At the end of the 2015-2016 season our Music and Artistic Director, Dr. James K. Bass, announced that he accepted a position as Director of Choral Studies at UCLA. Speaking personally, I had the honor of working with Dr. Bass for his entire tenure with The Master Chorale. I learned volumes from him, and I will miss his steady hand guiding us as we prepare each concert program. It has been an enriching experience for all of us in the Chorale.
Our hard working Master Chorale staff and board lined up a series of guest conductors to take us through our preparations at our rehearsal and administrative home at the USF School of Music. Up first is the opening concert of the Florida Orchestra 2016-2017 season on September 30th, October 1st and 2nd featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Poulenc’s Gloria conducted by Michael Francis. Here is where the “fast” part of our motto comes in…we have only seven weeks to prepare this program. Although we have many veteran singers who have performed the Beethoven, there only a few singers who have performed the Poulenc Gloria.
Fortunately, we have two seasoned Directors to lead us in our preparation. First Dr. Bass returned to us for three rehearsals. It was like “old home week” having him at the podium. Brett Karlin, who was our Assistant Conductor for three years is now the Artistic Director of the Master Chorale of South Florida, and he offered to lead us in the other rehearsals. Brett helped Dr. Bass prepare us for a concert in Miami with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Master Chorale of South Florida featuring Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in March of 2013. Talk about a slam-dunk.
Now for the “flexible” part. Getting used to a conductors’ style and teaching methods is something every choir singer is familiar with. Now try doing that with eight different conductors in one season.
Dr. Joseph Holt will be leading the Chorale in preparation for our three “Making Spirits Bright” holiday concerts on December 2, 3, and 4, 2016. Our performance on December 2 at the First Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg will be recorded and then broadcast on WSMR later in December, the performance on December 3 will be hosted by the historic Tampa Theatre, and the performance on December 4 will be at a new venue for the Chorale in Clearwater, the Northbay Community Church on McMullin Booth Road. The concert will also feature our Ensemble Singers conducted by Deah McReynolds and the premiere of a new and unpublished Christmas Carol from our National Christmas Carol Composition Contest conducted by our Assistant Conductor, Kevin Trapasso.
Back in 2010, Dr. Holt was Interim Director of The Master Chorale, preparing us for Mendelssohn’s Elijah with The Florida Orchestra and directing us in a “Salute to Broadway” concert series in 2010. Both concert series were resounding successes. Dr. Holt is also Music Director of Gloria Musicae in Sarasota. Formerly the principal accompanist for the U.S. Army Chorus, he has performed for presidents and dignitaries from all over the world.
While the full Chorale is preparing for Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Poulenc's Gloria, and "Making Spirits Bright," the Master Chorale Ensemble Singers, led by Deah McReynolds (Artistic Director of Lumina Youth Choirs) will also be busy outside of the Chorale's usual schedule rehearsing and planning for the Chorale's new in-school Education/Outreach program in Hillsborough Pinellas Counties set to reach over 1,000 students. The Ensemble Singers will also perform on the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert with The Florida Orchestra on December 16, 2016.
For Durufle’s Requiem, Dr. Holt will be helping us with early preparation for the concert series scheduled for February 17, 18, and 19, 2017 with The Florida Orchestra conducted by Michael Francis. He will be joined in this effort by Dr. Timothy Peter. Dr. Peter is Director of Choral Activities at Stetson University. He is a native of Minnesota, received his undergraduate degree from Luther College and completed his doctorate of musical arts degree at the University of Arizona. Before coming to Stetson University, he was professor of music at Luther College and served as the head of the music department. He has prepared choirs and orchestras for performances at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, Orchestra Hall and Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and many other locations. He has conducted in Germany, Namibia, Oman, South Africa and South Korea.
Following the Durufle concert series in February, we will move quickly into preparing for Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection Symphony" only one month later on March 17, 18, and 19, 2017 (remember “fast”?). To me the "Resurrection Symphony" is like Beethoven’s 9th on steroids. The Master Chorale last sang this on the spring of 2009. The emotional impact of the lyrics coupled with the music is unforgettable and I remember struggling with parts that just brought me to tears as I sang it.
For this concert series, Dr. Doreen Rao will be preparing us. She brings a wealth of experience preparing symphonic choirs for the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Buffalo Philharmonic. She was recently the Music Director of the Chicago Chamber Choir and currently directs the Buffalo Master Chorale. Dr. Rao worked with The Master Chorale during our 2016 Summer Sing. Recognized as one of the world's leading experts on young choirs, Doreen Rao founded the American Choral Directors Association's National Committee on Children's Choirs and inspired the children's choir movement in America.
On April 23, 2017, we will “take it on the road” for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem with Gloria Musicae and the Sarasota Orchestra in the Sarasota Opera House. Dr. Joseph Holt will lead us through preparation and conduct the performance. The Verdi Requiem is just a blast to sing! The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay last performed this work with The Florida Orchestra in the spring of 2009. There is nothing like a road trip to add a sense of “fun” to our musical offering.
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.
The Master Chorale Beat