Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sing-along with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus


Note:  all photographs were taken at Saint Christopher Church. I found it to be a beautiful church with very creative and modern-looking stained glass windows. It was a very friendly parish. We were given quite a warm welcome to Saint Christopher Roman Catholic Church.

Thank you to all at Saint Christopher for your hospitality. It was much appreciated.



On Sunday, October 11th, I went to Saint Christopher church in Tonawanda, New York, to participate in a sing-along with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. The chorus, which is directed by Adam Luebke, offers the public an opportunity annually to join an a sing-along of a famous piece of choral music. Last year, the work was "The Messiah," by George Frideric Handel. This year, the composition chosen was "Carmina Burana," by Carl Orff.

I knew nothing about "Carmina Burana" before I went to this activity. Would I be able to learn the music? I would be completely on my own and unable to sit with any of my three traveling companions (one bass and two altos). Should I sing alto? But, when we arrived at Saint Christopher Church, I checked in and then went to the soprano section, where I feel more comfortable. I met my seatmates. Both second sopranos. I was very happy about that.

Adam started us out with a very fun warmup that loosened our voices and gave us confidence to learn new music. The actual members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, interspersed among us, already knew the music. If we needed help, they were happy to offer it. Ann, a lady seated next to me, has been a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus for 38 years. She started as a first soprano and then got "demoted" to second soprano. I also found out that Ann is a retired French teacher and that, when she's not singing, she is a voracious reader, reading books in both French and English.

I had a different journey. I started as an alto and got "upgraded." Or maybe I too was "demoted." Several years ago, my voice teacher told me that I was a soprano and that singing alto on a regular basis was most likely a bad idea. Every now and then, I go over to the "dark side" (the alto section) just because I like the harmony.


But I digress. Back to Carmina Burana. 

We learned the music in the afternoon and gave a performance for an audience in the evening. That was the fastest preparation for a concert that I'd ever had! It was so fast that I didn't even get stage fright. By the time that I thought about stage fright (two days later), it was long since finished.



Adam told us all about Carmina Burana. It is a musical work, composed in 1935 and 1936 by Carl Orff. It had its debut in the Frankfort Opera House in 1937. The work is based on 24 medieval poems that were written in approximately 1320. These 24 poems make up only a small part of Carmina Burana.


There were many more poems. Poetic themes included the Crusades, the end of the world, death, the rape and seduction of shepherdesses, and other issues that were important in the medieval world. According to Wikipedia, there were 55 songs of morals and mockery, 131 love songs, 40 drinking and gaming songs, and two longer spiritual pieces.Carmina Burana starts off with a famous piece, "O Fortuna," which is often heard in movie scores."



Adam described it this way: "Carmina Burana is based on medieval poems by wayward monks."The cantata was is considered to be "anti-romantic" or "modernist." The work is not sacred. It was written as a "brash theatrical extravaganza." It used as its inspirations opera (especially Wagner's opera) and Greek theatrical models. It was written in three languages: medieval French, Middle High German, and Latin. 

"Our fate is ever revolving around a wheel of fortune," Adam said, describing "O Fortuna." In Carmina Burana, there were elements of springtime, including dances and a celebration of the rebirth of life. Then the scene shifts to the tavern and all that happens there. This section, performed by a men's chorus, celebrates overindulgence in food and drink. The tavern scene is followed by a celebration of love. At the end, we are once again reminded of the wheel of fortune/fate that governs our lives.


We were accompanied by two pianists, Susan Schuman and Marnie Salvatore. It was extremely fun to hear dueling pianos. We also had two soloists: a baritone (Kyle Botsford) and a soprano (Rachel Ross). Both had beautiful voices. I would gladly have spent more time listening to them sing. At one point, Rachel sang one of the highest notes that I'd ever heard a human being sing. And she made it sound like music, as opposed to a mouse in heat (my style of singing super high notes). And no, no glass broke from the vibrations (yes, I was looking for broken glass).



In a letter from the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, the sing-along, which was titled a "Come and Sing event," was "a celebration of the communal process of making great choral music. Our workshop brings singers from around the region to work together, sing together, eat together, and engage in the transformative power of choral performance together. Making choral music requires singers to become part of a true communal experience -- to breathe and sing as one -- in order to create something far more majestic than any of us could on our own."

What a fun activity! We learned music together, we ate together, and we performed together. We made both music and new friends. It doesn't get any better than this. 

2 comments:

Ruthanne said...

I've played in an orchestra which played Carmina Burana. I'd love to do that again :)

K. Lee Banks said...

What a unique experience! I am an alto and had the opportunity to travel with a 16-voice chorale over spring break 3 out of my 4 years in college.