Masterworks Your Choir Can Perform

Ryan Kelly

Thursday, June 23, 10 AM

Churches looking for accessible choral masterworks often turn to popular masses and requiems, but rarely consider oratorios because they are perceived as too difficult to learn or too long to perform in their entirety. Just as musicals are commonly abridged and operas are often performed in scenes, so can oratorios be adapted to fit the capabilities of one’s ensembles. Dr. Ryan Kelly will identify a number of oratorios and passions that can be effectively and authentically performed by diverse church choirs in scenes, abridgements, and their entirety with minimal adjustments. Part 1 will discuss why churches tend to overlook oratorios as excellent repertoire for their church choirs…too many singers required and too much for the choir to learn…too long for church services and too expensive to produce…and how to overcome these challenges with the right repertoire and approach. Part 2 will discuss how, rather than performing an isolated oratorio chorus, performing a small string of recitatives, arias, and choruses can offer a more dramatic 6-10 minute service segment. It will also demonstrate how to abridge some long oratorios and passions so that they are musically and dramatically coherent, and yet can fit the time constraints of shorter concerts or services. Part 3 will briefly mention oratorios and passions that can be performed in their entirety in under 80 minutes with minimal adaptation. Attendees will look at score samples, hear sample recording, and leave with an annotated list of music identifying themes, difficulty levels, and suitable seasons of the church year.

Ryan Kelly is Associate Director of Choral Activities at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. His D.M.A. in choral conducting is from Michigan State University; he also has degrees from the University of Oklahoma and Houston Baptist University. He is a nationally active conductor, lecturer, and clinician with numerous appearances at ACDA, NAfME, and AGO conferences. He has a critical edition published with Carus-Verlag, articles in Choral Journal, compositions with Augsburg Fortress, and Handel’s Messiah: Warm-ups for Successful Performance published by Hal Leonard with co-author Jason D. Paulk. He is also organist at Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.