Oratorio Society’s Kaleidoscope

Posted: April 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

Winchester — The Front Royal Oratorio Society is stepping out of its comfort zone.

For the group’s annual spring concert, music director George Amos put together a fun and light-hearted program that ranges from its traditional sacred music to folk, Broadway and film soundtracks.

The show, aptly named “A Choral Kaleidoscope: Songs of All Shapes, Sizes, and Colors,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Braddock Street United Methodist Church, 115 Wolfe St. The concert is free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be taken.

“It is not the first time the Oratorio Society has ever done music like this, but it is the first time we have ever done a large quantity of music of that style in one concert,” said Amos, of Stephens City.

The group is made up of 40 members from six counties and Winchester, said Maureen Sadler, chair of the board of directors. They hail from a variety of musical backgrounds ranging from professional instrumentalists who are amateur singers to people who only sing in a church choir.

“There is a core group of singers who return every year and then new people who join,” said Sadler, of Front Royal, who has been a member for seven years.

Unlike its annual Christmas concert, the spring show has no set theme, Amos said. Instead, he built a concert around Mark Hayes’ oratorio, “Te Deum,” a major work that is “almost a kaleidoscope of music in itself.”

The song is a challenging, modern larger work, which can be hard to find, he said. It includes text in English and Latin.

“It is not a requiem. There are some loud, fast, exciting things, but it also slows down and has Gregorian chant-like sections,” said Amos, who has been music director since 1995.

One of the reasons Amos chose the piece is because it is accompanied by organ, and he wanted to showcase Braddock Street’s new organ. Judy B. Connelly will return for her 18th year accompanying the society.

Another song that has pushed the society vocally is Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia,” said David Freese, publicity chair. The song is a challenging piece for large ensembles and nonprofessional choirs.

Although the text of the song is only one word, “Alleluia,” the variety of ways it is sung makes the piece almost a workout for the performers. It is satisfying now that it is has come together and can be enjoyed in all its intricacy, he said.

“It is the variety of it,” said Freese, of Front Royal. “The voices lock in and come together and then go their own ways. It is cascading tones.”

The group will also perform selections from Thompson’s “Frostiana: Seven Country Songs,” he said. The piece features a seven-movement suite of choral art songs, accompanied by the poetry of Robert Frost.

The society will perform selections featuring “The Telephone,” “Choose Something Like a Star,” and “The Road Not Taken” from the larger work.

“People are familiar with the words but have never thought about putting them to music,” Freese said.

The traditional folk song “Shenandoah” is evocative of all of the beauty of the region but has the perspective of an outsider looking in, he said. Other songs the group will perform include “Danny Boy,” “Over the Rainbow,” “The Sound of Music,” “Edelweiss,” “Blue Moon” and “Memory.”

The society was formed in 1962 by a group of Front Royal musicians who wanted to learn as well as bring more music appreciation to the area, Sadler said.

The group meets and rehearses during what it calls its two semesters, she said. Rehearsals for the Christmas concert run from September to December, while the group started meeting in January to rehearse for the spring show. The members also sometimes add a summer show in honor of the Fourth of July.

The group always performs its concerts in both Winchester and Front Royal. The second performance of the concert will be given at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Front Royal Presbyterian Church, 115 Luray Ave., Front Royal.

Information

The Front Royal Oratorio Society will perform “A Choral Kaleidoscope: Songs of All Shapes, Sizes, and Colors” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Braddock Street United Methodist Church, 115 Wolfe St. The concert is free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be taken. For more information, call 540-667-0867 or go to frontroyaloratoriosociety.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com