A friend who sings with the Rochester Oratorio Society suggested I interview its Artistic Director, Eric Townell. Now I have great admiration for conductors who can take rows of lines, dots and dashes on a page, and work with musicians to bring them together into a beautiful and harmonious composition. I’ve always wanted to ask about the process of conducting. When a conductor is assessing a piece of music for performance, does s/he “hears” the music while reading it?
I got just that opportunity when Eric Townell agreed to be a guest on this Conversations with Creatives Holiday Special. Join me as we take a peak in on the musicians during a rehearsal for their upcoming performance of Handel’s Messiah with the RPO on December 10 and 11, 2016. In this episode, Eric talks about his career and about the Rochester Oratorio Society that celebrated 70 years of enchanting audiences during its 2015-2016 season. We also explore the process of making beautiful music. The final segment contains an excerpt of Handel’s “Worthy is the Lamb” and the breathtaking “Hallelujah” chorus. If you have the opportunity to see this performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, I guarantee it will be phenomenal!
Many thanks to Eric, accompanist Dr. Kevin Nitsch, Donna Budgeon for inspiring this episode. Thanks also to all of the amazing musicians of the Rochester Oratorio Society for their participation in creating this holiday special.
Time Markings for Eric Townell and the Rochester Oratorio Society:
:49 – Eric Townell explains how he got into conducting from an early age
1:54 – The elements Eric considers when assessing a piece for performance, including culture, time period, seasonal considerations, as well as pieces that highlight the ensemble’s skills
3:25 – The elements that might rule out a piece of music for performance
4:04 – The guiding principles and history of the Rochester Oratorio Society
5:00 – The audition requirements for, and skills needed to perform with the Rochester Oratorio Society
5:35 – Eric Townell talks about learning musical parts online, and the helpfulness of having an instrumental background
6:30 – Eric answers Carol’s burning question about whether Eric can “hear” in his head what a piece will sound like at the time he is initially considering it for performance.
7:30 – Eric talks about the optimal instrument for assessing music for a choir
8:00 – Eric talks about how a composer develops a piece of music as an image, and how the conductor works to replicate that image.
9:32 – Eric Townell picks up on the last discussion on the instrument that is optimal to assess music for a choir
10:45 – Eric talks about what types of music are performed during a traditional Rochester Oratorio Society’s season.
12:30 – Eric explains the pieces included during this holiday special
14:36 – Eric talks about the role of the Rochester Oratorio Society in the Community
15:20 – Eric Townell talks about his cultural public access show, In the Spotlight, produced in association with Penfield Television
17:20 – Eric Townell conducts the Rochester Oratorio Society in a rehearsal performance of Handel’s “Worthy is the Lamb,” accompanied by Dr. Kevin Nitsch.
24:08 – Eric Townell conducts the Rochester Oratorio Society in a rehearsal performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah,” accompanied by Dr. Kevin Nitsch.