Columbia Pro Cantare opens its 36th season with a choral blast when it does Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m., at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School. It's such a popular piece of classical music that audiences seemingly just can't get enough of it.
On the local concert scene, Columbia Pro Cantare performed it most recently in 2008; and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be doing this so-called "scenic cantata" in June 2013.
"It really brings people into the concert hall," says Columbia Pro Cantare Music Director Frances Motyca Dawson, adding that recession-hit classical music organizations are "programming things with broad appeal to their audiences. This piece, as it turns out, is on everybody's program."
Not only are the pleasures provided by "Carmina Burana" immediately apparent to the ear, but one could argue that this earthy composition also hits at gut level. In composing this 1937 choral piece, Orff was inspired by a 13th-century collection of bawdy poems and songs written in Latin, French and German. Drinking to excess in a tavern is just one of the medieval activities celebrated in the source material.
Orff's deliberately over-the-top treatment of his source material ensures that audiences receive a visceral kick every time they hear "Carmina Burana." That trait is what prompted New Yorker magazine classical music critic Alex Ross to recently describe "Carmina Burana" as "that kitschy feast of Bavarian syncopation."
Columbia Pro Cantare's Frances Motyca Dawson observes that this piece "has such a simple, direct, elemental and primal force that there's an almost physical aspect to it. There's a percussive quality" that reinforces "the sense that we're in the hands of fate."
When "Carmina Burana" was last in Dawson's hands for that 2008 Columbia Pro Cantare performance, the soloists and chorus were backed by a full orchestra. Although the upcoming performance retains the same number of vocal forces, there will not be an orchestra. Instead, the music will be provided by pianists Alison Gatwood and Erik Apland, as well as by six percussion players.
Dawson acknowledges that there are budgetary reasons for the reduced musical accompaniment, but states that the version she will be doing is an Orff-approved 1956 arrangement by Wilhelm Killmayer that was "authorized for smaller ensembles. Orff wanted to reach more people that way, so he sanctioned it."
She adds that this 1956 arrangement "misses some of the orchestral colors, but not the intensity and drive of it. Everything is still there in the score."
Orff's percussive drive in "Carmina Burana" remains intact, as do all of the notes. That means the vocalists will be singing just the same as they would in the more fully orchestrated original version.
The vocal soloists for the upcoming concert are soprano Laura Whittenberger, a Howard County native currently studying at the Peabody Institute; baritone Chad Sloan, a Juilliard School of Music graduate with an active career; and tenor David Dickey, who is studying voice and oboe at the University of Maryland.
Also joining Columbia Pro Cantare and the soloists will be 20 members of the Women of the River Hill High School Choirs, under director Amy Hairston.
It sounds like these vocal and percussive forces will be enough to raise the Rouse roof.
Columbia Pro Cantare performs "Carmina Burana" Saturday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m,. at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, in Columbia. There is a pre-concert lecture by Dr. Barbara Renton at 7 p.m. and a post-concert reception. Call 410-799-9321 or go to http://www.procantare.org.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times