By Lauren Deal
Macon Community News
The Choral Society of Middle Georgia and the Mercer University Choir will present their first concert of the 2019-2020 choral season, For a Breath of Ecstasy. The performance will take place on Sunday, November 17, 2019, at 4:00 PM at the First Baptist Church of Christ, located at 511 High Place in Macon. Tickets are on sale.
Now in its 44th year, the Choral Society of Middle Georgia is fortunate to perform under the leadership of their conductor, Dr. Stanley Roberts, who is the Arthur Lowndes Rich Professor of Choral Conducting at Mercer University’s School of Music. Jonathan Poe, organist and choirmaster at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Macon, continues his role as an accompanist.
The songs being performed include a broad variety of music, including “Peace in the Valley,” a hymn made famous by singer Elvis Presley; songs by Aaron Copland, a well-known American composer of the mid-20th century; and the works of American poet Sara Teasdale and Irish poet William B. Yates set to musical accompaniment, among others.
Choral society member Lee Love verbalizes why she believes the music will resonate with the audience. “Each of these tunes in some way celebrates love and ecstasy,” she explains.
“The title of the concert, A Breath of Ecstasy, comes from the second piece by Sara Teasdale: ‘Spend all you have for loveliness, buy it and never count the cost, for one white singing hour of peace, count many a year of strife well lost and for a breath of ecstasy give all you have been or could be.’ With these beautiful pieces, we celebrate love, romance, spirituality, the American spirit, and peace with our audience,” she continues.
Dr. Roberts views the theme similarly. “Life is lovely,” he says, “and in this concert, we want to give a little focus and attention to that loveliness.”
“We spend so much of our lives battling the negative, the darkness,” Dr. Roberts elaborates, “illness, sadness, pain, whatever it might be, but music allows us to back up and become human for a while.”
From Dr. Roberts’ perspective, music is one of those places where we can find common ground. Among his performers, as among his audiences, there are individuals with different political beliefs, different religious beliefs, and different values. They also represent various generations, from retirees to students.
Three performers, who represent a fraction of the diversity in the choral society, shared their thoughts on the upcoming performance.
Kim Lynn has been singing with the Choral Society of Middle Georgia for the better part of a decade. She is a former federal manager who currently works as an instructor for a defense contractor. Matthew Roberts (no relationship to Conductor Stanley Roberts) is a software engineer who has been singing with the choral society for eight years, having trained with the Duke University Chapel Choir. Finally, Lee Love is a retired paralegal who has been singing with the group for five years; a lifelong vocalist, she came to Macon from the Augusta Choral Society.
“I like that the focus [of this concert] is on setting poetry to music,” Kim says. “There are lyrics by Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, and William Shakespeare, among others.”
“And because I am a diva soprano,” she jokes, “there are some really high notes I get to sing loudly!”
“Peter Angela wrote Jubilate Deo,” Matthew adds, “I like the fun feeling and well-written parts in that one. We are singing some great Aaron Copland music, too.”
“I like the variety of music,” Lee shares, “the different textures and messages. It all comes together as expressions of love.”
Dr. Stanley sees the concert as “very ear-friendly,” with lovely music and thoughtful lyrics that set a contemplative tone appropriate for the Thanksgiving season.
“I think audiences will be amazed at the wonderful harmonies,” says Kim, “and the enthusiasm of the choir as we sing the more exuberant pieces.”
Lee expands on Kim’s sentiments. “I would hope our audience leaves a little inspired and a little happier to have heard us giving our heart and soul to them through our music,” she says.
“The performers in the choir are not homogeneous in their politics or religion,” Dr. Roberts emphasizes, “but we can get together once a week and find common ground, and I think it’s beautiful that we can do that.”
A Breath of Ecstasy invites Macon audiences to do the same.
For more information about A Breath of Ecstasy, and to purchase tickets, log on to https://www.csmga.org.