POSTED ON NOVEMBER 29, 2006:
Move Over, Robert Shaw
Much more than a normal tabernacle choir And a better-than-ok choral, this group rounds up the city's best singing talent as one powerful voice
Choral Leader. In 2002, Dr. Donald Studebaker, above, was named the artistic director and conductor of TOC. He said TOC performs choral masterpieces that represent the best of the large choral literature.
For most of us, Christmastime is filled with family, friends, favorite carols, lots of food and that distinguished yuletide-loving spirit. There are also certain activities that take us out of our warm homes with family and friends into the cold, such as the hunt for the perfect tree or Christmas light mania.
For classical music lovers and also those who enjoy colorful new musical experiences, Christmas might be a good time to become acquainted with a vocal group whose work often goes unnoticed for its lack of promotion, but certainly not for its lack of talent.
Tulsa Oratorio Chorus presents its eponymous "Christmas with TOC" at Chapman Hall of the Performing Arts Center on Sat., Dec. 2.
For those who are not musically inclined, "oratorio" means, according to www.dictionary.com, "an extended musical composition with a text more or less dramatic in character and usually based upon a religious theme, for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra, and performed without action, costume, or scenery."
"This concert would be a really good way to introduce yourself to this type of performance," said Bob Puriton, TOC's marketing director. "It will give you a chance to hear a 100-voice chorus with the intricate weaving of voices and harmonies and counterparts that you can't hear on the street."
In 2002, Dr. Donald Studebaker was named the artistic director and conductor of TOC. He is a professor at Northeastern State University as well as the conductor for the Northeastern Oklahoma Symphony. He said TOC performs choral masterpieces that represent the best of the large choral literature.
He grew up in a family that was musically talented. Both of his parents were music teachers. He said his identity as a musical director stems from his longevity at NSU. He has been there since 1984. He also, however, enjoys the challenge of conducting TOC.
"It has made me better," he said
"[TOC's] music is chosen based on venue, when it was last performed and if ever performed and then balances the season with a cross-section of literature representing various historic eras, Baroque through 20th Century if possible," Studebaker said.
The first half of "Christmas with TOC" will feature pieces from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, "which is a set of six separate cantatas meant to be performed on different days through the Christmas season," Studebaker said.
There are six cantatas to this selection but excerpts from five of the six will be included in this performance.
The second half focuses will include:
"Fantasia on Greensleeves," by Ralph Vaughn Williams. "'Fantasia on Greensleeves,' is an orchestral work for flute, harp and strings, based on the popular English folksong "Greensleeves," said Studebaker. "This tune is also used for the well-known Christmas carol, 'What Child Is This.'"
"Shepherd's Farewell from 'L 'Enfance du Christ,'" by Hector Berlioz. "This is a separate chorus taken from a long work by the French romantic composer Hector Berlioz," explained Studebaker. "It is a simple, sensitive chorus for strings and chorus with short interludes by the clarinets and oboes, imitating the shepherd's pipes."
"Gesu Bambino," by Pietro Yon. "Gesu Bambino is a well-known solo for soprano and orchestra," said Studebaker. "It will be sung by Soprano Amanda Mansheim.
"The Wild Wood Carol," by John Rutter. "'The Wildwood Carol' is from a larger children's musical 'The Wind in the Willows," said Studebaker. "It is sung by the rat in the musical. Our contralto soloist, April Golliver and the TOC, will sing it."
Concluding this concert, the audience will be able to participate in singing a few of Sir. David Willcocks' Christmas carols such as "O Come all Ye Faithful," "The First Noel" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."
Earlier this season, TOC performed "Carmina Burana," by Carl Orff as a collaboration of the Tulsa Ballet. It was a combination of dance, light, chorus and orchestra. "This concert was a dynamic, powerful, theatrical work," said Studebaker.
On October 21, TOC collaborated with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra for "Mass in G, D. 167," by Schubert and "Requiem, Op 48, by Fauré. Studebaker said both of these church works are frequently done in concert.
On Saint Patrick's Day, TOC will present "Missa Solemnis," by Beethoven. Puriton said this had never been performed in Tulsa to his knowledge.
"The reason it is not done, it is fairly well-known, is that it is mostly too hard for church choirs," said Puriton.
"We have always maintained the highest quality of standards." Studebaker calls this concert "one of the biggest monstrosities in choral literature."
On May 5, TOC will perform "Trail of Tears Oratorio." Puriton said they do not know too much about it right now because it is still in the works. It is by David Carlson. Carlson has previously composed an opera called "Dreamkeepers," about Native American cultures.
Puriton said he will adapt it to concert oratorio setting. The performance will be sung in Cherokee. This is a tribute to the Oklahoma state centennial. This concert will be $20 because it is a collaboration with The Tulsa Opera. The Opera is arranging for Carlson's works, and they are doing all the marketing.
The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra will accompany TOC for "Christmas with TOC" as well as other performances this season.
Joan Hatley has been TOC's accompanist since 2002. She graduated from with a Bachelor's in Music in Piano Performance from The University of Oklahoma. She has taught piano lessons since 1981. She is also a para teacher at Eisenhower International School for a second-grade French class.
"If you are wondering if you will enjoy it [the Christmas concert], you will," said Hatley. "And, you go away changed for the better because it will feed you in a way that you can't anticipate."
In 1992, Dr. Edward Byrom founded TOC.
"He recognized that Tulsa Philharmonic did not have a symphonic chorus that could sing serious choral music," said Puriton. "And he felt like Tulsa needed it, like it was a gap in performing arts spectrum."
In four years the Tulsa Philharmonic folded, but TOC remained. The Tulsa Symphony is now the new kid on the block but they both realize their futures are intertined.
There are 100 members of TOC who are there for the love, not the money. Each singer is a volunteer. Each has his or her own career outside of TOC. There is a wide variety of occupations in this group; from teachers to attorneys to computer analysts.
The artistic director and the accompanist are the only people who get paid. All ticket sales pay for about 20 percent of expenses. The rest of it is made up in private donations or government grants.
As a group TOC has performed in Greece, Italy, Australia and the South Pacific area, to name a few. When TOC goes overseas, each member is responsible for his or her own flight and lodging. In September 2002, TOC took a trip to Mexico City to honor the one-year memorial of 9-11. This was in conjunction with the Mexico City opera chorus and orchestra.
TOC's mission is to elevate "the human condition through quality performances of significant choral works to audiences in Tulsa and the surrounding region." According to Puriton, TOC lives up to this mission by "performing the type of music you won't be able to hear anywhere else; stuff that no one has attempted."
TOC also gives free tickets to economically disadvantaged students who may not have the opportunity to hear this classical music unless they tune into one of the local classical music radio stations.
Tickets for Christmas with TOC are $15. Tickets are available by calling 231-0995 or 245-3826. You may also buy tickets online at myticketoffice.com or by calling the PAC ticket office at 596-7111. The PAC is located at 110 E. 2nd St in downtown.
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