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OBU's Oratorio to Feature Michael Cox Work March 9

February 18, 2004

This work, by former OBU faculty member Michael Cox, is the latest in a long tradition of large choral works produced at OBU. Recent works in the series have included Giacomo Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, the Chichester Psalms of Leonard Bernstein, and Messiah by Handel 

Composer Michael Cox graduated from OBU in 1970 with a bachelor of music degree (with honors). He also holds degrees from the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and Florida State University. He served as a faculty member at OBU from 1972-1990, where he taught composition, church music, and directed the Bison Glee Club. Currently he is on the faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he serves as professor of theory and composition. 

His latest work, Symphonic Psalms, features eight movements for chorus and orchestra. These movements, with texts from Psalms 8, 23, 47, 90, 95, 103, 117, and 148 are unified by the overriding theme of Psalm 100, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing& ." 

The piece was commissioned by Scott Oyer, an OBU 1991 church music graduate with an emphasis in conducting. Oyer studied under Dr. Cox and was also a member of the Bison Glee Club. 

The movements are of a wide variety of styles and textures, from the stately, hymn-like "O Come, Let Us Sing" to the more syncopated and rhythmically diverse "O Clap Your Hands." 

The performance will also include "Zadok the Priest," an anthem by Georg Frideric Handel, with text from I Kings 1: 39-40. 

"Symphonic Psalms was written by OBU alumnus Dr. Michael Cox as a commissioned work made possible by the generosity of one of his former students, Scott Oyer (''91)," said Dr. Paul Hammond, Dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts. "The oratorio project has several purposes: to give OBU students experience with major choral works; to perform the works with full instrumentation; to benefit from nationally renowned choral directors; and to bring students and faculty together as a community of singers." 

As instructional as the project is for the students, it also is a memorable experience for everyone involved. 

"OBU alumni regularly cite the oratorio as one of their favorite experiences," said Hammond. "While it takes the effort of many faculty and considerable resources, I believe it greatly enhances our students’ education and musical growth. We have been privileged to sing under Duncan Couch (Stetson), William Weinert (Eastman), Donald Neuen (UCLA), Simon Carrington (Yale), and our own James Woodward and Nancy Cobb Lippens. Dr. David Keith is a preeminent choral conductor, and he will be the first seminary professor to lead us. We are eagerly anticipating his arrival. Dr. Keith was also the personal choice of the composer to premier this work." 

The OBU Oratorio Project brings together members of each of OBU’s choirs, including the Bison Glee Club, University Chorale, Bisonette Glee Club, and Chapel choir. In addition, music majors involved in instrumental studies have an opportunity to perform as part of the accompanying orchestra. 

Music faculty will also participate in the chorus and the orchestra. In addition, other members of the OBU/Shawnee community have been invited to participate. 

Rehearsals will be led by Dr. Bonnie Sneed, associate professor of choral music. Dr. Sneed is in her first year at OBU. 

"This is a unique opportunity for our students to come together to perform a large-scale work for chorus and orchestra," said Dr. Kristen Stauffer Todd assistant professor of music history. "These two works represent the extremely diverse ways in which composers select and set Biblical texts. I look forward to making music with not only my students, but with other members of the Shawnee community." 

For more information, please contact the OBU Division of Music at 405-878-2306, or via email at