All three virtual choirs will premiere on our American Voices Virtual Concert on April 24, 2021 at 7pm.
- "My Heart Be Brave" by Marques Garrett
- "No Time" by Susan Brumfield
- "Flower Into Kindness" by Jake Runestad
Rehearsing online has it's silver lining in the sense that we have had more opportunities to connect with and learn from the composers and conductors of the contemporary choral music on our program. We were delighted that Marques Garrett, Susan Brumfield, and Jake Runestad were all able to join us and lead online rehearsals in preparation for our virtual choir recordings of their music. In addition, each of them presented workshops to our singers on spirituals as a musical genre, non-idiomatic choral music of Black composers, and American folk singing.
All three virtual choirs will premiere on our American Voices Virtual Concert on April 24, 2021 at 7pm.
by Brian Hathaway
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”
To me the larger nugget of wisdom in this saying is that things don’t always go our way in life, but when we encounter an obstacle, how we respond is a measure of who we are and what we are made of. We can either accept defeat or we can decide that we will overcome the obstacle by turning it into an opportunity to achieve a greater good.
In March 2020, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay was handed a big lemon in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we were in the final preparations for a concert of Bach’s “St. John Passion” with The Florida Orchestra, we all went into hiatus as part of efforts to slow the spread of the pandemic. Live singing was put on the back burner as arts organizations around the world cancelled rehearsal and concert schedules.
The Master Chorale Board and staff, with the advice of our Artistic Advisory Committee, decided to continue rehearsing and singing in whatever way we could, including the production of new virtual choirs with a top-tier virtual choir production company, Arts Laureate.
Our Artistic Director selected the Spiritual “My Lord, What a Mornin’”, arranged by Harry Thacker Burleigh as our first submission for the 2020-2021 season. Harry Burleigh (12/2/1866-9/12/1949) was an American classical composer, arranger, and professional singer known for his baritone voice. The first Black composer instrumental in developing characteristically American music, Burleigh made Black music available to classically trained artists both by introducing them to spirituals and by arranging spirituals in a more classical form. “My Lord, What a Mornin’” was one of the many Spirituals he arranged.
Burleigh was accepted, with a scholarship, to the prestigious National Conservatory of Music in New York. He obtained the scholarship with the help of Frances MacDowell, the mother of composer Edward MacDowell, and would eventually play double bass in the Conservatory's orchestra. To help support himself during his studies, Burleigh worked for Mrs. MacDowell as a handyman. Reputedly, Burleigh, who later became known worldwide for his excellent baritone voice, sang spirituals while cleaning the Conservatory's halls, which drew the attention of the conservatory's director, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, who asked Burleigh to sing for him. Burleigh introduced Antonín Dvořák to Black American music, which influenced some of Dvořák's most famous compositions and led him to say that Black music would be the basis of American classical music.
One of the things I like about having Brett as our Artistic Director is that, in addition to helping us master the music we are learning, Brett devotes rehearsal time to educating us about the music we are learning. I have found that being more informed makes me a better singer and that we collectively as an ensemble are better able to present the music as the composer intended for it to be heard. With the advent of our virtual choir rehearsals, Brett has brought guest composers and conductors into our virtual rehearsals who have helped us develop a more refined understanding of the music.
Watch the premiere of our virtual performance of
"My Lord, What a Mornin'"
available on Sunday, November 22 at 6:30 AM EST
This exquisite spiritual arrangement by Harry Burleigh was conducted by Brett Karlin, Artistic Director, recorded from our homes (in our closets, bathrooms, and living rooms) and produced by Arts Laureate. We are grateful to our generous anonymous donors for supporting this performance. Watch the video on our YouTube channel starting this Sunday morning. The video will also be available through Arts Axis Florida shortly after the premiere.
About the Music: “My Lord, What a Mornin’” by Harry Burleigh first appeared in Slave Songs of the United States (1867), the first authoritative collection of this repertoire published after the Civil War, as “Stars Begin to Fall.” Burleigh’s arrangement embraces a simple and meditative setting with rich harmonies that seem to hint at double meanings. Originally conceived and performed by singers who learned the song without a printed text, the homophonous coincidence of the words “morning” and “mourning” are embraced in Burleigh’s bitter-sweet arrangement.
About the Composer: Henry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh played a major role in the development of American art music in the 20th Century, having composed a diverse repertoire of over two hundred works. He was the first black composer instrumental in developing characteristically American music, and made black music available to classically trained artists both by introducing them to traditional spirituals and by arranging them in a European-classical style. Burleigh also introduced famed composer Antonin Dvořák to Black American music, which influenced some of his (Dvořák’s) most famous compositions and led him to say that Black American music is the basis of the American classical music sound. In addition, Burleigh was an accomplished baritone, meticulous music editor, and charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).
Let Your VOICE be Heard!
Cast Your VOTE by Nov. 3rd!
"The vote is precious. It is almost sacred.
It's the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we've got to use it."
- Congressman John Lewis
Presenting our first Virtual Choir "The Star Spangled Banner" arranged by William Renfroe, sung from our homes under the direction of Artistic Director, Brett Karlin.
The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay celebrates the diversity of our singers, audiences, and community through music. Our staff and Board fervently oppose all forms of hatred, bigotry, and racial injustice and we commit to using our voices and programs to support a just, loving, and accepting society. We are appalled, outraged and heartbroken by the anti-Black discrimination, hate, and violence that has led to the death of George Floyd and so many others, and we are disturbed by the unconscionable violent response toward peaceful demonstrations.
Although we actively seek to expand the diversity of our membership, our Master Chorale membership is mostly non-Black. As a result, no matter how hard we try, we can never fully comprehend what Black Americans face every day. Although it will take time, we are committed to reflecting inwardly to identify actionable steps that we can take as an organization to participate in positive change, and we are determined that any intentional and unintentional racial bias in our organization will be eliminated. Earlier this year we adopted the slogan, “The Voice of Tampa Bay.” This line is aspirational for us considering there are still many voices not represented in our Master Chorale. We commit to actively recruiting more people of color to every aspect of our organization.
Music has the power to connect us all, to affect change, and to transcend all societal barriers. One of our singers reminded us that “We’ve sung music that expresses the suffering of an entire people. We’ve cried in shared grief at the raw emotion these works force us to experience for the barest glimpse into some of the worst kinds of human suffering. How can we sing these things yet not boldly say ‘it is intolerable’?” It is intolerable! And we hope that, in sharing that glimpse into the Black American Experience through song, we help lift up voices left unheard for far too long. With that in mind we humbly share our recording of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (informally known as the “Black National Anthem”) from our Peace Project CD recorded in 2012 and featuring soloist Sharon Scott.
The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay Board and Staff
We have recently made some additional tough decisions affecting the remainder of our season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are committed to bringing you great choral music with the safety and health of our community in mind.
Read on for our event changes, impact on our organization, and ways you can help.
We thank you for continuing to be there for us and look forward to the days when we can gather together and share live beautiful music with you again.
Event Cancelations & Postponements
What does this mean for us?
LOSS IN INCOME:
OUR INTERNAL STRATEGY:
How you can help
Your donation to The Master Chorale can be made:
Thank you for being there for us! We'll be in touch soon and look forward to bringing you, our community, together again through stellar concerts in the near future.
From the Risers: Encountering Messiah
by Brian Hathaway
G.F. Handel’s Messiah has remained a perennial favorite, primarily performed around the Christmas Season. My own personal connection with Messiah began many years ago, culminating in a performance of the complete work in December 2019 with The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and The Florida Orchestra.
MORE PHOTOS BELOW
My journey to Messiah
It all started with Ruth Passenger way back in the late 1950’s. I was a student at Roessleville Elementary School in Colonie, NY just west of Albany. Miss Passenger was our music teacher and I remember attending her classes which were held in the school cafeteria, as there was no space for a dedicated Music Room. Instruction materials included a roll away blackboard, textbooks and a portable record player, which back then were called Victrolas, even if they were not made by RCA Victor.
I still can clearly see Miss Passenger in my mind’s eye. What I remember most about her was her love of music and her desire to connect us with the beauty inherent in great music. I can still remember a pivotal moment when she played a recording of “The Swan”, from Camille Saint-Seans’ Carnival of the Animals. I was awestruck. Although I can’t clearly remember when it happened, I am sure she also introduced us to some of the choruses from Handel’s Messiah, most certainly “For Unto Us a Child is Born” and the “Hallelujah Chorus”.
Miss Passenger must have detected a spark within me. She encouraged me to study an instrument (Violin) and to join the school chorus. When I was in sixth grade, I was one of three or four students representing Roessleville Elementary selected to sing in the Suburban Council Honor Chorus. I still remember the music festival concert that we performed in and can still name the song titles we sang.
Following elementary school, I took music classes in Junior High, but did not join chorus, as extra-curricular activities were more difficult to attend, with junior high school being farther away. I recall about that time my parents bought a console TV that had an AM-FM radio built in. The FM band was something new, and in listening to it, I found a classical station, WFLY in Troy. Now, here was an opportunity to hear more of the music that Miss Passenger introduced me to. I remember that I was seen by my friends as someone different, because they would talk about Rock and Roll, and I would chime in talking about Mozart or Beethoven. Don’t get me wrong. I liked Rock and Roll but hearing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony piqued my interest quite a bit more than Elvis.
As I was starting to enter high school, my parents decided to invest in a Stereo and a shopping mall was built just a half mile from my home with the first R. H. Macy store outside of NYC. Now, I could invest in vinyl and listen to the music I wanted to when I wanted to. Macy’s had a decent sized record department and as I perused the shelves, one album stood out over all the others. It was Handel’s Messiah, a Columbia double LP by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had to have it! I plunked down my hard-earned cash for my first purchase of a classical album and couldn’t wait to play it on our new stereo. I listened to that album repeatedly and dove into the cover notes to learn all I could about this marvelous work. I treasure that album and still have it stored away with my vinyl LP’s.
Messiah became one of my favorite classical works and I always pulled it out for listening, particularly during the Christmas and Easter Seasons. High school, then college came and went, then marriage, four years in the Air Force and raising a young family. Although I always sang in church, I did not have time to pursue other musical activities until I joined The Master Chorale.
Joining The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay
Prepare Handel's Messiah in five weeks... GO!
The challenge we were faced with was a reduced amount of time to prepare the Chorale for the Messiah performances, with only five weeks to prepare after finishing our November concert series with Eric Whitacre and The Florida Orchestra. This was the shortest preparation time I had seen for a major work with the Chorale. Most of the cadences allowed for about 8 weeks of preparation time. Even though we had a lot of new singers, I was buoyed by the knowledge that many of our members had repeated exposure to Messiah, and these folks would provide the foundation to support the ensemble’s task of mastering the music. I also felt confident in Brett Karlin, our Artistic Director, who was passionate about early music and Messiah in particular.
Three Rehearsals, Four Concerts, Five Venues, Over Seven Days... right before Christmas.
Christmas preparations always create a hectic time, and this year was no exception. Because we were performing Messiah on four different days, we had to start our concert rehearsals on Monday instead of Tuesday. This meant that we would be singing every day for seven days. I called it the “Messiah Marathon”. When concert week arrived, our first task was the piano dress rehearsal with Florida Orchestra Director Michael Francis. We engaged in selective reviews of each chorus with Maestro Francis applying his practiced ear to the defining segments of each chorus, helping us shape the sound to bring out the best combination of our voices to combine with the orchestra. By 9:30 PM we had completed the rehearsal. Now it was “game on” with the orchestra and then dress rehearsal with the soloists and the orchestra. It was with a sense of confidence that we proceeded on to our four performances. We were ready!
Most Memorable Moments
With the "Messiah Marathon" now over after three rehearsals and four performances in seven days, it was probably the best concert series I experienced in my 13 years with The Master Chorale and The Florida Orchestra. We had standing ovations, whoops and cheers after every performance. In the discussions I had with concert-goers after each performance, I heard words like “superlative”, “best ever”, and “amazing”. The soloists were all just outstanding. Some of my most memorable moments:
Thank you so much to Brett Karlin and all in The Master Chorale who prepared this monumental work in just five weeks. Over 60 years ago when I first heard music from Messiah emanating from that little Victrola in Miss Passenger’s music class, I never dreamed that I would participate in performing it in front of literally thousands of people, helping to bring Handel’s sacred oratorio to life in concert halls and churches. The joy and wonder I saw on the faces of audience members and kudos I heard following each concert are memories that I will always cherish.
Listen to the broadcast of this concert on April 12 beginning at 2pm on Classical WSMR 89.1 & 103.9, stream online at wsmr.org.
Dear Friends of The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay,
We are saddened to say that the difficult decision has been made to cancel all three of our performances of Bach's St. John Passion with The Florida Orchestra scheduled for March 20, 21, and 22. We exist to bring people together through music, but physically bringing people together is not the healthiest decision right now.
While we are deeply disappointed that we will not be able to share this incredible work with you after 10 weeks of intense and diligent rehearsals, we are vastly more concerned with the health and well-being of our community and especially of those that are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click here for The Florida Orchestra's update (published 3/13/20) which addresses questions about tickets purchased for the St. John Passion performances.
Our concert plans for our "Two Cathedrals" performances on April 24 & 26 are currently going on as planned. However, these plans could change. If we find it necessary to make any future changes, we will let you know as soon as we can.
Please consider supporting The Master Chorale and The Florida Orchestra, as well as other arts organizations in our community, with extra love and tax-deductible treasure. We will all undoubtedly experience significant losses from the cancellation of these and other planned events.
We thank you for being there for us and look forward to bringing you, our community, together again through stellar concerts in the near future.
Brett Karlin, Artistic Director & Kara Dwyer, Managing Director
NYC 40th Anniversary Tour includes Carnegie Hall & the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
June 16 at 2:00 pm
Located at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan
The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has received a prestigious invitation to perform Poulenc's "Gloria" at the famous Carnegie Hall on June 16th under the baton of Dr. James K. Bass, former Master Chorale Artistic Director (2010-2016). We could not be more thrilled to accept this invitation and close out our 40th Anniversary Season with this unforgettable experience! Carnegie Hall Tickets
Also on the program, and performed by other artists, will be Dan Forrest's "Requiem for the Living," Mark Hayes "Te Deum," and Brahms' "Schicksalslied."
CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
June 13 at 6:00 pm
1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY
Members of The Master Chorale will also present a beautiful performance conducted by Artistic Director, Brett Karlin, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on the evening of June 13th. Info about the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
This concert will include excerpts from our "Awake and Sing" repertoire including:
by Brian Hathaway
I have a confession to make. I am an unabashed space geek. I have always been fascinated by astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. When the race to the Moon with the Soviet Union heated up during the 1960’s I was there to witness it all. I was 12 years old when John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962 and 19 years old when Apollo 11 went to the moon and back in 1969. That passion has not waned. Several years ago, while attending a lecture by six-time Space Shuttle veteran astronaut F. Story Musgrave, I told him “Boy, I would love to spend an hour with you over a cup of coffee.” He told me “Yes….I could see it in your eyes…..you’re a believer.”
So, what does that have to do with Franz Josef Haydn and “The Creation”? Well in a manner of speaking, Haydn was a space geek too! But….I am getting ahead of myself a bit. First, there is the back story about how Papa Haydn came to compose his monumental oratorio, “The Creation.”
Those who have researched Franz Josef Haydn’s “The Creation” are aware that Haydn did not start composing an oratorio until late in life. The catalyst for his decision came from his trips to London in 1791 and 1794. Following the death of Prince Niklaus I in 1790, Anton, his successor at the Esterhazy Palace, had no interest in music and disbanded the Court Orchestra and released Haydn from his responsibilities. Anton’s father prior to his death granted Haydn a pension of 1000 Florins per year for the rest of his life. For the first time in decades, he was free to travel and accepted the invitation of violinist and promoter Johann Peter Salomon, who acted as concert Manager for Haydn’s first visit to England, to travel there. He arrived in London on January 1, 1791 and stayed until July 1792.
Haydn returned to London in January 1794 and stayed into 1795. During his visits to England, Haydn composed 250 works, a body of work equal to or larger than the career output of many other composers of his time. It was during these visits that Haydn was introduced to the oratorio form. George Frederic Handel was a revered composer in England, and Haydn attended festivals that featured Handel’s music. One such festival had over three thousand singers performing Handel’s “Messiah,” the likes of which Haydn had never seen nor heard. He was absolutely dumbfounded by the experience.
G. H. Purday (1799-1885) reported that his music-seller father had been present at that very moment. Josef Haydn mentioned that he would like to write an oratorio but was wondering where to start. François Barthélemon, leader of the London orchestra that played Haydn's symphonies, picked up a Bible and said: "There, take that, and begin at the beginning."
Upon leaving England in 1795, Johann Salomon presented Haydn with a poem titled “The Creation of the World.” Apparently, the poem had been offered to Handel, but he never set it to music. Haydn presented the poem to his friend, mentor, and librettist Baron Gottfried van Swieten when he returned to Vienna, and it was van Swieten who used the poem to develop a libretto for “The Creation” in both English and German.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. On June 15, 1792 during his first London tour, Josef Haydn visited astronomer William Herschel at his observatory near Slough. In addition to being an accomplished musician and composer, William Herschel was famous for discovering the planet Uranus ten years earlier. William Herschel was a consummate lens grinder, and he and his sister Caroline spent hours and hours grinding ever larger lenses to construct telescopes to view the heavens in great detail. During his career, William Herschel built over 400 telescopes. Some say that Herschel invited Haydn to view the heavens through his main telescope, a rather massive construction in the yard behind his home that was 40 feet long and had mirrors 48 inches in diameter. For 50 years, it was the largest telescope in the world.
There is only one problem. The guest book at the observatory in Slough for that day shows that Haydn visited during the day, when it was not possible to view the heavens. Furthermore, William Herschel was not there that day and was visiting friends in Scotland. However, his sister Caroline, who was his assistant, was there, and she most likely took Haydn on a tour of the observatory and had discussions with him about their observations.
Of course, in 1792 there were no cameras. To document their observations, astronomers would sketch them, and it is a good possibility that Caroline supported the descriptions of the “wonder of His works” with sketches of the more captivating images, such as Saturn with its rings, or drawings of nebulae, such as the NGC 1514 Planetary Nebula discovered in 1790 by William Herschel. In fact, on 26 February 1783, Caroline made her own first discovery. She had found a nebula that was not included in the Messier catalogue. That same night, she independently discovered NGC 205, the second companion star cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy.
One can only imagine what went through Haydn’s mind as he listened to Caroline Herschel and looked at those sketches of the heavens. Part of the discussion could have included the nebulae they were discovering and their role as the birthplace of stars. In a stroke of genius, Haydn starts out “The Creation” with a musical depiction of chaos before the formation of the Universe. One of the most profound moments to me is when the chorus begins singing “and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said: ‘let there be light’, and there was LIGHT!” What a tremendous opening! Could the inspiration for that opening have come from Caroline Herschel, a diminutive woman with a height of only four feet two inches?
She was a noted astronomer, accomplished lens grinder, also a highly regarded singer and soloist in a time when female scientists and soloists were as scarce as hen’s teeth. My hat goes off to Caroline. She became an acknowledged expert in astronomy and was honored for her work. The gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society was awarded to her in 1828 "for her recent reduction, to January 1800, of the 2,500 nebulae discovered by her illustrious brother, which may be considered as the completion of a series of exertions probably unparalleled either in magnitude or importance in the annals of astronomical labour." This was the first time a woman was ever honored with such an award in Great Britain.
Whatever the case may be, we are left with a profound musical legacy in Haydn’s “The Creation.” We are also left with an amazing scientific legacy through the work of William and Caroline Herschel. We are better off for having been exposed to their collective genius. The last time I sang “The Creation” by Haydn, my focus was on the exuberant tone of much of the music. This time, I will be thinking about the limitless universe that Haydn came to appreciate and depict in his music. I will also be thinking of Caroline Herschel, a woman way ahead of her time personally and scientifically who may have been Haydn’s celestial connection.
You too can experience “The Creation” by Franz Josef Haydn and draw your own conclusions. The Florida Orchestra and The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay will present “The Creation” on Friday, March 22 at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, on Saturday March 23 at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, and on Sunday, March 24 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
The Master Chorale Beat
"Singing in the Master Chorale allows me to experience the profoundly human and spiritual longings that can be expressed in no other way." - Dr. M. L. Moore