THE SINGERS’ VOICE
Conductor’s Desk u Timeless Mozart The Requiem of Mozart, like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, is one of those works in the classical canon that has a larger than life grip on the imagination of not only music fans but of the public in general. In 2002 on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a world-wide ‘rolling requiem’ was organized to commemorate the events of the ill-fated morning with community sings of the work beginning at 8:46 am EDT, the time of the first attack. Why was Mozart’s Requiem selected, a work written in 1791 and left unfinished at the time of the composer’s death and completed by a number of hands whose contributions scholars still analyze and debate to this very day? Why for that matter, was a performance of Beethoven’s 9th, a work that was written by Beethoven in 1825, selected to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989? Where is the relevance and the appeal of a work composed 164 years earlier? Why choose this work to mark one of the more notable and remarkable events of our time? Perhaps I’ve already begun unwittingly to answer the question by the way in which I posed it. Perhaps the answer is that both of these masterpieces do not belong simply to their own time and place. Instead, they are timeless and universal. Because of that, they speak to the core of human experience in ways that transcend all eras and locales. Why would a woman, who is the sole proprietor of her business, an enterprise that requires daily attention in order to survive in a competitive economic climate, take the day off to join a group of strangers in one of the ‘rolling requiems’ just to sing Mozart’s Requiem, memorializing those who died in the attacks, and to experience the shared grief with hundreds of strangers? The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that
traumatizing events of the scale of the 9/11 attacks are so ‘beyond the pale’ in magnitude that the only way to cope with them successfully is to come together as a community and to participate in the performance of a musical utterance (either as an executant or a listener), that has the requisite power to lift her and everyone else above the enormity of the event. Only an incomparable masterpiece like the Requiem can bring about a catharsis that is equal to the depth of the tragedy.
Only an incomparable masterpiece like the Requiem can bring about a catharsis that is equal to the depth of the [9/11] tragedy. My words in praise of the final work of Mozart’s life are ultimately nothing but “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Only by experiencing a live performance of this work yourself, in the company of the human family, can you truly feel its sublime power to move the soul. Yes, of course you can download it and listen to it on an electronic device in the silence of your own room and in the solitude of your own head. But, as the master of ceremonies sings in the musical “Cabaret,” “What good is sitting alone in your room…?” I invite you to “come hear the music play,” live and in person, surrounded by your community: your friends and your loved ones. The Oratorio Society of Queens is eager to bring this amazing work to all of you this coming May! Let’s share the experience together! And it’s something we can all do right here in Queens!
Music Unites Us
~ David Close
Artistic Director and Conductor
Spotlight on OSQ Members Carol Bramble, First Alto
Ken Nero, First Bass
OSQ member since 2001
OSQ member since 2009
My musical foundation was definitely inherited. My grandfather was a self-taught musician who played several instruments, and my father and his two sisters all played instruments and were part of The Bramble Trio growing up. In fact, my father and I and one of his sisters all graduated from LaGuardia H.S. of Performing Arts. Both of my aunts conducted church choirs, and as a child, I used to listen as my aunts taught the bass and tenor solo parts to Handel’s Messiah.
Music had always been a part of my life, since my grandfather was a jazz musician. As a kid, I loved classical music more than anything! While my classmates were buying pop CDs, I was buying those classical samplers – especially choral works. In my sophomore year of high school, a new music teacher said she wanted to start a school choir. This was an opportunity because I had always wanted to sing. Although very nervous, I auditioned and discovered that I could indeed carry a tune and joined the choir.
I have been singing in specialized choruses all of my life, including The Brooklyn Children’s Museum Choir, the Inner-City Chorus, and three choruses at LaGuardia H.S. I was also a professional singer, and I’ve recorded background vocals on many studio recordings. I also performed Off Broadway with the NYC Community Gospel Choir. Although singing music has always been my first love, I needed a more stable job and income, so I went to work for the NYC Department of Corrections where I stayed for twenty-one years before retiring five years ago.
John Nolan, First Tenor OSQ Member since 2001
I grew up in a household steeped in music. My mother sang and had a huge collection of old records, and my older brother sang in the Opera House in Cork City, Ireland. I also sang in the school choir for many years. As a young adult, I came to the U.S. in 1969. Since I had been an apprentice electrician for five years in Ireland, I was able to get a job with the L.I.R.R. I worked for the railroad as an electrician and foreman for the next 30 years until my retirement. After my retirement, it was my wife who encouraged me to join the choir at St. Sebastian’s Church in Woodside. I sang there for about two years until one of the soprano ringers, MaryKay McGarvey, who teaches music at Queens College, urged me to join OSQ. After a lot of persuasion, I finally consented to give it a try. I am so happy that I did and I thank her for encouraging me. Page 2 - The Singers’ Voice, Winter 2010
My love of classical music is still alive and I like the collaboration between people to create something so beautiful, and the interaction with the audience. It is exciting – if they feel moved to applaud enthusiastically then we know we have moved them, and everyone leaves better off. When I have had a bad day at work, the rehearsal gives me a chance to sing out my frustrations.
Natasha Shapiro, First Soprano OSQ Member since 2009
Music has always been a large part of my life. My mom and dad enjoy all types of music, and they introduced me to many different genres. I like music ranging from classical choral works to metal and rock to classical guitar and piano. When I was younger I loved to perform, and I was always trying out new things like the piano, flute, guitar or dance. I also sang with the Irving Berlin chorus, for the Girl Scouts, which performed throughout the city, and I have been in various school choral groups. Now, as a sophomore at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, I study vocal music. I have two or three vocal classes each day that are usually associated with technique, theory, and a chorus. I take piano lessons as well, and I’m thinking about pursuing a career in music. So far, everything in my life seems to revolve around music. ~ Dolores Naney Gleksman OSQ Member since 2009
President’s Platform On September 11th, 2002 fellow OSQ member Dorothea Brady and I participated in the Rolling Requiem, a world wide tribute marking the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Rolling Requiem was the brainchild of members of the Seattle Symphony Chorale whose initial vision of a single performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Ground Zero was broadened to include choirs performing in each time zone around the world. The singing would begin in the first time zone, in New Zealand at 8:46 a.m. the time of the first attack and continued from time zone to time zone around the world for 24 hours. I don’t remember the manner in which the event came to my attention, but I do remember knowing immediately that it was something I wanted to be a part of. The Tilles Center on the campus of C.W. Post was the performance venue for Long Island. Each Rolling Requiem “choir” was responsible for its own performance (singers, soloists, orchestra, etc., all unpaid) with volunteers organizing the event. I remember that an email or two and a single phone call to the organizers was all it took for Dorothea and me to become a part of the memorial. Since there were no rehearsals scheduled, we were expected to have a working knowledge of the music. Upon arriving I was struck by the absence of chatter, which seemed appropriate. There were over 400 singers representing choirs from all over Long Island, but it felt as if we all knew one another. Although the terrorists’ attacks were a year earlier, it was so fresh in everyone’s mind you could reach out and touch the event as if it had just happened. Each New Yorker knew someone or knew of someone connected with the World Trade Center. Each of us was there for our own particular reason. In the moments before the performance, everyone seemed to be lost in thought. The downbeat was struck at precisely 8:46 a.m. The voices and the orchestra
sounded as if we had been rehearsing together for ages. It was an emotional 56 minutes ... which flew by. When the last chord was struck, no one moved, no one spoke. It was four minutes before an orchestra member stood and walked off the stage. There was no applause, none was needed. Slowly, very slowly people got up and
began to leave the auditorium. We were all still lost in our own reverie. Our singing was to honor those lost. As for me, it helped to heal those of us left behind. As a member of OSQ I am honored that I was able to participate in the Rolling Requiem. I am grateful to David Close and his direction in preparing me to sing with confidence and purpose. This article was written in memory of Mary Yolanda Dowling, second soprano and long time OSQ member, who perished in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. ~ Patty DeCiccio-Franke OSQ Member since 1997
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Patty DeCiccio-Franke . . . . . . . President Leigh Nuñes . . . . . . . . . . . 1st Vice President Ellen Quinn . . . . . . . . . . . 2nd Vice President LeeAnn Close . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer Althea L. Higdon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Secretary David Close . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Artistic Director Hayneth Veronica Bellan Mario Cannariato Priscilla Goldbach Dr. Barbara Raisner
Beatriz Roman Eileen Scott Dr. Alan Sultan Marsha Toma
THE ORATORIO NEWSLETTER Dolores Naney Gleksman, Managing Editor Dianne Harson, Eileen Scott, Bob Weiss, Writers Charlene DeGregoria, Editorial Consultation LeeAnn Close, Production Oversight Susan Harts and Marsha Toma, Proofreading Bill Magargal, Graphics www.queensoratorio.org - Page 3
OSQ Triumphs Over the Blizzard of 2009 December Holiday Concert a Success
As the 120 members of OSQ, and the 40 musicians from the Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens who accompany them, prepared for OSQ’s holiday concert, they were met by a surprise visitor. A strong Nor’easter, the first real storm of the season, had headed up the Atlantic coast two days before, dropping nearly 18 inches of snow on the City. Both performers and guests would now have to contend with hazardous driving conditions and even higher snow accumulation in some areas. OSQ concert organizers of course were concerned. Prior to the concert, the performance was sold-out, creating a waiting list of more than 100. Now, they wondered, would there still be a good turn-out and would the Queensborough Performing Arts Center be filled? All were relieved on Sunday, December 20, however, when despite the snowy conditions, all but six OSQ members made it to the theatre at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, performing a beautiful and moving concert to a gratifyingly full house. The performance began with the singing of selected favorite sections from Messiah, still the best-known work of George Frideric Handel 250 years after his death. Initially written by Handel in a period of threeto-four weeks in 1741 and intended to be an Easter offering, it has become a standard of the Christmas season. As Jonathan Kandell wrote on Smithsonian.com, “Woe to the concert hall in the United States or Britain that fails to schedule the piece around the [Christmas] holiday.” And this tradition at OSQ goes back to its first holiday concert in December, 1927, when it was performed. Although the OSQ concert program has varied over the years, according to conductor David Close, those that included selections from the Messiah were far better attended than when it was omitted from the program. As part of the OSQ tradition, the second half of the program was a memorable romp through the carols of many different religious traditions, cultures and countries. A rousing selection of Chanukah songs was performed, beginning with the standard “Ma’oz Page 4 - The Singers’ Voice, Winter 2010
Tsur.” To assist with two more Chanukah songs, Cantor Jerry Korobow from Temple Am Echad in Lynbrook, Long Island, sang with OSQ for the first time. A gifted musician and composer, he contributed a warm, satiny voice and a keen sense rhythm and timing, helping the chorus bring to life the lively songs. The first, “Ocho Kandelikas,” written by F. Jagoda and arranged by David Close, was sung in Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish language spoken among the Jewish population of Spain in the fifteenth century. Its delightful rhythms were reflections of the joy of Chanukah, as well as the playful musical talents of Maestro Close. As the high energy of the piece ended, the group launched into another Chanukah piece that has become an OSQ standard, “Al Hanissim.“ This year’s performance also included a group of talented soloists who have become well-known favorites to the OSQ audience: Geraldine McMillian, soprano; John Easterlin, tenor; and Vaughn Fritts, bass-baritone. Surrounded by their glorious airs and recitatives, Maestro Close brought the full energy of the group to beloved choruses like “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” “Glory to God,” and “Worthy Is the Lamb.” The balance of the program brought a rich variety of music to the audience -- from the delicacy of J. Rutter’s “Angel’s Carol,” to a traditional English carol, “I Saw Three Ships,” followed by an African-American spiritual, “Go Tell It!” Other long-time OSQ audience favorites, including “Pueri Concinite,” “A Christmas Cradle Song,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” added to the festive afternoon. Geraldine McMillian and John Easterlin joined their soaring voices with the chorus and orchestra in a moving version of “O Holy Night,” which brought the audience to its feet, leading the way to rousing ovations and the “Hallelujah” chorus, the traditional encore that neither Grinch nor blizzard could stop from coming. ~ Dianne Harson OSQ Member since 2005
Musically Speaking u The Benefits of Choral Singing It was the end of our Holiday concert this past December: Thunderous applause… Bravo… Superb… Encore, Encore… We obliged by singing Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus to a standing, energized audience. The concert was not only a celebration of our triumph over the difficult music, but also of our joy in sharing it with others in the community. Even after having performed the masterpiece many times before, its timeless beauty still moves me and clearly has an inspirational effect on the audience. Since beginning in 1927, OSQ has been true to its cultural mission of “sharing a love of classical choral music with its friends and neighbors throughout Queens.” We do so by presenting two formal concerts each year and occasional performances at hospitals, churches, synagogues, parks, and other venues. At our Holiday performance in December, we typically present parts of Handel’s Messiah and holiday favorites, and at our Spring performance we present classical choral masterpieces along with opera choruses and patriotic American songs. Through these performances we tap into the spiritual and patriotic heritage that all Americans share. OSQ plays an integral role in our Queens community by aspiring to make the musical arts readily accessible to all. We are a community chorus and we sing to the people of the community. We perform with a flair that has earned us a reputation for being one of the best amateur music groups in New York City. Our 120 members represent individuals of all ages and reflect the ethnic diversity of Queens. We are educators, doctors, actors, social workers, writers, salespeople, marathon runners, students, singles, married, parents, and grandparents -- all with a common love of choral singing. Singing affords m a n y benefits to OSQ members, which are borne out by a recent study conducted by Chorus America. It shows that choral singing is associated with positive traits that are related to success in life. These include greater discipline, better social skills, more community involvement, greater volunteerism, philanthropy, and other traits. Moreover, children who sing in choral groups tend to have higher academic achievement
and are more emotionally stable. (www.chorusamerica.org/about_choralsinging.cfm) There are also many benefits to our audience, beyond the obvious pleasures derived from listening to the classical choral pieces. For instance, some researchers have provided evidence of a “Mozart effect,” a belief that listening to the music of Mozart can improve intellectual ability. (OSQ will perform the Mozart Requiem during our Spring concert.) It’s also been demonstrated that classical music can relieve stress and anxiety, and studies have also shown that the brainwaves of individuals who are listening to the same classical music become synchronized – as if mesmerized by the music. Apparently, we affect our audience subconsciously as well with our music – they are smarter and happier after the concert! Whatever the primal connection, a strong “enjoyment arousal” is formed within our audience. And we hear the results at the conclusion of our concerts through the loud and enthusiastic applause of the audience. Then, we know we have succeeded in conveying the beauty and the delight of these musical treasures, reinforcing the joy and fulfillment we experience as members of OSQ. ~ Bob Weiss OSQ Member since 2005
Hallmarks of Excellent Choral Singing The resonant and expressive sound that is the hallmark of The Oratorio Society of Queens is the result of many hours of personal preparation and weekly direction by our Conductor and Artistic Director, David Close. We fine tune each piece of music to always serve the composer, lyricist and arranger as inspired by Maestro Close’s careful guidance. Using our collective strengths, each piece of music becomes a finely crafted work of art. As a community of musical learners, we strive to make each concert a most memorable experience for us and our audience. And, as amateurs without much formal training, we follow some basic principles of singing. Below is a review of some of the techniques employed by OSQ singers: ee Preparing the music – Since we strive to perform some of the most challenging music ... Continued on page 7
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CLASSICAL NOTES Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ike many choral groups around the world, OSQ will perform one of the most famous pieces of classical music, Mozart’s Requiem, as part of its spring concert. Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791, the elegiac mass is one of his more than 600 compositions. Mozart is often ranked alongside Beethoven and Bach as one of the three top composers of all time. His music has influenced many composers over the past two and a half centuries, and his compositions are still performed around the world. The 250th anniversary of his birth in 2006 was celebrated with concerts and tributes in many cities.
Although only 35 when he died, Mozart left behind a legacy of works that are now regarded as masterpieces. Mozart wrote music in every form and style, including operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber music, piano music, piano sonatas, violin sonatas, string quartets, and church music, and he is recognized as the master of every type of music he wrote, including 19 operas, 103 minuets, 55 symphonies, and 39 concertos. Mozart’s life story is well known to students of classical music and to the public, in general, from the awardwinning biographical movie, Amadeus, which was released in 1984. Born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, Mozart was the son of a skilled violinist and music teacher who recognized his son’s prodigious talents. He was encouraged to play a variety of instruments, ranging from the violin to the organ. By the age of six, Mozart had started composing music and wrote his first symphonies at the age of eight. For nearly 10 years, beginning when he was six years old, Mozart and his family traveled throughout the musical capitals of Europe, where young Mozart and his sister performed in the royal courts of cities from Munich to London. The touring exposed young Mozart to a variety of musical styles, and in Italy, which he toured three times, he studied Italian musical styles, which he successfully adopted. He composed two of his famous operas, Mitridate and Lucio Silla, in Italy, but failed to find a court position. Seeking a stable position, in 1773, Mozart secured the Page 6 - The Singers’ Voice, Winter 2010
position of concertmaster in the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg and was given a token salary. Although forbidden to write for himself or for any other patron,
... beginning when he was six years old, Mozart and his family traveled throughout the musical capitals of Europe, where young Mozart and his sister performed in the royal courts ... Mozart did have the opportunity to work in many genres. He also performed at court and in cathedrals while continuing to compose and create symphonies. Mozart wanted to continue to grow as a composer and to secure a position in a court that offered higher pay. He obtained the Archbishop’s permission to leave Salzburg and he traveled throughout Germany and France with his mother, settling in Paris where he composed the Paris Symphony in 1778. Despite this journey, he was unable to find a permanent position and after his mother died in Paris, he returned to Salzburg. In 1779, Mozart was given the position of court organist in Salzburg and produced a series of church works, including the famous Coronation Mass. At this time, he was also commissioned to compose an opera for the Munich court, Idomeneo (1781), his first mature work in that genre. Soon he was summoned to Vienna where he was commissioned by the Emperor to compose The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782), which was recognized at the time as a ground-breaking departure from operas of the era. Emperor Joseph II continued to encourage Mozart and later engaged him as court composer. In 1782 the now-popular Mozart married Constanze Weber, against his father’s wishes, and the couple had six children. This was also the beginning of a particularly creative musical period. Within a span of six years, he composed some of the greatest operas and music of all time: the six string quartets dedicated to Josef Haydn (1785); The Marriage of Figaro (1786); Don Giovanni, (1787); his last three symphonies: E Flat, G Minor and the Jupiter in C (1788); The Magic Flute Amadeus Mozart ... Continued on next page
1819 painting by Barbara Krafft
Fine Tuning (Continued)
Mozart (Continued) (1790); Cosi fan tutte and the Requiem (1791). Throughout the period, Mozart earned a living from teaching, concerts and the occasional commissions from wealthy aristocrats. Mozart’s income, however, did not match his success, and through mismanagement of his money, he was constantly in debt. By 1790, though, after the success of The Magic Flute and a newly granted yearly stipend, Mozart’s finances were finally becoming more stable. In 1791 he was commissioned to write a new requiem. Despite being very sick, he worked on the piece until his unexpected death on December 5, 1791. As the now well-known story relates, Mozart did not complete the Requiem, giving rise to many rumors and conspiracy theories about who finished the piece and whether or not it was originally intended for Mozart himself. Although the cause of his death was listed as a ‘fever,’ the disease that killed such a young man remains unknown.
in the classical canon, the OSQ chorus is encouraged to try to learn its part before coming to rehearsal.
ee Articulating Wisely – In singing, the articulation of
vowels and consonants is critically important. Even the most beautiful voices can be misunderstood without proper enunciation, impacting what the audience hears and understands. The very best singers strive to keep their jaw, tongue and lips as relaxed as possible.
ee Uniformity of Vowel Sounds – This promotes blending in tone quality and can help keep notes better in tune throughout our group.
ee Accuracy of Pitch – The accuracy of a singer’s pitch can be tested by putting a finger in one ear.
ee Breathing – Chorus members are reminded during re-
hearsals to maintain efficient breath support. With air flowing freely through the diaphragm and back out, sound is given greater support.
ee Keep Vocal Chords Moisturized – By drinking plenty
of fluids and keeping hydrated, our singers can reduce irritating phlegm.
Mozart’s funeral was held at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna with little fanfare, and he was buried in an unmarked grave. The facts of his burial have been interpreted by later generations as an indication that he was penniless and forgotten at the time of his death. In reality, it was legally required that all Viennese, except the nobility, be buried in this way.
ee Taking Care of the Entire Body – Being a member of
Following his death, Mozart was memorialized with tribute concerts in Vienna and Prague that were well attended. The popularity of his compositions continued to grow following his death, influencing many contemporary composers. Mozart’s musical legacy continues into the 21st century.
must think about how their singing lends expression to the lyrics and artistic thought behind each piece of music.
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OSQ is like being on an athletic team. Members need to ensure that they get plenty of sleep and aerobic exercise and avoid smoke and alcohol until after a performance. Also before a performance, we are urged to get proper rest and to limit any shouting for long periods of time before a vocal performance.
ee Telling a Story – Like any performers, the OSQ singers
ee Eyes on the Conductor – Perhaps the most important action a chorus can take is to maintain focus on the conductor. ~ Susan C. Harts
~ Dolores Naney Gleksman OSQ Member since 2009
OSQ Member since 2007
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NON-PROFIT U.S. POSTAGE PAID FLUSHING, NY PERMIT NO. 55
33-19 210th Street Bayside, NY 11361 www.queensoratorio.org David Close
Artistic Director & Conductor
Annual Spring Concert “A world that has produced a Mozart is a world worth saving. What a picture of a better world you have given us, Mozart!” Franz Schubert
Mozart’s Requiem Sunday, May 16 at 4:00 pm Queensborough Performing Arts Center at Queensborough Community College Bayside, NY Call us for tickets at 718-279-3006 or visit our website: www.queensoratorio.org
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OSQ concerts are made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Queens Delegation of the NYC Council, with additional funding from Senator Frank Padavan through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Council Members Leroy Comrie, Melinda Katz, John C. Liu and David Weprin, the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and Materials for the Arts. Corporation and foundation support include The Billy Rose Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Maspeth Federal Savings, Queens County Savings Bank, a division of New York Community Bank, Time Warner, Verizon Foundation and William C. and Joyce C. O’Neil Charitable Trust.