College of Marin

Volume 7 Issue 2

Marin Oratorio, formerly Community Chorus, stands in choral formation in preparation for a performance with a full orchestra and soloists.

Community Chorus given new life
by David Fickbohm

From its humble beginnings as College of Marin's Community Chorus, the Marin Oratorio is transforming into a professional operations with the help of its conductor and director, Boyd Jarrell.

Since Jarrell became director the number of singers has steadily increased, audience attendance is up dramatically, and the number of performances per semester has increased.

"The best recruiting tool is a superior product," said Jarrell. "In the last few years many fine singers from Marin high schools and other Marin choruses have attended our concerts and decided to join us." The reputation of Marin Oratorio is growing steadily.

To increase awareness of the Marin Oratorio in the community and in local high schools Jarrell contacts all local community choral directors and high school choral directors at the start of each school year. He invites these people to attend a performance and encourages them to make their choirs aware of the opportunities available at Marin Oratorio.

The group as a whole has agreed to increase their performance quality by paying attention to detail and by consistently demanding musical excellence of themselves.

"We have an old saying... that a choir will sing as sloppily as you will let it. Conversely if your expectations are clear and consistent, wonderful results can happen." said Jarrell.

Marin Oratorio faces many challenges as it works to increase its numbers and the quality of its product steadily.

Bringing in professional musicians and soloists costs money.

Publicity and promotion is expensive.

The group would like to expand its choral program to offer more educational and outreach concerts.

A more sophisticated sound generates larger audience

Boyd Jarrell leads the Marin Oratorio during a performance.

The College owns many fine old instruments. Many of these instruments are in a sad state of repair. The group would like to restore these instruments to their original glory.

When asked why the name Marin Oratorio Jarrell said, "There are both broad and narrow interpretations of many words. Oratorio was originally a convention developed during the Renaissance. Church leaders in their infinite wisdom decreed that opera must not be enjoyed during Lent, the forty days preceding Easter. Composers responded by setting biblical stories with arias, choruses, and instrumental interludes. These were performed in concert, that is, no sets, staging, or costumes. In modern terms, almost any large-scale choral work that was not otherwise a specific liturgical form could be considered an oratorio. In other words, oratorio is the broadest and most generic of all these terms.

"Another way I like to look at it: the Marin Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony don't just play symphonies, and yet they are symphonies. So then, Marin Oratorio does not just sing oratorios, and yet, we are an oratorio."

Singer/Conductor Jarrell was appointed Director of Choral Activities at the College of Marin in 2004. He is familiar to California audiences from concert and opera appearances with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Cruz Symphony, the Oakland Symphony, Pocket Opera, West Bay Opera, San Jose Opera, and Schola Cantorum.

As a baroque specialist, he has performed with the California Bach Society, the Baroque Choral Guild, the American Bach Soloists, the San Francisco Bach Choir, and the Sonoma Bach Choir. He has toured with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan in Handel's Acis and Galitea, and is a frequent performer with the Magnificat! baroque ensemble.

His unique talent also presents a revival of the troubadour art with a one-man show of English minstrel music. Preparation and coaching for this rare offering was with Martin Best of the Royal Shakeskpeare Company, and in Paris with Jacques Villisech of the Conservatoire de Versailles.

Mr. Jarrell served San Francisco's Grace Cathedral as Cantor and Associate Choirmaster for over twenty-five years.