Professor of MusicAdjunct Professor of Music in Choral Conducting, Indiana University Jacobs School of MusicArtistic Director and Conductor Emerita, Handel Choir of Baltimore
Conductor Melinda O'Neal has been praised for her "lucid and musical understanding of the score" and "moving and satisfying interpretations" by Hugh Macdonald, Berlioz scholar and music critic. She is professor of music at Dartmouth College, where she teaches conducting and theory courses, and artistic director & conductor emerita of Handel Choir of Baltimore (2004-2013).
With Handel Choir of Baltimore, an oratorio ensemble performing baroque, classical and early romantic music with period instruments and music to the present, O'Neal collaborated with Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Bach Sinfonia, American Opera Theatre and Peabody Early Music. Her performances of works with chorus and period instruments included Mozart's Requiem, Haydn's Die Schöpfung, Theresienmesse and Paukenmesse, Handel's Messiah, Jephtha, Semele and Ode to the Birthday of Queen Anne, Bach cantatas, and Purcell symphony anthems. The Baltimore Sun noted, "Melinda O'Neal has steadily and rapidly honed this ensemble into quite a potent chorus... It was a thoughtfully constructed, entertaining program delivered with an informed sense of historic style."
At Dartmouth, O'Neal conducted Handel Society and its chamber ensemble Concertato Singers (1979-2004), and Chamber Singers (1979-1996). She has been visiting professor and conductor at Indiana University, University of Georgia and Towson University, and she founded and conducted the New Hampshire Symphony Chorus and Boston Vocal Artists' Sonique. As guest conductor, O'Neal has worked with Albany ProMusica, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Hanover Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Chorale, and Vermont and New Hampshire Symphony Orchestras.
Her research focuses on music of Hector Berlioz and historical performance practices. She is currently writing Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener's Companion to be published in 2017. O'Neal serves on the review committee for the Julius Herford Prize sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association.
Artistic Director and Conductor 2013-14: Handel’s Messiah with Handel Choir & Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, guest soloists; Transcendence & Transformation with Diba Alvi, soprano, Marian Rian Hayes, harp, John Kilkenny, percussion, commission and première of Song of the Shulamite by Donald McCullough; folk song arrangements of the British Isles; music by Arvo Pärt and John Tavener; Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) with guest soloists Laura Choi Stuart and Steven Combs, a collaboration with Camerata of University of Maryland Baltimore County and Orchestra of St. John’s.
Artistic Director and Conductor 2011-12: Handel’s Messiah with Handel Choir and Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, guest soloists; Anglo Meets Saxon – Music of Britten, Walton, Rheinberger and Brahms; Handel’s oratorio Semele with Handel Period Instrument Orchestra and guest soloists; Final Fantasy with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; benefit concerts for First Unitarian Organ Fund; Murphy Initiative for Peace and Justice, Collington Square Education Program.
Artistic Director and Conductor 2010-11: Handel’s Messiah with Handel Choir and Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, guest soloists; Dunphy’s Gonzales Cantata and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (staged production); Mozart’s Requiem and Bach Cantata 106 in collaboration with Harmonious Blacksmith; Benefit Concert for Methodist Board of Child Care.
Conductor Highlights: British/American Connection (Handel Choir, 2010); Handel’s Jephtha (staged, Handel Choir, 2010) in collaboration with American Opera Theatre; Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (Handel Society of Dartmouth College, 2003); Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem (HSDC, 2003); Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (HSDC, 1998).
Book Forward for A History of the Handel Choir of Baltimore by Carl B. Schmidt, Lexington Books, 2015.
Essay in Hand-Print Folio: “Handel’s Compassion and Messiah: An Oratorio," Hill Press (2012).
Lecture and Reading Session: Library of Congress–American Music 1870-1923 (2010).
Conference Presentation: “Preparing and Performing Berlioz’s Choral Music,” Berlioz Society, UK (2009).
Book Chapter: “Passion and Authenticity: A Conversation with Marin Alsop” in Wisdom, Wit and Will: Women Choral Conductors On Their Art, GIA Publications, 2009.
Journal Article: “Orchestral Songs and Choruses by Hector Berlioz,” Podium Notes (2005).
Works in Progress
Book: Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener’s Companion, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
Selected Works and Activities
Course Design: Brahms, Berlioz and the Romantic Imagination (Fall 2013).