Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A modest proposal for the Oratorio Singers

Posted By on Tue, May 11, 2010 at 2:20 PM

Last week’s Charlotte Symphony mass mailing, announcing the 2010-11 season, brought the glad tidings that the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte would be prominently featured in an all-Brahms concert next April, conducted by incoming Symphony music director Christopher Warren-Green. That evening – including the Oreos’ participation in “Nänie,” “Song of Destiny,” and Brahms’ Symphony #1 – occurs less than five months after Oratorio Singers director Scott Allen Jarrett, choristers in tow, takes over the Belk Theater podium as the Symphony presents The Creation by Haydn.

Which brings me to my modest suggestion to the Oratorio Singers: learn some more oratorios, goddammit!

However beloved your oratorio repertoire may be, it ought to extend beyond the bounds of Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St. John Passion, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and The Creation. All of these great choral works, sung by you or another local group, will have been performed at least twice in the Queen City since March 2006 when Symphony reprises the Haydn chorale.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate your exploits in recent years with the Verdi Requiem and the Bach B Minor Mass. In fact, my readers have a right to be bored with my never-ending superlatives describing your performances. But in the area of oratorios, I’ve developed a little boredom – and frustration – of my own. With a new British conductor in town leading Symphony, there ought to be an irresistible momentum for you to get out of the Messiah-Elijah-Creation rut and explore the glorious wealth of other great English oratorios. Make a serious dent in that repertory and move along to the German if you like.

Unless a greater immersion in oratorio is part of your “Song of Destiny” at this most opportune moment in your 58-year history, you ought to consider changing your name from Oratorio Singers to something that better reflects what you’re really about. I suspect Charlotte Symphony would have done that long ago if they only had four symphonies in their rep.

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