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Oratorio Next Weekend

September 26, 2001

Oklahoma Baptist University's Oratorio, a major biannual project, begins at 8 p.m., Oct. 5, in Raley Chapel and will be directed by Dr. Timothy Stalter from the University of Iowa.

Stalter, director of choral activities at the University of Iowa, will conduct Giacomo Puccini's Messa di Gloria and Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.

Dr. John Simons, OBU associate professor of church music and director of the Bison Glee Club, has prepared the OBU students involved, serving as rehearsal conductor.

Soloists for the event are Kenneth Whitmore for Chichester Psalms and tenor Lloyd Holt, baritone Conor Scholes and bass Christopher Campbell for Messa di Gloria .

Stalter is active as a tenor soloist in the U.S. and abroad in addition to his career of conducting and teaching choral music. He is widely known for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz.

His other solo credits include appearances as tenor soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France, the Robert Shaw Chamber Choir in Atlanta, the Classical Music Seminar and Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, and the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival.

In July 1999, he was a featured soloist in Haydn's Creation for the International Cathedral Music Festival in England.

He also has recorded two albums with Robert Shaw, Amazing Grace and Songs of Angels.

Stalter received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in choral conducting under Robert Fountain. He earned a master's degree in choral music from the University of Illinois at Urbana and a bachelor's degree in voice performance from Goshen College.

Written in 1880 as a capstone project for his graduation from the Istituto Musicale Pacini, the Messa di Gloria (or, as he referred to it, the Mass in A-flat), clearly exhibits Giacomo Puccini's penchant for melody. Puccini was a perfectionist. He struggled with each score, attempting to perfect those elements over which he had control, including big choral scenes. Puccini enlivened its effect by seemingly effortless musical exchanges between soloists and crowd.

Although received warmly by both the public and by critics, the Messa di Gloria found its place, filed away in Puccini's studio until it was rediscovered and performed for only the second time in 1951.

Leonard Bernstein fused melody and meaning in his 1965 work, the Chichester Psalms. Commissioned by the Very Reverend Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England for a choral festival, the Chichester Psalms capture several very real forces in Bernstein's life.

Bernstein continued to study the music of his native New England throughout his life, and several times focused on the practice of Psalm singing. A great deal of Bernstein's music reflects what he referred to as "the crisis of faith."

He cited the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 as a major turning point in his life, and it was after this that he began to explore themes of religion and faith in his works.

In his theatrical works, most popularly West Side Story, Bernstein captures the imagination of his audience by blending rhythms and melodic gestures from jazz and folk idioms to convey the sentiments of his characters. He is very aware of his American heritage, and seeks to combine that nationalistic idea with memorable, lyrical tunes.

In the Chichester Psalms, however, he departs from the late-romantic, lyrical melodic idea of Puccini, and embarks on a voyage of rhythmic and harmonic complexity, allowing him to explore more dissonant and disjunct melodic thoughts.

The division of music performs a major oratorio work for chorus, soloists, and orchestra every other fall. Recent Oratorio projects have included Handel's Messiah in 1999, and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, in 1997.

For more information concerning the performance, contact the division of music at 878-2306 or email