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by Brian Hathaway
The performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem by The Florida Orchestra and The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay are only about a month away on the weekend of April 20-22. As part of The Florida Orchestra’s Masterwork Series, Verdi’s Requiem is one of the most dramatic Requiems in the choral repertoire.
When I prepare for a Masterwork Concert, there are several components to my preparation, including score study, individual practice, and rehearsal with my Master Chorale colleagues. To further enhance my understanding of the music, I research the history of the music, so I can better appreciate what the composer was trying to achieve in composing and performing it. During my research for this concert series, I uncovered several facts about Verdi and his Requiem. Some of these facts are very well known, while others may qualify as trivial or little-known facts. I would like to share the facts I uncovered.
The story of Verdi’s Requiem begins in 1868, with the death of Gioachino Rossini in Paris. Verdi suggested that the city of Bologna, where Rossini grew up and first tasted success, honor him with a composite “Messe per Rossini,” commissioning separate movements from Italy's leading composers. The idea was approved, and the various movements were assigned. Diplomatically, Verdi was given the final “Libera me” and the mass was completed, but a performance never took place.
At the time of Rossini's death, Verdi called him "one of the glories of Italy," asking, "When the other one who still lives is no more, what will we have left?" The other one was Alessandro Manzoni, a celebrated poet, and the author of the landmark nineteenth-century novel, “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed), a book Verdi himself had read when he was sixteen. When Manzoni died on May 22, 1873, Verdi returned to the idea of a requiem.
When poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni died, Verdi was too grief-stricken to attend his funeral, and the entire country mourned the loss of one of its leading cultural icons. Verdi shared the same national aspirations that Manzoni had, and Manzoni’s literature helped fuel an Italian national identity. Verdi also supported Italian unification, and his last name was used as an acronym for support of unification under Sardinian King Victor Emanuel: Vittorio Emanuel, Rei di Italia (Victor Emanuel, King of Italy). Following unification in 1860, Verdi served as a Senator.
Verdi went to the mayor of Milan and proposed composing a memorial in the form of a requiem to honor the memory of Manzoni. Verdi reworked the existing Libera me from the “Messe per Rossini” and incorporated thematic material from it in the other movements. While he was quite sincere in his desire to memorialize Manzoni, Verdi, a successful businessman, was also aware of the commercial possibilities for the Requiem. While he was negotiating with the city of Milan to underwrite the premiere and with the Church to allow women singers to appear, he was also arranging publication and performance royalties. As part of the arrangement with the city of Milan, Verdi offered to pay for the score printing himself on the condition that Milan assume responsibility for the cost of the performances.
The premiere took place in May 22, 1874, at the Church of San Marco as part of a liturgy so no applause was allowed. Women (Soprano Theresa Stolz and Mezzo Maria Waldmann, soloists who performed in Verdi’s European premiere of Aida four years earlier) were given a special exemption to perform by the local Archbishop on the condition that they must be veiled in black and hidden behind a grating. Verdi also arranged three concert performances at La Scala a few days later which were greeted with great enthusiasm. In the year following the premiere, it was performed all over Italy, in Paris, London, Vienna and even in America. The Requiem had become one of Verdi's most popular compositions.
Verdi composed his Requiem with Soprano Theresa Stolz and Mezzo Maria Waldmann in mind as the female soloists. Soprano Stolz has been described as "the Verdian dramatic soprano par excellence, powerful, passionate in utterance, but dignified in manner and secure in tone and control” and premiered many of Verdi’s Operas. Verdi hired Mezzo Waldmann for the mezzo-soprano role in his Requiem, for which he wrote the Liber Scriptus with her voice in mind. Verdi particularly valued her for the rich, dark color of her lower, contralto register. For a Paris performance, Verdi revised the Liber Scriptus to allow Maria Waldmann a further solo for future performances. Previously, the movement had been set for a choral fugue in a classical Baroque style. With its premiere at the Royal Albert Hall performance in May 1875, this revision became the definitive edition.
When German conductor, composer, and virtuoso pianist Hans von Bülow, a close friend of Verdi’s rival Richard Wagner, stole a look at the Requiem score just days before the Milan premiere, he offered his famous snap judgment, "Verdi's latest opera, though in ecclesiastical robes," and decided not to attend the concert. When he finally heard it, at a parish performance eighteen years later, he was moved to tears. Bülow wrote to Verdi to apologize, and Verdi replied, with typical generosity, that Bülow might have been right the first time. By then, Verdi had grown accustomed to critical disdain, especially from the followers of Richard Wagner. And he knew that Bülow, who once switched his allegiance from Wagner to Brahms, wasn't the last listener who would change his mind about this music as well.
Playwright and music critic George Bernard Shaw had a different opinion. Attending the London premiere, Verdi’s Requiem captivated him. His first impression stayed with him, as he had the “Libera me” performed at his funeral in 1950.
In January 1901, while staying in Milan, Verdi suffered a stroke. He died a few days later. Arturo Toscanini conducted the vast forces of combined orchestras and choirs composed of musicians from throughout Italy at his funeral service in Milan. To date, it remains the largest public assembly of any event in the history of Italy.
Performance of Defiance
Verdi’s Requiem experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1930’s, and one of the most interesting and disturbing chapters in its history took place between 1942 and 1944, when 16 performances were held in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin (formerly Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia.
The story begins with Rafael Schacter, a pianist and conductor who was a Czech Jew. On November 30, 1941, he was transported to the Terezin Camp as part of the Holocaust. Terezin was a former Czech fortress and walled town that was set up as a ghetto for Jews who were later taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death camps. Allowed to take only one suitcase, he filled it with items he treasured, including scores from Verdi’s Requiem and Dvorak’s Carnival Overture.
The Nazis tried to make Terezin a model village as an example of how they were treating Jews humanely. Part of the façade was to create an active cultural environment in the ghetto, so shortly after arriving, Schacter was given the task of assembling a choir of 150 to perform Verdi’s Requiem. Not having enough scores for all the singers, he taught them the music by rote. The first performance took place in January 1942.
It is interesting to note that this Requiem for the dead premiered in January 1942, the same month that SS General Rheinhard Heydrich led the Wannsee Conference that approved the “final solution” to the Jewish question. Immediately following the premiere, about half the chorus members were loaded on a train bound for Auschwitz. Rafael Schachter was forced to reconstitute the chorus for the fifteen subsequent concerts as chorus members were either taken away or died in Terezin. The final concert was performed for members of the International Red Cross, who were visiting the camp at the invitation of the Nazi SS. Rafael Schachter was finally taken by train to Auschwitz in October 1944, subsequently dying while a prisoner.
In a postscript to the Terezin story, it is worth mentioning that Rheinhard Heydrich was also the SS Officer who ordered SS and SA troops to carry out the Kristallnacht in 1938, where Jewish synagogues, homes and businesses were attacked and burned all over Germany. English composer Michael Tippett was appalled by the news of the attacks and decided to memorialize the tragedy in music. His composition, “A Child of Our Time,” is on The Florida Orchestra and Master Chorale schedule for November 9 - 11, 2018, on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem has been loved by audiences and performers since its premiere in 1874. It is recognized as one of the most frequently performed masterworks in the choral repertoire. For me, I will have a completely different emotional connection to the Requiem because of the research I completed for this blog post.
Foremost in my mind will be the unknown victims who created a work of drama and beauty in the face of death and terror. I am drawn to recall the opera “Nabucco” by Verdi, where in The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, they sang “let the Lord inspire you a harmony of voices which may instill virtue to suffering.” For the prisoners of Terezin, the closing “Libera me” (Deliver me) was their most fervent plea for deliverance.
Even if you have listened to recordings of Verdi’s Requiem, the beauty and drama of the music is best experienced during a live performance. Please consider attending one of our concerts to experience it yourself.
The Master Chorale's Youth Initiative is a music education program serving elementary students primarily in Title 1 schools in our community. The program offers a unique, hands-on approach to music education and choral performance free to the students.
Our all-volunteer Outreach Choir has presented a total of seventeen wonderful interactive educational performances in Hillsborough and Pinellas County Elementary schools and three (free) age-appropriate professional concerts (titled "Going to the Show"), led by Deah McReynolds with special guest conductor Doreen Rao, for over 4,000 2nd-5th graders since the program launched in 2016 (with 3,000 reached during our 2017-2018 season!). We're excited about the popularity of our program and it's potential for significant growth!
Nothing compares to seeing the amazed face of a very young person when they realize that they can sing and add beauty to our world no matter what they choose to do in life and no matter where they go.
"We are indebted to you and Master Chorale for providing a rich choral experience for our students!"
- Melanie Faulkner, Supervisor, Elementary Music Education,
Hillsborough County Public Schools
"...there was a perfect balance of performance, entertainment, engagement, and education – a difficult balance to pull off!"
- David Tagliarini, Pinellas County Performing Arts Staff Developer
"Having five young kids of my own, I know the importance of musical interaction in a child's life. Music brightens their eyes and sparks an inner excitement in their minds. It's magical. I see the value in this program and I am honored to help make it a reality for our community's youth."
- Donald E. Phillips, Managing Director, Phillips Development and Realty.
Our hearts are full from reading these special thank you notes from some of the students we visited. <3
Thank you to our sponsors and donors for supporting this important program!
We are grateful for the support of USAmeribank (which funded buses for all students to attend our day-time professional concerts at the Tampa Theatre and the Palladium Theater this year), Phillips Development and Realty and Construction Services of Tampa (both provided much needed funding to cover concert venue expenses). We also receive support for this Youth Initiative program from Publix Super Markets, the City of St. Petersburg, the City of Tampa, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, and it is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
By Brian Hathaway
Yes! “Dacci un Dramma!”, or in English “Give us drama!” is the topic of my latest post. I was drawn to this phrase because the current season of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay is all about drama, especially the way we create it through our voices in collaboration with The Florida Orchestra. To make it more interesting, this season is unique in that through four concerts, we take a “grand tour” of the history of creating drama with the voice through several musical genres that go back five hundred years. Let us take this tour in chronological order, even though the concerts this season do not necessarily follow that order.
Genre #1: Opera. Opera was the first musical form that combined voices and instruments to create drama as entertainment. The first opera, “Dafne” was composed by Jacopo Peri in Italy in 1597, although it is now largely lost. The earliest opera still performed is Claudio Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo” composed in 1607. The opera genre was exported to Germany in 1627 and later to England and France in the mid 1600’s. As an art form, the opera has been widely performed up until the current time, although the mid to late 19th century is widely recognized as the “golden age of opera”, dominated by Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi.
Giuseppe Verdi started composing his Requiem in June 1873, shortly following the death of famed Italian writer and humorist Allessandro Manzoni, whom Verdi met in 1868. Manzoni’s death was the impetus for Verdi to write a complete Requiem, expanding upon the “Libera me” that he wrote in Rossini’s memory following his death in 1868. Verdi’s Requiem is not normally regarded as a liturgical Requiem and is primarily performed as a theater piece, and the music is infused with the same level of drama we would encounter in his operas such as “Aida” (1872) or “Othello” (1887). For me as a singer, I love dramatic moments such as the pounding of the bass drum in the “Dies Irae”, the unison opening of the “Sanctus” or the power of the opening phrase in the “Rex Tremendae”. The Verdi Requiem will be performed with The Florida Orchestra on the weekend of April 20-22.
Genre #2: Musical Theatre. Musical theatre grew out of the comic operettas of the 1800’s by composers such as Jacques Offenbach in Paris and Johann Strauss Jr. in Vienna. From 1871 to 1896, William Schwenk Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan collaborated on numerous comic operettas such as “The Pirates of Penzance” and “The Mikado” that poked fun at English society and became internationally famous. In America composers such as George M. Cohan and Victor Herbert gave musical theatre a distinctively American flavor. Throughout the first four decades of the 20th Century composers such as Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and Irving Berlin popularized the musical theatre genre. Songs from musicals have become part of The Great American Songbook and an integral part of American culture.
In the 1940’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” was the first fully integrated musical, incorporating song and dance to develop the characters and the plot. The three decades of the 1940’s through 1960’s were marked by the worldwide popularity of the genre spurred on by the availability of original cast recordings and film versions of the musical. There are so many dramatic moments arising from musical theatre that they are almost too numerous to mention. Personal favorites of mine are the title song from “Oklahoma,” “I Am a Pirate King” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” and “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” from Rodgers and Hammersteins’s “State Fair.”
Concertgoers will be able to hear many of their favorites in the “Celebrate Broadway” concert series with The Master Chorale and The Florida Orchestra during the weekend of April 27-29th.
Genre #3: The Film/TV Score. As musical theatre became a dominant force in bringing live music to the masses, the advent of films allowed even more people to experience the way music can combine with the moving picture to add drama and meaning to a story. The development of talking pictures starting with “The Jazz Singer” in 1927 added the component of sound to movies. This film incorporated a musical play where singer Al Jolson played a cantor’s son who ran away from home to become a famous jazz singer. The film is recognized as one of the 100 most influential films of all time.
Genre #4: The Video Game. Since the advent of electronic gaming in the late 1970’s, their complexity of the stories and images has been increasingly coupled with the development of music scores that are now equal to and in some cases exceeding the level of artistic expression in film scores. We are now light years beyond the “beeps” and “boops” we heard when playing “Pong” or the simple 8-bit compositions we heard when playing “Donkey Kong” almost 40 years ago.
Video game score composition now attracts some of the best composers who have embraced this avenue of artistic expression. These include Koji Kondo (Legend of Zelda), Jeremy Soule (The Elder Scrolls) and Michael Giacchino (Medal of Honor). Michael Giacchino also composed music scores for J.J. Abrams, producer of the current generation of Star Trek movies. Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the Final Fantasy music scores has been composing them for more than two decades, and concerts of his music play to sell-out crowds around the world.
Arnie Roth, after directing the Final Fantasy Concerts here, noted that if he knew ahead of time how skilled the singers were, he would have programmed even more choral music into the concerts. What a tribute to my Master Chorale colleagues!
In conclusion, do you remember what we were discussing 1,300 words ago? Looking back at the operatic roots of combining the human voice with instruments, we can see a kind of musical karma. I think if Richard Wagner were alive today, he would enjoy an animated conversation regarding leitmotifs with Nobuo Uematsu. What is seen through these very broad brush-stroke discussions of musical history is the unmistakable impact the human voice can have on listeners. The current Master Chorale Season still offers opportunities to experience live music that you will find enjoyable and memorable. As a singer, it is a joy to be a part of the creative process that takes place when we prepare and present great music for our Tampa Bay community.
Dacci un Dramma!
We are deeply grateful for grant awards from the following organizations, which help make our programs possible.
Tickets Go On Sale October 31st!
We have an exciting new weekend planned (December 1 - 3) with two beautiful concerts titled "The Morning Star!" including a Messiah sing-a-long portion conducted by Doreen Rao, and a special Messiah choral symposium led by Doreen Rao with special guest, Michael Francis.
The three-day “weekend festival” December 1-3, will include a concert performance on Friday evening at the First Presbyterian Church on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg and a concert on Sunday afternoon at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Tampa. The three-part concerts on Friday and Sunday will feature two segments of gorgeous a cappella repertoire alongside masterwork excerpts, all related to the holiday theme THE MORNING STAR. The final segment of both concerts will include the Christmas portions of Messiah performed by the combined Master Chorale Ensemble Singers and Outreach Choir as an audience participation program. The 90-minute concert will include an intermission and will be recorded for future broadcast on Classical WSMR 89.1 & 103.9.
As part of the festival, Saturday’s event will feature a Choral Symposium and Conducting Master Class with Doreen Rao, special guest Michael Francis (Florida Orchestra's Music Director) and MCTB singers focusing on performance perspectives and conducting techniques related to Handel’s Messiah. This program will run from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The afternoon conducting master class will be open to the public (click here for admission info) and will feature the combined Master Chorale Ensemble Singers and Outreach Choir.
Tickets Go On Sale October 31st!
More about the Messiah Symposium
The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay is pleased to sponsor a Saturday Choral Symposium and Conducting Master Class featuring Handel’s Messiah.
Led by Maestro Doreen Rao, the MCTB conductor outreach event features morning classes focused on score preparation, performance practices and conducting techniques as these relate specifically to teaching and performing Handel’s Messiah. Following a lunch break, the Choral Symposium will feature a public Conducting Master Class led by Doreen Rao and the Master Chorale Ensemble Singers, with special guest Michael Francis.
Registration fee for the full day as a class participant and master class conductor will be $125. (movements will be assigned upon registration)
Registration fee for the full day as a class participant and master class observer will be $75.
The afternoon Messiah Master Class will be open to the public for $10 at the door with special group rates for school and church choirs.
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Beth Gibbs as Assistant Conductor for the 2017-2018 season.
“I am thrilled to be collaborating with The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay as their Assistant Conductor. Every member of the organization is committed to the art of musical excellence and I am honored to join them in this charge.”
– Dr. Beth Gibbs
Beth Gibbs is Director of Choral Studies at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL. In addition to directing the choirs, she also teaches courses in Conducting, Choral Pedagogy, Caribbean Music, and Music and Wellness. She earned the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL, Master of Music degrees in Choral Conducting and Vocal Performance from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, and the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Stetson University in DeLand, FL. Dr. Gibbs spent six years teaching at the high school level in Atlanta, GA. She is a frequent clinician for district and regional choral festivals and has conducted in the Chartres Cathedral in France, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and at the International Festival of Choirs in Santiago de Cuba. Active as a performer, she has been a soloist for several oratorio and operatic roles, and has been a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Tennessee Chamber Chorus, and has also performed under the batons of Michael Tilson Thomas and Helmuth Rilling.
“Beth is a versatile and highly talented conductor,” said Robert Hicks, Board Chairman. “She will be an excellent addition to our artistic team.”
The Master Chorale has enjoyed supporting the University of South Florida’s Graduate Choral Conducting program with a proud history of recruiting and working with eleven Master’s level choral conducting students who served as Assistant Conductors and Conducting Apprentices since 2002. These students have gone on to take prominent conducting positions across the United States and the Chorale is deeply proud of their accomplishments. This coming academic year the University does not have any incoming Master’s level choral conducting students prompting a re-designed Assistant Conductor position.
Every year there are many people who thoughtfully donate their time, talents, and treasure to the Chorale in many ways. We have office volunteers, event production volunteers, volunteer Board members, volunteer action committee members, donations of services in-kind, plus all of our singers who are volunteers. Our singers give over 25,000 accumulated volunteer hours annually in rehearsal and performance time alone (that doesn't include their drive-time which is also quite significant). They come from all over the Tampa Bay Area, from as far North as Crystal River and Gainsville, South to Venice, East to Orlando, and of course West to St. Petersburg and everywhere in-between. Their backgrounds are diverse from students, to lawyers, to doctors and school bus drivers, teachers and professional singers, police officers and military servicemen and women, all with a profound commitment to artistic excellence and the creation of great choral music. Their contributions are stunning and we are deeply grateful for each and every one of them.
This year, at our Member Appreciation Event on Saturday (June 10), we were pleased to recognize a handful of members that truly stood out this season.
Please join us in thanking the following individuals for their priceless contributions in support of The Master Chorale's mission: Advancing the art of choral music by performing great works of the past, commissioning and performing new literature and sharing the joy and power of choral music with new and existing audiences and singers.
Tracy T. Tringali - Board Member of the Season
Tracy T. Tringali
Principal | Taylor White Professional Placement & Consulting
One of our great achievements this year was hiring Tom Barker as our Development Director and Tracy was instrumental in that search process with her expert professional executive placement experience. Tom's position is critical in our organization's growth. Tracy's name will be listed on our Board Member of the Season perpetual plaque in The Master Chorale's office.
Tracy is a singer in the Chorale and has developed a top notch reputation in the Tampa Bay business community throughout her 25 years in the area. She is an Accounting graduate of the University of Illinois, and was a practicing CPA in both Illinois and Florida prior to her entry to the executive recruitment industry in 1989.
Tracy worked with a large Tampa-based national search firm before launching her own successful executive placement firm. She focused on accounting and finance permanent placement and interim consulting support, contract recruiting, and retained search in various disciplines, including human resources, marketing, and operations. She has been lauded for her quality career coaching, as well as professional resume writing services.
Tracy is a graduate of Tampa Connection, and has held numerous leadership positions with Plant High School PTSA, Coleman Middle School PTSA and Mabry Elementary PTA. Tracy loves people and music, and is a member of the auditioned Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, which performs with The Florida Orchestra.
Brian Hathaway - Volunteer of the Season
Brian was recognized for outstanding service in writing and research. He has spent countless hours writing thoughtful "From the Risers" blogs for the Chorale, creating engaging content and stories to go along with our major masterwork performances. He also spent many hours of research in support of our Artistic Director search committee as one of our singer representatives. Brian's name will appear on our Volunteer of the Season perpetual plaque in The Master Chorale's office.
Brian has been a singer in the Chorale for over 10 years and is a retired expert in quality control and operations management, having worked for companies such as Mosaic, Sparton Electronics, and Coca Cola, to name a few. He is an experienced executive with extensive leadership and management experience.
Craig Nowicke - Shining Star Award
Craig was recognized for his outstanding service in the creation of marketing and fundraising video content as well as photography for our youth initiative and other community events such as our BIG SING. Craig is always making wonderful connections with people and is always a positive force for the Chorale. You can see a sampling of Craig's work supporting the Chorale here... and here... and we ALWAYS appreciate his excellent sense of humor, an example of which you can see here.
Craig has been a singer in the Chorale for over three years and is a highly qualified broker for buyers and sellers of commercial and residential properties for RE/MAX.
Deah McReynolds - MVP
Deah McReynolds has been our Ensemble Singers and Education/Outreach Conductor as well as our Soprano Section Leader this season. Deah is also the Artistic Director of Lumina Youth Choirs, offering passionate young singers the opportunity to explore and experience the power of music in their lives.
Deah was recognized as our MVP of the Season for her outstanding artistic leadership in outreach and education, particularly in support of our new Youth Initiative. Deah created the curriculum and led our outreach singers in 11 in-school music education presentations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for nearly 700 2nd-5th graders in Title I public schools. She also programmed and partnered with our guest conductor Doreen Rao and brought her Lumina Youth Choir singers along to present an interactive student concert with our Ensemble Singers for elementary students at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. Together these youth initiative events reached a highly diverse group of nearly 1,000 children. David Tagliarini, Pinellas County Performing Arts Staff Developer had this to say about the in-school presentations: "...there was a perfect balance of performance, entertainment, engagement, and education – a difficult balance to pull off!"
You can read more about The Master Chorale's Youth Initiative here.
Deah also programmed and led our Ensemble Singers in our very first BIG SING (where the audience is the choir) presented in downtown Tampa at the Portico as part of Tampa's Fourth Friday events on April 28th. Keep an eye out for future events like these!
Deah did a wonderful job conducting and leading our Ensemble Singers through our Making Spirits Bright concerts and our special performance of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses with The Florida Orchestra.
We are incredibly grateful for Deah's expertise, grace, and naturally gifted musicianship.
We are pleased to announce the appointment of internationally renowned conductor Doreen Rao as Visiting Artistic Director for the 2017-2018 season.
"With deep admiration for its exceptional history, and in joyful anticipation of its new beginnings, I am delighted to join The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay this year as their 2017-2018 Visiting Artistic Director. It will be a great pleasure for me to work with these devoted and faithful singers in collaboration with Michael Francis and The Florida Orchestra for a brilliant season of musical masterpieces and innovative community engagement."
- Doreen Rao
Dr. Rao is celebrated internationally for her moving concerts, inspirational teaching and ground-breaking choral publications. Her pioneering career changed the landscape of music education in America. Linking the standards of performance and the goals of education with the values of diversity and social responsibility, Rao's seminal work teaching children to sing inspired a generation of conductors and teachers to lead young choirs in schools and communities around the world. In a national tribute presented to her by the American Choral Directors Association, the eminent conductor Robert Shaw wrote: "The world of choral music owes her special thanks. She is preparing our future."
"We are thrilled to welcome Doreen Rao while we complete our search for a permanent Artistic Director and prepare for our 40th Anniversary," said Robert Hicks, Board Chairman. "Doreen brings a tremendous wealth of experience in conducting, guiding, and inspiring symphonic choirs which will continue to propel The Master Chorale forward during this important artistic leadership transition."
"Doreen is thoughtfully passionate about conducting and preparing exquisite choral music," added Kara Dwyer, Managing Director. "Doreen's persistent attention to the highest standards of artistic excellence added to her innovative and diverse community engagement plans deeply resonates with The Master Chorale's vision and core values. We couldn't be more pleased with her appointment."
The Master Chorale's 39th season includes four powerful concert collaborations with The Florida Orchestra, an inspiring educational program that will engage more than 1,000 students in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, and engaging community sing events. Performances with The Florida Orchestra will include Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," Handel's "Messiah," Verdi's "Requiem," and a Celebrate Broadway concert series.
Stay tuned for our full schedule announcement and information about our Summer Sing and Master Chorale Auditions, both taking place at the University of South Florida School of Music later this summer.
About Doreen Rao
Rao is committed to global-style programming, intergenerational performance, and innovative collaborations. She founded The Rao Center for Choral and Contemplative Arts in 2014 to mentor emerging conductors, singers and music educators in the practice of mindfulness-based conducting and choral teaching. Doreen is a member of the Zen Peacemaker's Order and a long time student of the American Zen Buddhist teacher, Joan Halifax Roshi. She is the author of Circle of Sound-a Contemplative Approach to Voice Education that serves as the philosophical and practical foundation for her mindfulness-based approach to conducting and teaching.
We are thrilled to share with you that our volunteer Ensemble Singers have presented eleven wonderful interactive educational performances, led by Deah McReynolds, for over 665 2nd-5th graders in six Hillsborough and Pinellas County Elementary schools this season. Nothing compares to seeing the amazed face of a very young person when they realize that they can sing and add beauty to our world no matter what they choose to do in life and no matter where they go.
"...there was a perfect balance of performance, entertainment, engagement, and education – a difficult balance to pull off!" - David Tagliarini, Pinellas County Performing Arts Staff Developer
Our Youth Initiative is a music education program serving elementary students primarily in Title 1 schools in our community. The program offers a unique, hands-on approach to music education and choral performance free to the students.
"Having five young kids of my own, I know the importance of musical interaction in a child's life. Music brightens their eyes and sparks an inner excitement in their minds. It's magical. I see the value in this program and I am honored to help make it a reality for our community's youth." - Donald E. Phillips, Managing Director, Phillips Development and Realty.
We are thrilled to receive a major gift from Phillips Development and Realty to support our Youth Initiative. We are very excited because this important sponsorship provides funding for our upcoming “Going to the Show” day-time concert. This concert is designed just for students and will feature The Master Chorale Ensemble Singers led by Deah McReynolds and world-renowned conductor Doreen Rao. The concert will be presented in the morning on Wednesday, March 1st at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg and elementary students from all over Pinellas County are invited to attend for free. The performance will include “guided tours” of each piece, and students will even have the chance to sing along with the artists. A similar performance is in the planning stages for Hillsborough County students later this fall.
This special 1-hour concert experience will feature performances by the Master Chorale Ensemble Singers and Lumina Youth Choirs led by Deah McReynolds and special guest Doreen Rao.
This concert is graciously sponsored by Phillips Development and Realty, Inc., with support from Casper's Company, Publix Super Markets, the City of St. Petersburg, the City of Tampa, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, and sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
by Brian Hathaway
Yes, Mahler is in the middle, book-ended by two Requiems. The first is Maurice Durufle’s Requiem, a flowing piece of music based upon Gregorian chant. The Master Chorale just completed a series of concerts with The Florida Orchestra featuring this French gem, an intimate work of about 40 minutes’ duration.
The second bookend is Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem, a work of considerable scope and drama written by Verdi primarily as a concert piece to honor his friend, poet Alessandro Manzoni on the first anniversary of his death. It is dramatic and grand in scope with a performance duration of about 85 minutes. The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay will perform this work on April 23rd in Sarasota with Gloria Musicae and the Sarasota Orchestra.
In the middle, we have Mahler in a work of no small proportion. I have three recordings of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"), and they all have performance durations of about 90 minutes. The choral portion comprises about 16 minutes at the end of movement 5, but heavens, what music it is! We will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with The Florida Orchestra in only three weeks, on March 17-19.
It was several years later that I got a copy of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. The experience literally blew me away and quickly became one of my favorite symphonic works. The lyrics, first encountered in “Urlicht”, another song taken from “Das Knaben Wunderhorn” in movement 4 pulled at my emotions: “O red Rose! Man lies in direst need! Man lies in deepest pain! I would rather be in heaven!” The Alto solo was in stark contrast to the power of the orchestra and caused a sense of peace to wash over me.
However, it was the fifth movement that held me transfixed, with a quiet choral entrance that builds to a final powerful climax. As I read the lyrics from Friedrich Klopstock’s poem while I listened I found they spoke to my soul. “What has come into being must perish! What perished must rise again!” I was so profoundly affected by these lyrics with their message of hope that I read them as part of the eulogy at my father’s funeral when he passed away in 2006.
It was in August 2007, only 14 months after my father died, that I auditioned and was accepted into The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. My father would have been proud of me, as he was a singer in his church choir and we shared a love of choral music. It was at the end of that first year that I learned we would be singing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. I was ecstatic! I will admit that it was difficult getting some of the lyrics out because of my emotional connection to this work, but I knew Dad was listening.
Now eight years after my first experience singing Mahler’s Second, I can approach it with the special joy that comes from combining with The Florida Orchestra and my colleagues in The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay to create a truly unforgettable musical experience.
The Master Chorale Beat