On May 6, we closed our glorious 16th season, although we were able to share with the Village of Oak Park, a very brief presentation of some selections from the concert at a Day in Our Village June 4.
Among the season’s highlights was our annual Holiday concert, which was reprised at Incarnation Catholic Church in Crestwood. For that performance, we joined members of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, combining forces on several selections. The Spring performance, themed “Gone Too Soon,” was special and historic, as we presented the music of 16 composers over 6 centuries, in 6 languages, and featured the works of composers who were at the height of their creative powers when they left this world.
It’s hard to pick out one special moment over another of the spring program, as the performance of each selection was a highlight unto itself. For those in attendance, this was a wonderful opportunity to hear the rarely heard Schubert work, “Miriam’s Song of Triumph,” spectacularly performed by the ensemble along with our special guest Dutch soprano, Josefien Stoppelenburg. In addition, they were introduced to the music of Italian Renaissance composer Maddelena Casulana. Two significant and timely additions to the program were the two Ukrainian selections, written by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovich.
The range of music and styles was typical of MTS, as we strive to present material featuring rarely heard selections of mainstream composers or long-forgotten composers. Where else would one hear the music of Mozart and Schubert, and Lennon and Steve Goodman on the same program?
This season, we introduced our audiences, as we usually do, to familiar literature, some less-often heard past favorites, and a few premieres. Our specialty is to celebrate the music makers, i.e. the composers and arrangers, while addressing another goal: to entertain.
None of what we did could have happened without the marvelous diligence, professionalism, and hard work of the Singers in preparation and performance, along with the support and dedication of our Board and the generosity of our many followers.
I am in the process of putting the final touches on plans for the coming season. There will be the usual familiar and fun things for the Holidays, as well as some surprises and premieres. Once again, we will be looking at another unique and historic presentation in the spring. I hope to make announcements in that regard very soon, so please keep your eyes on this page for updates.
Our concert, “Gone Too Soon,” is right around the corner. This concert could be considered two years in the making, especially after its sudden cancellation last year due to Covid. After the dress rehearsal last spring, we knew it was going to be a great show; I knew I wanted to present it. Heck, it was “already in the can,” as they say, so I thought, “Let’s just do it next spring.”
As has been posted, the program consists of music by composers who left this world while at the height of their creativity. Many of the names will be familiar, including Mozart, Schubert, Pergolesi, Purcell, the Mendelssohns – Fanny and Felix, Chopin, Stephen Foster, and Bizet. Lesser known is the Renaissance Italian composer, Maddlena Casulana. She was a friend of Isabella de’ Medici and was the first woman composer in the history of Western Music to have a whole book of music printed and published. A number of her madrigals exist, several being recently discovered.
As always, I try to add to the program something different or surprising. Our second half will
include the music of the British composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; a selection from Scott
Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha; and two George Gershwin choral arrangements. In addition, we
will reprise from our “Chicago Originals” concert, an arrangement of “Lincoln Park Pirates,” by
local songwriter, Steve Goodman, as well as a choral arrangement of the Lennon/McCartney
song, “Eleanor Rigby.” Goodman died of cancer at the age of 38 and Lennon was shot to death
Recent additions are two selections by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovich. Leontovich
is known internationally for “Schedryk,” familiar to the English-speaking world as the Christmas
song, “The Ukrainian Bell Carol” or “Carol of the Bells.” Leontovich, who was highly trained,
prolific, and very well-known in Ukraine and Russia in his lifetime, fit perfectly into this
program, having died at the age of 44. Sadly, he was murdered in 1921 by a Russian agent.
Current world events make his inclusion even more appropriate.
I don’t know of any other organization who would assemble a program of this kind, as we
feature the music of 16 composers, spanning six centuries, and in six languages – English, Latin,
French, German, Italian, and Ukrainian. This is an historic event and definitely a program that
shouldn’t be missed.
What a joy it was to be able to present our concerts in December. At First United Methodist Church of Oak Park, we presented arrangements of some familiar old favorites but also introduced new holiday music, as well as a few premieres. At Incarnation Catholic Church in Crestwood, we reprised much of our concert, and then joined forces with the Southwest Symphony Orchestra on an audience sing-a-long and for a rousing version of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah.
Many thanks to our amazing accompanist collaborator, David Richards, and all of the Singers. Welcome to our newest members and the return of some of our stalwarts.
Please plan to join us for this truly historic event.
As always, at this time of year, we will be listening to singers who might be interested in joining us for the upcoming concert. Interested singers can contact us via the website.
Entering this Holiday Season, many of us are still reeling from the effects of COVID 19. Having been affected ourselves as an organization, it’s always in the back of our minds. We are approaching our 16th season, however, with great optimism and excitement!
At our Holiday concert on December 3, we will reprise some selections from our past concerts and, per our wont, present some new arrangements of Christmas standards and pieces that are new to us and our audiences. We will perform William Grant Still’s evocative “Christmas in the Western World,’ and we will recognize the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams with an arrangement of his original setting of his “Sussex Carol.” I am including some arrangements of my own, as well as my new setting of the “Hail Mary.”
In the spring, we will present the “concert that didn’t happen” – our Spring 2022 concert, Gone Too Soon. I assembled a program that is fun, interesting, and varied. Besides the familiar composers who passed at the height of their creative powers i.e. Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Purcell, I’m including the works of Joplin, Gershwin, Steve Goodman, and John Lennon. The wonderful Dutch soprano, Josefien Stoppelenburg, has agreed to join us for this program, as she had planned last spring. Before we had to pull the plug the day before the performance, we had some amazing rehearsals, having had the chance to run the entire show. We know it will be a very special event and one that should not be missed.
I do hope you are able to attend one or both of these events. You will not be disappointed.
For those of you who purchased tickets for last spring’s concert, and you haven’t done so already, you can deem your purchases as donations; request refunds; or apply them as credit toward one our concerts.
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!
Reflections on concerts, composers and music...