor Mike by singing a song called “Eternal Father Strong to Save”, which asks help from God in caring for those in the military. We all shared our memories of Mike, and I recounted the story of the Beethoven boxed set he gave to me which I still own and treasure.
In August of 2007, I learned that The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay was holding auditions for new singers. Since my work schedule had changed and would permit me to attend rehearsals, I signed up to audition. We were told to bring a favorite song to sing as part of the audition. I selected “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the Master Chorale that I passed the audition and was now a member of the ensemble.
At the end of my third year in the Chorale, I learned that we were scheduled to perform Beethoven’s 9th in 2011. Once again, I was ecstatic. I would now have the opportunity to become even more intimate with Ludwig’s beloved 9th. Since then I have had the honor of performing Beethoven’s 9th two more times, once with The Florida orchestra and once with the Cleveland Orchestra in Miami.
Oh, by the way, the last building I see before I turn into the USF School of Music parking lot on the way to Master Chorale rehearsal each week is the Moffitt Cancer Center. Having spent so many hours there visiting Mike, I think of him every time I see it.
This week, we are in final rehearsal for the opening concert of The Florida Orchestra’s 2016-2017 season, featuring Poulenc’s “Gloria” and Beethoven’s beloved 9th Symphony. 150 voices are prepared to join with the Florida Orchestra and soloists as we put life into the notes printed on a page. Under Maestro Michael Francis’ direction, we will combine our preparation with Dr. James K. Bass and Brett Karlin to create a memorable event for all in attendance to hear.
I know it will be both memorable and emotional for me. As I stand on the risers, my mind will go back to that apartment in Buffalo, the DGG boxed set, and a pair of friendships going back more than forty years. Ludwig went on to be with the Creator centuries ago. Ten years ago, Mike joined him. I know that they are both watching and will be at that performance with all of us on that stage.
As for me, I will sing for Mike: “Einem Freund gepruft im Tod”
by Brian Hathaway
I wrote in a blog a couple of years ago about our motto, “Friendly, Flexible, Fast, and Fun.” In my humble opinion, this motto is an excellent characterization of what makes the Master Chorale a unique and valued contributor to the Tampa Bay music scene. This year we will be challenged to put that motto to work! Allow me to explain.
Yes, our flexibility will be tested as we transition between directors, but the real opportunity is to be prepared by extremely talented and experienced musicians who will maintain the high standards that Dr. Bass led us to achieve.
One of the joys that I have experienced with the Master Chorale is how “friendly” and welcoming we are to all those who come through our doors. I have heard numerous comments from guest artists, clinicians and directors that we have a warm, welcoming and friendly demeanor that makes the work they need to accomplish with us so much more “fun” to do.
That is the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay….Friendly, Flexible, Fast and Fun! We will live our motto to the fullest during the 2016-2017 season.
CD Release Singer Reception
The 2016 Christmas Carol Competition is coming up!
2016 Contest Details - Submission Deadline: October 14, 2016
Download Application and Submission Instructions pdf
Instrumentation for 2016 Competition: Choir & Piano.
Voicing: SATB, 150-voice auditioned chorus, medium to difficult level (may voice up to SSAATTBB divisi) & Piano.
Text: English or Latin text only, sacred or secular, medieval to present, appropriate for concert setting; proof of public domain or author’sText: English or Latin text only, sacred or secular, medieval to present, appropriate for concert setting; proof of public domain or author’s written permission for use of text is required. (Please note: most modern translations of the Bible are protected by copyright). The music for this Carol should be original - not an arrangement of an existing carol.
Duration: no longer than 5 minutes.
Prize: $750 will be awarded to the composer of the winning composition
Performance: The winning composition will premiere in Tampa Bay early December 2 - 4, 2016. If possible, the winner of the contest shall arrange to be present at the premiere. Additionally, The Master Chorale reserves the right to the premiere commercial recording of the winner.
Originality: The work must be an original unpublished composition with no prior public performances. Arrangements of compositions that have received a public performance will not be accepted. Any public performance before December 2, 2016, whether it is by students, faculty, amateurs, professionals (paid or unpaid), and whether it was in a private, public, or academic venue, disqualifies the composition from the competition. A ‘public performance’ also includes formally attended public reading sessions, broadcast, or any recording that has been commercially released.
Deadline: Score and application materials must be received on or before October 14, 2016. Results will be announced on October 28, 2016. The winner of the Christmas Carol Competition shall provide final performance score on or before November 1, 2016.
Age restriction: The competition is open to any United States resident, age 18 and above.
How to apply: All scores & recordings must be anonymous and marked only with a pseudonym of the composer’s choice. Materials that have not had all identifiable markings removed will not be accepted. The composer’s pseudonym and the title of the composition must be marked on each score and recording.
Mail materials to this address:
Master Chorale of Tampa Bay
Attn: Christmas Carol Competition
30382 USF Holly Drive
Tampa, FL 33620-3038
JULY 23, 2016 - 10 am - 1 pm
Doreen Rao, conductor
Summer Sing is the chance to sing great choral music with people who love it as much as you do. Our 2016 Summer Sing will be led by Doreen Rao, internationally renowned conductor and teacher.
Network with Tampa Bay singers, connect with friends, and make beautiful music together!
RSVP by July 15, 2016 by submitting the online form below or by calling our office at 813-974-7726.
Limited observer seats are available.
Participation is free and music will be provided on loan for the day for those that RSVP by the deadline. There is no formal concert.
Location: USF School of Music Choral Rehearsal Hall, Tampa
Parking is FREE.
Click here for directions.
Your Summer Sing with Doreen Rao experience will include...
Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Singing
A contemplative approach to singing through breathing, movement and vocalization; The session will explore the art of stillness for choral singers as a way to reclaim mind space (focus), encourage mindful breathing, develop deep listening and beautiful intonation.
Cross-Cultural Repertoire for Community and College Choirs
Based on the values of diversity and inclusion, the session will explore a global-style repertoire of contemporary compositions and world musics that inspire “world musicianship” and social awareness.
From “The Real Book” - Masterworks and Musical Identity
A journey from the past into the future through The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay Repertoire.
We are pleased to announce the promotion of Kara Dwyer from Director of Operations to Managing Director. Kara has been with The Master Chorale for over 10 years both as an employee and singer in the soprano section, beginning her journey with us as our Office Administrator in 2005, promoted to Office Manager in 2009, and then to Director of Operations in 2011. Kara has been intimately involved in every aspect of the Chorale's administration for many years. We are excited for her to take an even larger role in The Master Chorale, overseeing all administrative functions of the Chorale's operations including increased responsibilities in the areas of development and personnel management.
Kara received her Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Tampa in 2009 and her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Management and International Business from the University of Maine in 2005. She also attended Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia in partial fulfillment of her international concentration. Kara has previously worked as the Director of Operations for Gulf Coast Youth Choirs (now Lumina Youth Choirs), Marketing Coordinator for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, and Assistant Office Manager for the Maine Center for the Arts (now Collins Center for the Arts).
During Kara's tenure here, she has implemented protocols which have improved efficiency in many areas of the Chorale's administrative operations. Our Board looks forward to working collaboratively with Kara to move our organization forward, serve the community, and continue our deep commitment to artistic excellence especially during our upcoming transition and search for a new Music and Artistic Director.
Please join me in congratulating Kara on her promotion to Managing Director.
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Exciting 2016-2017 Season
The Master Chorale launches its 38th season in July with an exciting roster of guest choral conductors, powerful concert collaborations, a highly anticipated CD release, and an inspiring new educational program that will engage more than 1,000 students in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. The foundation of our 38th season includes three concert series with The Florida Orchestra conducted by Michael Francis (Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Poulenc's Gloria, Durufle's Requiem, and Mahler's Resurrection Symphony), a must-see holiday concert series conducted by Joseph Holt, and a new collaboration with the Sarasota Orchestra and Gloria Musicae to perform the Verdi Requiem.
Stay tuned for our full schedule announcement and information about our community Summer Sing on July 23 and Master Chorale auditions in early August, both taking place at the University of South Florida School of Music.
by Betsy Clement
As I turned the steering wheel to ease onto the interstate, my head was filled with sound, and it seemed my car was floating rather than rolling, as I pressed the accelerator and picked up speed. We had just finished our rehearsal ending with Arnesen's “Flight Song,” and my mind refused to stop replaying the song's excruciatingly luscious notes as I headed toward Pinellas County.
The beauty of the music left me feeling suspended somewhere above the ground, with that sensation of overwhelming freedom I have on those rare, but unequivocally satisfying occasions when I dream of flying. What is it about this music that would not let me go and continued to invade my consciousness? Did other singers come away from the rehearsal feeling the same thing? And, if it does this to the singers in rehearsals, imagine what effect it will have on an audience.
The soprano line is particularly delicate: its melody so sweet as to elicit tears. Especially as a soprano, I think of those soaring high notes as the closest we lowly bipeds will ever come to avian flight. This piece abundantly reinforces that notion. Arnesen uses suspensions, dissonance, and stunning tone progressions in the lower voices to support the lofting sopranos. The resulting wall of sound lives up to the song's name, placing listeners' and singers' spirits alike squarely on the runway to go airborne. And “Flight Song” is not the only piece in the upcoming program to do that.
Dr. Bass made a comment in a subsequent rehearsal about having a “visceral reaction” to this music. Truly, it's hard not to. But it also requires a keen balance of concentrated precision, which he so skillfully draws from us, and, when appropriate, the ability to let our voices off the chain just enough to let the music be beautiful. At the moment when these things come together, something magical happens. You may feel a breath of air from the beat of wings. They are your own.
I felt a little silly that my driving style seemed to mimic the music in my head, but I could not help that it had taken me to some ethereal plane that I did not wish to leave. I've been telling my friends to get tickets for this concert that is filled with drop-dead gorgeous music. I'm also telling them to bring kleenex.
General Admission, reservations strongly encouraged.
Sneak peak at the music on the program...
by Betsy Clement
I was wondering if it would be possible for the sum of any evening to equal the amazing meal we had just finished at a local Tampa restaurant, but if anything could, it would be The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay in its holiday offering on December 14, 2015. As we took the two remaining seats in the Tampa Theatre's center section, I had no idea that dinner would be only the first course in a magical journey spun by an old friend, which just happened to be the area's premiere choral organization.
Perusing the program, I noticed that several of the pieces were settings I had performed before. I had been a member of The Master Chorale more than a decade earlier and recalled my participation in many of the group's holiday concerts. These were numbers that were among my favorites, and I was delighted that they would be heard again this evening.
Although I never admitted it, I think I missed being a part of the Chorale, but that may have been partial motivation for purchasing the tickets in the first place. A “practical” career had upstaged my commitment to making beautiful music, but, I reasoned, so much the better that I was here as an audience member. I could fully appreciate the group's ability to skillfully render these pieces, and listen to them without the distractions of performing. As it turned out, I was unprepared for the emotional impact this perspective would bring.
Dr. Bass took the podium. The lights dimmed, the baton raised. A single solo soprano voice began to float the first verse of “Once in Royal David's City,” as if she were the angel herself announcing the birth of the Holy One. The choir joined her for the second verse, cherubim complementing seraphim. I closed my eyes at the beauty of the sound and let it wash over me. It was clear this would be no ordinary performance as the music immersed its listeners in a vision of heaven opening to let light into our dim, ordinary little world.
Each cherished song the group sang was a precious gift unwrapped for this special season. Each left a bittersweet ache as it invoked memories of Christmases past with family and loved ones. I had goosebumps, and that would have been enough for me, until their performance of the piece that holds a special place in my heart – the one where words fail to explain what it does to your soul when you hear it.
I held my breath. As the opening chords were sung, the theatre faded away and in its place I was in England at Kings College Chapel, the soft lights illuminating immense buttresses, jewel-toned stained glass and sixty-foot fan-vaulted ceilings. Rows of ancient pews marched away into the vast expanse of the cathedral nave. It was the perfect setting and these were the perfect voices for Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium.
I was in the Master Chorale in 1996 when the group sang the European premiere of this piece. Since then, we have all talked about how it was one of those mountain top experiences that was so powerful it has stayed with us ever since. Even twenty years later, that extraordinary moment is still one of the benchmarks against which I measure so many other things I have done. It could only have been described as magic – a tour de force that left no dry eyes in the Cambridge chapel that night, including those of the singers, and sent the members of the London Bach Choir, who were with us for a joint performance of the Berlioz Requiem, scrambling to see where they could get their own copies of the Lauridsen's spectacularly beautiful music.
The immediate performance was a compelling invocation of that other time and place so long ago and so far away, but how delicious it was to live it again in this new iteration. The music swelled with the sweetest of discords, resolved and then built again, soaring pure highs and soft, murmuring lows. I could feel tears filling my eyes, reprising the exquisite joy that only such consummate beauty can rip from the heart. It would not be enough to say I was moved. Those musical wings were transporting me to heaven again, if only for a tiny fraction of time.
I reached for my husband's hand. He gave me a kleenex. He was there, too.
We were sorry to see the concert end – while satisfied, still wanting more. For me, it was a little like finishing the best book I had ever read, then wondering if the next one could possibly measure up. I might be able to find it, but where?
As we filed out of the theatre, there was a table near the entrance where Kara Dwyer was selling Master Chorale recordings. We stopped to peruse the merchandise and chat. Some of the singers were standing nearby, a few of whom we knew from our time with the Chorale many years ago. It was pleasant to reconnect with those friends as Kara learned we were former members.
“We're doing the Brahms Requiem in March,” Kara told me. “Why don't you come sing with us?” The invitation was unexpected and caught my interest. She didn't know I had sung the Brahms in past performances with the Chorale.
As fortune would have it, I had recently retired from my office career, so there were no work commitments that would get in the way of a commute from my home in Dunedin to rehearsals at USF, or the extra time off for performance weeks that I could never get. On my bucket list was a vow to sing more, or more accurately, resume singing. Kara handed me information about auditions. I told her I would think about it.
As I left the theatre, I had that sense of peace that comes from knowing I had been in the right place at the right time. I think I found my book, and am writing its first chapter.
The Master Chorale Beat