MOSOunds Episode IX: Christmas with a Flourish – Choral director discusses annual concert

Host: There are certain events and activities that have become tradition during the holidays at Missouri Southern.

The lighting of the Christmas tree on the Oval and carriage rides offered as part of the Southern Lights celebration.

There’s Omicron Delta Kappa’s One Warm Coat drive and the Staff Senate’s Angel Tree programs, which help to ensure that the campus and surrounding community have a warm and happy holiday season.

Another tradition is the annual Seasonal Choral Flourish concert. Established nine years ago, the concert features a mix of classical and familiar holiday arrangements performed by Missouri Southern’s Chamber Singers, Madrigal Singers and Concert Chorale, all under the direction of conductor Dr. David Sharlow.

I’m Scott Meeker with the University Relations & Marketing office at Missouri Southern. On this edition of MOSOunds, we’ll hear from Dr. Sharlow about the annual concert and let you enjoy some of the performances from this year’s event, held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

In all but one of the past nine years, the Seasonal Choral Flourish has been offered at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Joplin. Built in 1906 from Carthage limestone, it was built in the Gothic Revival style and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

David Sharlow: When I began nine years ago, that first semester I knew we needed to have a place we could perform that was intimate to choral music … so I looked at various churches and of course,

came across St. Peter’s. I talked to Father J, and he was very welcoming and said, ‘Sure, come do a concert here.’ And so we did … we had a modest attendance, one night. All of a sudden, it started catching on by word of mouth. Now, it’s two nights, and has sort of exploded. It’s a favorite concert of the students. They love performing in that space.

I always say it’s aesthetically pleasing, rich in the acoustic. We were there before the renovation. One year we didn’t have it there because they were still in the process of renovating. And the next year we performed there and it was so much more bright and colorful. When you go there, it’s pleasing to the eyes and the ears. We wish it was a little bit bigger in terms of the audience, but we would never think about changing the venue, because now St. Peter’s has become synonymous with the Choral Flourish. Everybody loves going there because of those things.

Host: Sharlow says the annual concert follows somewhat of a pattern, from a pre-show concert to the order in which the Chamber Singers, Madrigal Singers and Concert Chorale performs.

He says he’s a “big believer in variety,” which is always reflected in the music selections he makes each year.

Sharlow: It’s a holiday concert. We want to do, of course, music of the classical tradition that speaks to the holiday season. But we also want to do pieces that everybody knows, that are traditional. So I’m always looking for new arrangements, jazz arrangements, arrangements that have sparkle to them to put in that program so it is a concert that is benefiting the students as far as their education is concerned, but is also pleasing to the audience. I think we’ve sort of found where that niche is, if you will.

Certainly, we always try to close the first half with a piece that has three movements or so that will feature other instruments. This year we did Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata, which features two brass choirs. That was a highlight, I think, a lot of people enjoyed it … brass at Christmas is great.

This year we added in madrigals, student conductors … it was the first time we’ve had student conductors who did a couple pieces, so that was something new and fun.

Host: While this year’s performance is now behind him, Sharlow says he’s already looking ahead to next year’s Choral Flourish, which will mark its 10th anniversary.

Of course, you won’t have to wait until then to hear from Missouri Southern’s talented vocal students. Several performances for Spring 2019 are already on the books.

Sharlow: Once again, we’ll do our masterwork with the orchestra and community members, the community singers, so we’re doing John Rutter’s Requiem, that will feature, of course, the orchestra and choir. And then Vaughn Williams’ Te Deum in G. I’m conducting the Requiem, and Dr. Nicolas is conducting the Te Deum.

We’re also looking to do our final concert at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. That’s become a tradition there for our spring concert.

In the summer, members of the Southern Symphonic Chorus and Concert Chorale will be traveling to New York to perform Rutter’s Requiem. I’ll be conducting in Carnegie Hall. We’re very excited about that.

Host: That’s it for this episode of MOSOunds. We’ll leave you with more of the performance from this year’s Seasonal Choral Flourish and will be back with you soon with more stories from Lion Country.

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