Singers, choir and chorus join forces with Savannah Philharmonic for “Carmina Burana”
By Linda Sicker/Savannah Morning News; Featured in the DO
Read the original article here.
A Nov. 17 performance of the cantata “Carmina Burana” may be the most fun concert from the Savannah Philharmonic this year.
The full Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus will be accompanied by the Savannah Children’s Choir and the Savannah Country Day Chorus in performing the powerful masterwork. In addition, soprano Rebecca Patrick Flaherty, tenor Cooper Nolan and baritone Keith Harris of VOICExperience will perform solos in one of the city’s biggest musical events.
“The opening chorus of ‘Carmina Burana’ must be one of the most iconic beginnings of any piece, used time and time again because of its immediate drama and power,” says Peter Shannon, the Philharmonic’s conductor and artistic director.
“The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra is going to give this full credit when we perform it with the Philharmonic Chorus in the civic center,” Shannon says. “What people don’t know is that after that first beginning, there is so much more fantastic music in this piece.
“From a drunken abbot to a dying swan, every movement tells a story,” he says. “For an evening of musical opulence without compare, don’t miss the opportunity to hear this live in your own city.”
This will be the first time the Philharmonic has performed in the Johnny Mercer Theatre. The concert will open with “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius, followed by “Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1” by Edvard Grieg.
Then, the Philharmonic will perform “Carmina Burana,” known the world over for its dramatic opening chorus “O Fortuna.” Written by Carl Orff, “Carmina Burana” covers love, joy and many other themes that are still relevant today – and when translated is quite bawdy.
Included in the ticket price is an educational pre-concert talk presented by John Canarina of the Savannah Friends of Music at 4 p.m.
The three soloists all work with the VOICExperience Foundation, an educational training program for opera singers. Currently, Flaherty is the project manager for VOICExperience, and also serves on the board of Savannah Friends of Music and the Savannah Philharmonic’s Education Committee.
Nolan became part of VOICExperience after meeting its founders, Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouves.
“After they heard me sing, they invited me to join,” Nolan says. “It has been a real pleasure working with VOICExperience.”
Harris has been part of VOICExperience since February.
“I sang Silvio in ‘Pagliacci’ in January in Tampa — the home of Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouves,” he says.
“Having been a big fan of Sherrill most of my life, I called him and asked if I could coach with him,” Harris says. “After our session, he invited me to be a part of VOICExperience, and that has truly been life-changing. VOICExperience has really pushed me to the next level of performance and I am honored to be a part of the program.”
Flaherty has never performed “Carmina Burana,” and didn’t really know much about it, except for the “O Fortuna” opening.
“I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the soprano gets to sing a lot of the most beautiful moments in the entire work,” she says.
Nolan is a veteran of the cantata.
“I was fortunate to do a production of ‘Carmina Burana’ earlier this year with the Dance Alive National Ballet in Florida,” Nolan says.
“It was quite an experience. Because the text and music are so raunchy, the addition of such visceral dancing made a really fantastic show.”
The upcoming concert will be Harris’ 13th performance of “Carmina Burana.”
“I love singing this work,” he says. “It’s extraordinarily difficult for the baritone and the music is beautiful and fun to sing.
“The range goes from barbaric high notes to dolce sweet falsetto tones,” Harris says. “I have sung it at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and this spring will sing it at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.”
“Carmina Burana” is sung in Latin, which disguises its content for most listeners.
“As a performer, it’s interesting to sing Latin in a non-sacred setting,” Flaherty says. “The translations of these pieces are very sensual and bawdy, and it’s strange for someone used to only singing and hearing Latin in a liturgical situation.
“It’s raucous, joyful, bombastic, ravishing, tender,” she says. “It’s a celebration of life and the cycles that make up our journey.
“There are songs about raising hell in a tavern, songs about being torn between passion and chastity, songs about being down on your luck,” Flaherty says. “I’m bringing my kids because it’s all beautiful, and not in English.”
“It has everything from drinking songs, to dances, to pieces that are played regularly at high school and college football games,” Nolan says. “There is music that is very beautiful as well, but the second you get settled in, the percussion and brass sections of the Savannah Phil will make you jump in your seat.”
“This is one of the most accessible concert works ever written,” Harris says. “It’s sexy, it’s fun and it’s exhilarating to listen to.
“If you’ve never been to a classical music concert before, this is one of the best works to attend,” he says. “Not only that, even if you’ve never been to a classical music concert before, you’re likely to recognize parts of the ‘Carmina Burana’ as the opening chorus is used often in commercials.”
The singers and musicians are enjoying rehearsals immensely, and Flaherty believes that enjoyment will transfer to the audience.
“I went to a rehearsal with the chorus on Tuesday night, and was really amazed at the amount of fun they were having,” she says. “It was literally like watching a crowd on River Street.
“I usually get a good gauge of how well an audience will enjoy a show during rehearsals,” Flaherty says. “I think anyone will enjoy this.”
The force of the full sound of so many musicians and singers alone is impressive. “It’s going to be a thrilling experience for me to be on stage with these over 200 musicians, including the Savannah Children’s Choir,” Flaherty says.
“To be part of such a massive group of people, working as a team to bring the dots and lines in the score to life, creates this feeling of unity that I can’t describe,” she says. “It must be like what an Olympic team feels like as they work together, supporting each other to do something bigger than themselves.”
The collaboration of the Philharmonic and VOICExperience has been totally positive. “The chorus puts their heart and soul into everything they do — even my kids noticed their joie de vivre during rehearsal on Tuesday,” Flaherty says.
“And Peter brings lots of passion and heart to the table,” she says. “He doesn’t do anything halfway, and the instrumentalists always respond well to that.”
“Peter Shannon and David Pratt have welcomed VOICExperience with open arms,” Harris says. “I am very much looking forward to our collaboration together.”
“Peter Shannon and the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus are fantastic,” Nolan says. “I had an opportunity to work with the chorus last month, and they really bring a passion to singing.
“‘Carmina Burana,’ first and foremost, needs passion,” he says. “This isn’t the most famous classical piece of music in 75 years for being subtle.”