There were ten seasons of exploring and research, resulting in unique, enterprising, and amazing music, along with perceptive, energetic, musical, and convincing performances!
We introduced new music and looked at the “other sides” of some established composers. Who would have thought that songwriters such as Harry Warren and Meredith Willson would have written Catholic Masses; or that “The March King,” John Phillip Sousa, would have written a “Te Deum”; or that Charles Strouse (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie) would have studied with the great pedagogue, Nadia Boulanger, and would have written a psalm setting for a cappella chorus? When was the last time a vocal ensemble programmed the two cantatas written by the orchestrator of the works of Kern, Gershwin, and Rodgers – Robert Russell Bennett? When and where was there ever a concert dedicated to 17 woman composers? To black composers, from Colonial times to the present?
None of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment to the organization’s vision by the founding members, the MTS Board and, especially, the singers – past and present.
The Michael Teolis Singers reached the point a while ago that the organization needs to go beyond being one of the area’s best kept secret. In the coming seasons, we hope to continue to explore – in order to present – unique material and bring to the audience music that is accessible and should be in the mainstream repertoire. After ten years, we will be doing some reprises of selections we already introduced, in addition to some more “hidden gems.” Our themes will continue to be innovative. We will continue to educate, but always keeping in mind our main job is to entertain.
We have come a long way, but there’s still so much to look forward to.
We began the celebratory season with a “Brassy Christmas,” presenting some traditional favorites dressed up with brass, percussion, and organ: Ovid Young’s “A Christmas Intrada”; the David Willcocks arrangement of “O Come All Ye Faithful”; Ferris’s “The Lord Said to Me”; and the Teolis arrangements of “The Sussex Carol (On Christmas Night)”; “Joy to the World”; and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The Daniel Pinkham “Christmas Cantata” added a wonderful centerpiece to the Holiday musical festivities.
As with all of our concerts, we like to add the “hidden gems.” For this concert, they included Teolis arrangements of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Ives, and the world premiere of an “Ave Maria” constructed from sketches by 3-time Academy Award winner, Harry Warren. Adding to the fun, was the jazzy arrangement by Ray Charles (the choral director/composer/arranger for the Perry Como Show, not the R&B artist) of “Jingle Bells.”
To cap off the regular season, we presented “An Evening of Irreverence.” As the title suggests, the programming for this concert was never intended to be anything less than fun and, at times, madcap. The King’s Singers version of the “Barber of Seville” set the tone for the rest of the concert. Among the selections were Jonathan Willcocks’ “Drunken Sailor”; Randy Newman’s “Short People”; and Robert Russell Bennett’s “Crazy Cantata #1 Three Blind Mice,” which we reprised from an earlier season. The men of the ensemble presented the Teolis arrangement of Steve Goodman’s “The Lincoln Park Pirates” and PDQ Bach’s “Art of the Ground Round,” while the women brought down the house with their renditions of Frank Bridge’s “Peter Piper” and “The Cat Duet.”
As always, we try to include premiers and special presentations. For this concert, there were arrangements that were presented for the first time, including the Midwest premier of H. Leslie Adams’ “There Was an Old Man” and an arrangement of Allan Sherman’s “Hello Mudduh, Hello Faddah,” as arranged by yours truly. Fun fact: we were able to procure permission from Robert Sherman, the son of Allan Sherman. I was only able to track down the copyright owner after going to the ASCAP site and typing in “Hello Mother, Hello Father,” after several tries of typing in “Hello Mudduh, Hello Faddah.” Allan Sherman, by the way, was a Chicago boy, born on the near north side of the City.
The full ensemble presented arrangements of Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” and “Pollution,” among many others, including a rollicking version of “Zombie Jamboree,” which closed the program.
There was sort of a coda to the season, as MTS was specially invited to perform at the annual Thomas A. Dorsey Commemoration, which was held at Pilgrim Baptist Church, 3300 S. Indiana, on Chicago’s south side. Pilgrim Baptist Church is the birth place of Gospel Music. This style of music was introduced and developed by Thomas A. Dorsey, author of the well-known hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand, which, by the way, was the favorite hymn of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was also performed at King’s funeral. This was the second time in the past three years MTS was invited to the Dorsey Celebration.
What will the next ten years hold for us? Please check our website for our plans for the coming season and for any special events or announcements.
Reflections on concerts, composers and music...