The Oratorio Society of Virginia Announces Anniversary Commission

When the Oratorio Society of Virginia caps off its 50th anniversary celebration with a gala concert in spring 2018, it will feature the world premiere of a work just commissioned for the occasion. Oratorio Society president Dory Hulse observes, “We felt strongly that, as we celebrate the achievements of our past 50 years, it’s also important to make a contribution to choral music for the next generations of singers and music lovers. We’re especially excited that the music and the text for this new composition will be provided by two Virginia-based artists of extraordinary acclaim: Adolphus Hailstork and Rita Dove.”


Composer Adolphus Hailstork is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University where he has been on the faculty since 2000.  His work has been performed by such leading conductors as Lorin Maazel, Daniel Barenboim, and Kurt Masur and performed and recorded by major ensembles such as the Detroit Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony and May Festival Chorus, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Opera Theater of St. Louis and Kansas City Lyric Opera.  He has composed a wide range of music including symphonic works, chamber music, band compositions, many piano works, and pieces for both solo and choral voices, including the 1999 Brock Commission for the American Choral Directors Association.  In 1992, he was named a Cultural Laureate of the State of Virginia.


The music will be based on a poem by Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1987.  She served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993-1995 and as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004-2006.  Her long list of honors includes the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service in 2006, and the Library of Virginia's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.  ln 1996, President Clinton awarded her the 1996 National Humanities Medal.  When President Obama presented her the 2011 National Medal of Arts, she became the only poet to receive both honors. 

“I am thrilled that the vision to bring these two distinguished artists together is coming to fruition,” says Oratorio Society Music Director Michael Slon.  “The singers and I look forward to presenting the world premiere next spring, and hope the piece will find a home in the choral-orchestral repertoire.”


About The Oratorio Society of Virginia

In the fall of 1966, volunteers from the community who wanted to be able to perform choral masterworks for the public formally incorporated as The Oratorio Society of Charlottesville Albemarle; the name was changed in 2008 to better reflect the membership and the audience it serves.  Their first performance was of Handel’s Messiah in March 1968. 



The Oratorio Society of Virginia’s 50th anniversary celebration kicked off with last December’s Christmas at the Paramount performances that included Part I of the Messiah.  The final concert of this season was on May 14, when the group offered A Celebration of Great Choruses, including the Messiah’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”  Former (or “Encore”) Oratorio Society singers were invited to join the current chorus on stage for this piece and will have another opportunity at the anniversary’s gala concert being planned for Spring 2018 to cap off the celebration. 



For 50 years, the Oratorio Society of Virginia has offered high quality, engaging choral concerts to enrich, inspire and educate the local community.  In the coming months, the Oratorio Society will be continuing its 50th Anniversary Celebration with special programming.  Past Oratorio Society repertoire has included works by Bach, Bernstein, Brahms, Haydn, Honneger, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Rutter, Vaughan Williams, and Verdi.  The ensemble has collaborated with other arts organizations, including Ash Lawn Opera, Charlottesville Ballet, UVA University Singers, Charlottesville Symphony and Roanoke Symphony to present larger works. 



For more information about the Oratorio Society of Virginia, please visit and follow the Oratorio Society on Facebook [email protected]


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