‘Carmina Burana’ is grand finale for WSO’s 50th season | TribLIVE.com

‘Carmina Burana’ is grand finale for WSO’s 50th season

Mark Kanny
Westmoreland Symphony
Daniel Meyer conducting the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Singers with vocal soloists at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

The Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra is going all out for the grand finale of its 50th anniversary season. It’s such a big show, expressing “the sheer joy of living,” that the stage of The Palace Theatre in Greensburg will need to be expanded to hold performers.

Daniel Meyer will conduct solo vocalists, choirs and the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra in Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” April 27 at The Palace Theatre, Greensburg.

The soloists will be baritone Joshua Jeremiah, tenor Terrence Chin-Loy and soprano Amanda Olea. The choruses will be the Westmoreland Symphony Chamber Singers, Westmoreland Choral Society, Pitt-Greensburg Chorale and Una Voce: Chamber Choir of Seton Hill University, plus children’s chorus.

The music of “Carmina Burana” is known to many more people than would recognize its title because it’s been used so often in films, television shows and commercials.

The title is taken from a mid-19th century publication of poems collected in the 13th century at an abbey near Munich, Germany. They are earthy rather than spiritual texts.

Orff arranged his piece in three main sections: “Springtime,” “In the Tavern” and “Court of Love.” Those sections are framed by an imposing and exciting chorus “O Fortuna,” sounding cautionary notes about the Wheel of Life.

“While the pain, rejection, sorrows and disappointments of life are certainly revealed in this music, those moments of sadness are fleeting and often couched in moments of irony and good humor. The uninhibited joys of dance, drink, love and song are in full display,” observes Meyer.

The composer wrote “Carmina Burana” in the mid-1930s. Although he enjoyed a good productive life the remaining nearly five decades for of his life, Orff never equaled the success of “Carmina Burana.”

Much of the music is driven by the primitive rhythmic force that made Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” so sensational an entry into the concert hall, though with a simpler harmonic vocabulary and less complex rhythmic patterns. Both pieces call for an unusually large percussion section. The Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra will use five percussionists, plus timpani and two pianos for Orff’s piece, in addition to strings, woodwinds and brass.

Meyer first experience performing “Carmina Burana” was as a singer in the Blossom Festival Chorus, the Cleveland Orchestra’s summer chorus.

“The chorus serves multiple functions but the most intriguing one is that it really is an extension of the percussion section,” he says. “There are ways he set the Latin — the repetitive rhythms, the quasi-Sprechstimme he calls for in some cases — are extensions of the color capabilities you find in the percussion section. It makes it difficult, frankly, for the choruses because we’re taught to create and sing in long beautiful cantilena lines and here he’s asking for really pulse-driven, hyper-emphasis on rhythmic inflection. That’s hard. It takes an extra level of discipline to initiate those percussive sounds and then stay in a consistent groove or track.”

But when the hard work of preparation is done,

Meyer says “Carmina Burana” “is enormously fun to sing.” Not to mention to play or to hear.

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Categories: AandE | Music
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