Since announcing this concert, I have been asked often, “How did you come up with the concept of Gone Too Soon as a theme. Our intention for the past two years was to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II with a concert we were calling: Peace Triumphant: 1945. Obviously, with Covid, this has been a challenge for our plans for spring concerts in 2020 and 2021.
We were lucky to have our guest soloist for the Peace concert, Josefien Stoppelenburg, agree to a change in programming. After researching some selections that would feature a soprano solo and chorus, I came across Miriam’s Song of Triumph, a lesser known, cantata-like work that Schubert wrote in the last year of his life. Rather than set in separate movements, the piece is a continuous work in segments with connecting material. It was upon this work that I built the program. Having established the central work, I needed to find other works with a common thread. In this case the common thread being that the composers died relatively young but at the height of their musical productivity.
Mozart was an obvious choice. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult to find talented, prolific, composers – male or female. Except for locating vocal music of Chopin, the challenge was finding those composers who had written choral works, and works that would fit our forces and programming. Always with our mission and our audiences in mind, I included some familiar voices from the last century, such as Gershwin, Joplin, John Lennon, and Chicago song-writer Steve Goodman.
What we are doing with this concert is somewhat similar to our Grande Dames of American Music concert we did some seasons ago. For that performance we presented the choral music of 17 women composers. For this concert we will be presenting the music of 15 composers spanning 5 centuries and performing in 5 languages. I don’t know of anyone in the area presenting this array of composers and this type of programming.
Keep an eye on the papers and your ears to WFMT radio for special announcements regarding the concert. Tickets are available online. Watch the MTS website for any changes before the concert date regarding Covid protocols at our venue, First United Methodist Church of Oak Park.
I thought it was a great night! We were able to gather and perform as an ensemble; present our concert in a glorious space; and send everyone home uplifted, after sharing with them the spirit of the season through our performance.
We are grateful to our hosts: First United Methodist Church of Oak Park, and Pastor Adonna Davis Reid, their liaison, Karen Doty, as well as their entire staff. FUMCOP has been our home since our inception in 2007. I commend them for their bravery and support at a time when live performances were still gambles. We shared our presentation to another warm and receptive audience the following week at Incarnation Catholic Church, Crestwood. It is important to mention that we are also grateful to St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, who, for the last several years, has provided us a wonderful rehearsal space.
There were some challenges to get where we are. Covid, for one reason or another, had an effect on our membership. In addition, we determined that our two original mailings did not reach their destinations, which crippled our ability to announce the concert and to solicit the necessary financial support. In light of that, we were able to release another mailing, which resulted in many generous responses. Thank you.
On a sad note, recently and suddenly, we lost a member of the MTS family, bass/baritone, Kurt Lannefeld. Kurt was unable to join us for the Holiday program, but had mentioned to me the possibility of joining us for the spring. He was an excellent musician and a lovely individual; he will be missed.
With the effect the pandemic had on plans for this season, we had to do some shifting of gears. Our theme for the spring is “Gone Too Soon.” We will present the music of composers whose creative careers were cut shut short, having died at relatively young ages. Among those composers featured are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Giovanni Pergolesi, Henry Purcell, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Maddalena Casulana, and George Bizet. Also included are George Gershwin, Scott Joplin, John Lennon, and Steve Goodman. There will be a few familiar selections among them, but, as is our wont, some rarely heard, uncovered gems, composed by these familiar names.
Watch our website and other social media for further announcements.
It’s been a while since I last wrote you, but also since our members were able to meet to rehearse and perform for you.
Although we haven’t been able to meet in person, I have been in contact with the Singers, as we made our plans for how we would reenter the musical universe. Needless to say, Covid had a devastating effect on our membership, which, in turn, affected the material we are planning for the coming season. Nonetheless, the Singers who returned are ready and very excited to perform.
I was in contact with our Singers with updates and plans. While under Covid protocol, we assembled a virtual performance, which should be posted very shortly.
Our first concert of the season is titled “Christmas Favorites.” I say to people about this concert, if you walk out of the building after our performance not knowing the majority of the selections, you’ve been living under a rock for the last hundred years. The audiences will be treated to long-time Christmas favorites, such as “Carol of the Bells,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Lo, How a Rose,” as well as several Shaw/Parker staples. We are including many “Pop” favorites such as, “Welcome Christmas,” from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “The Christmas Waltz,” “Christmas Time is Here,” “Mele Kelikimaka,” and “Hey, Santa Claus.” It will all be capped off with the “Hallelujah Chorus,” from Händel’s Messiah. The ensemble will be accompanied by brass and percussion, and by our special guest organist, Mark Reynertson.
The spring program is still developing and will be announced soon.
Continue to watch the website or our Facebook page for details and updates.
Just wait’ll next year!
The all too familiar cry of sports teams in the Chicago area for many years, these days, could be applicable to many events, including Arts.
May 8 was the 75th anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe). Our spring concert commemorating the event was supposed to be Saturday, May 9. Sadly, along with all of the other public events scheduled around that time, our concert did not take place. Our Singers were extremely disappointed that we could not present the concert. It was really going to be a good show. In addition to several fine instrumentalists, we had engaged the brilliant soprano, Josefien Stopplenburg and skilled organist Mark Reynertson. Canon Reverend Alonzo Pruitt was also to participate with us. The selections programmed included the music of Vaughan Williams, Holst, and Haydn. There were patriotic selections and arrangements of popular songs of the era, such as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” We also planned some premieres of arrangements: “Eili, Eili” by Stephen Glass, as well as my own arrangements of Irving Berlin’s “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and “Tuskegee Airmen Fight Song.”
We have postponed the 2020 spring concert “until next year.” We are planning our annual December concert, as well, and have included it on our calendar for next season. Realistically, both performances are on hold until we’ve reached the appropriate phase to reopen, as dictated by the government, and everyone – audience and performers – feel comfortable enough to participate.
I will be in touch as things progress and we learn our status over the coming weeks as we plan for Season 14 of the Michael Teolis Singers.
With our presentations in December, we continued to present familiar sounds of the season and introduce the kind of Holiday literature that is unique, but accessible. It is a happy time of the year and our concerts reflect that. The addition of Mark Reynertson’s skillful performance at the organ and Perfect Cadence of the Merit School of Music helped to make the concert at First United Methodist Church even more special and unique. Whether at FUMC with full forces or at Incarnation Catholic Church, where they were featured along with only our able accompanist, David Richards, the Singers performed with their usual confidence and professionalism.
Once again, I want to thank Karen Doty, Mike Dutka, and the crew at First United Methodist Church for their assistance, and to Ryan Dillon and Peg McMahon for all they did for us at Incarnation Catholic Church. Another special nod to Perfect Cadence and its director, Carling FitzSimmons, of the Merit School of Music for their interest and courage to join us on their maiden voyage as newly formed ensemble.
We now turn the page to the next chapter in the season, Peace Triumphant: 1945.
I’m really excited about this concert. I’m sure there will be several events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. This will be our contribution to recognize those of The Greatest Generation, who did their part to bring about a triumphant end to a horrific period in world history.
Over the next few months, I will talk more about the literature that was chosen: why and its significance. The concert will include both serious and lighter moments, but will make our audience feel inspired, uplifted, and proud. For those of us who had parents or relatives who served in the military at that time, I hope this presentation will be especially moving and meaningful. We must never forget.
When planning these concerts, our main goal is to entertain. Those attending holiday performances want and often expect to hear some familiar music. This is why I have no qualms about programming some “old chestnuts” for our Christmas concert. It’s even part of our mission: presenting once popular music, now heard less frequently.
This year’s holiday concert will be filled with some MTS favorites and familiar Christmas sounds: "Carol of the Bells,” the Parker/Shaw “Fum, Fum, Fum,” and “”Ding Dong! Merrily on High.” Our audience might recognize “Adoration of the Magi,” as Miklos Rozsa’s nativity scene theme from the film, Ben Hur. Included are two of my arrangements: the spiritual, “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, sung by the men, and another of a popular Christmas song from the Philippines, “Pasko Na Sinta Ko”, sung in the original Tagalog (a world premier!). In addition, we will present a gorgeous “Ave Maria” by Spanish composer, Javier Busto, whose setting of the text has become very popular in recent years.
We always like to include some 20th Century selections, which will include “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” (the most requested Christmas song of World War II USO shows), and Kay Thompson’s “Jingle Bells.” More about these two pieces later!
This year our centerpiece is Roger C. Hannahs’ “Cantata for the Nativity, written around 1958 and scored for treble choir, four-part chorus, and organ - quite wonderful and fun to prepare. Joining us is treble choir, Perfect Cadence, from the Merit School of Music. Led by Carling Fitzsimmons, Perfect Cadence will also present three selections of their own.
I’ve always felt that Christmas is a sentimental time, but joyful and happy, as well, reflected in our “up” and energetic selections.
If you want a fun, uplifting performance to start your Holiday Season, join us for this concert!
Our season began with the “Serenade of Carols,” which featured several selections with harp. The centerpiece was Stephen Paulus’ Three Nativity Carols. Other numbers performed with harp included William Ferris’ arrangement of A la Nanita Nana and the traditional French carol Sing We Now of Christmas, arranged by Fred Bennett and Carol Barnett. Morton Gould’s Serenade of Carols closed the program.
MTS finished its 12th season with a flourish of music of 15 composers noted for their film scores. In addition to selections from some of Hollywood’s most memorable movies, the audience was introduced to the “other side” of some of film music’s most important names.
As always, MTS featured several premieres, as well as performances by guest artists. These premieres included Le Chœur des Cœurs, by French composer Germaine Tailleferre; Lullaby by Miklos Rozsa from the film Jungle Book; and Bruce Broughton’s Bellevue Carol, from the film Miracle on 34th Street. Soprano, Alfreda Burke, joined the ensemble to reprise her performance of Alex North’s Negro Mother, and closed the evening’s concert with her spirited take of Jester Hairston’s Amen, from the film Lillies of the Field.
And last, but not least, MTS once again was invited to participate in the 17th annual Thomas A. Dorsey Commemoration at Pilgrim Baptist Church. Pilgrim was the birthplace of gospel music, as we know it today. Dorsey, who was music director at Pilgrim Baptist Church for more than forty years, authored the hymn, Precious Lord, Take My Hand (the favorite hymn of Dr. Martin Luther King). He is considered the “father of Gospel Music.” MTS will reprise some of the music from their recent spring concert. Alfreda Burke will also join MTS for this event, which is free and open to the public.
Watch for our plans for our exciting 13th season!
I have always been fascinated by the music used in film and the people who created it. I think the scores that made the greatest impression on me at the start were the Errol Flynn swashbucklers, with music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk. I’ve always loved the main them Korngold created for The Prince and the Pauper, which he eventually rolled into his Violin Concerto in D. In the same piece, he quoted themes from 3 other films he scored: Another Dawn, Juarez, and Anthony Adverse.
I always wondered what kind of works they would create away from the confinements of a film. I was curious of their versatility. I believe it has only been recently that these composers are being recognized and given more credit for their artistic abilities and creativity. I found in nearly every case, that these composers were well-trained, often very sophisticated musicians. For me, Korngold’s work inspired me to look into the work of other film composers. I learned about Miklos Rozsa, Alex North, Franz Waxman, and Bernard Hermann. I learned about the contributions to film music of some of the biggest names in music for the concert hall: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Georges Auric, Malcolm Arnold, William Walton, and John Corligiano. Even Benjamin Britten, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Serge Prokofiev wrote scores for film. Miklos Rozsa taught classes in film composition. Ironically, John Williams was one of his students.
When considering themes for these choral concerts, at first, I wasn’t sure there would be enough choral music written by the film composers. Of course, there were the choral pieces written originally for the films, such as Rozsa’s work in King of Kings and Ben Hur. Presenting the choral works from film is not where I wanted to go exactly. I wanted to explore, not only their choral work in film, but also their independent concert choral works. The research has been challenging, fascinating, and exciting
Fun! Entertaining! Musical! Intelligent! These are words that came back to me from those who experienced our concerts and other performances over the last year. Once again, our concerts were filled with familiar selections and area premiers.
Last summer, we were invited to perform at Pilgrim Baptist Church, to help celebrate the life and work of Thomas A. Dorsey. Dorsey, former music director of Pilgrim, is considered the “Father of Gospel Music.” He is probably best known as the author of the hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” This was our second invitation, which came from the Church’s current music director, Arnold Sevier. What a pleasure and honor it was to have been able to be part of the celebration.
In December, for our central work and also a Chicago premier, we featured the “Cantata for Christmas,” for chorus and chamber orchestra, by British composer, John Gardner (1917-2011), along with many other songs of the season. We introduced our audience to composer, Rosephyne Powell and her energetic “Ogo Ni Fun Oluwa!” as well as to Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Christmas is Coming,” for chorus and piano-four-hands. Rounding out the program, were carol arrangements and John Williams’ crowd-pleaser, “Three Songs from Home Alone.”
Sing, Illinois! was our theme for the spring, as we featured the choral works of composers born in Illinois or who spent parts of their lives cultivating their crafts in Illinois. Those composers included, among others, William Ferris, Leo Sowerby, Norman Luboff, Ned Rorem, and Ron Nelson. Women composers prominently featured included Margaret Bonds, Florence Price, Shirley Whitecotton, and Oak Park resident and Unity Temple Music Director, the late Lora Aborn. The central work was John La Montaine’s “Nonsense Songs from Mother Goose.” La Montaine, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, also grew up in Oak Park.
Joining us specially for the concert was guest trumpet virtuoso, Joseph Burgstaller. Burgstaller (formerly of the Canadian Brass and a Yamaha Artist) performed with the ensemble on several selections, including his own arrangement of Astor Piazzola’s song, “Oblivion,” for flugel horn and a cappella chorus. He dazzled the audience with his performances of music by Reicha and Rafael Mendez’s arrangement of “La Virgen de la Macarena.” Organist, Corrado Cavalli deftly supported the ensemble on several selections, with his exceptional musicianship and insight.
We look forward to Season 12 and beyond, hoping to continue to introduce wonderful literature, but always keeping in mind that we must touch our audiences – oh, and have fun!
This year’s spring concert will be a musical celebration of Illinois’ Bicentennial. We will feature the choral music of sixteen composers who were born in Illinois or had an impact on the State’s musical life. We are including some unique discoveries, such as “Union and Liberty” by Frederick Stock, to a text by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Frederick Stock was the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra 1905-1942. We will present “To Music,” by Oak Park composer, and music director at the famed Unity Temple, Lora Aborn, and “Aftermath,” a piece for treble chorus by Aurora native, Shirley Whitecotton.
Joining us for this concert will be special guests trumpet artist, Joe Burgstaller, and organist, Corrado Cavalli. Joe Burgstaller, formerly a member of the Canadian Brass, will perform the flugel horn solo with the chorus on his arrangement of Astor Piazzola’s song, “Oblivion,” as well as a muted trumpet feature on William Russo’s “I Lift Up My Eyes.” Organist, Corrado Cavalli, will accompany the ensemble on several selections, including William Ferris’ “Festival Alleluias,” Eric De Lamarter’s “God is Our Refuge,” and “O Give Thanks Unto the Lord,” by Leo Sowerby. The central work for this concert is Oak Park native, John La Montaine’s rollicking “Nonsense Songs from Mother Goose.”
This is our contribution to the State’s bicentennial celebration.
Reflections on concerts, composers and music...