Fortunate experience: Choruses unite for ‘Carmina Burana’

Apr 3, 2013

Carmina BuranaThe singers of the Heidelberg University-Community Chorus are about to embark upon one of the largest and most ambitious pieces they’ve ever performed. In a pair of concerts Sunday and Monday, the chorus will unite with the University of Findlay Concert-Chorale to perform Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

In all, the performance will feature more than 150 voices – 71 from Heidelberg and 85 from the University of Findlay. Also featured will be a 21-voice children’s choir, comprised of fourth- and fifth-graders from Seneca East Local Schools and directed by music teacher and Heidelberg alumna Lynn Huenemann.

“This work was originally written for a large chorus, three soloists, a children’s choir and a very large orchestra,” said Dr. Paul Mayhew, who will co-direct the performances with the University of Findlay’s Dr. Michael Anders.

In 1956, Mayhew explained, it was reworked for educational use, eliminating the orchestra and instead, utilizing two grand pianos and five percussionists. This version uses the same vocal forces as the original; it is the version the ensembles will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday at Findlay High School and again at 7 p.m. Monday at Tiffin Columbian High School.

The “O Fortuna” movement from “Carmina Burana” has become one of the most recognized themes in all of western music and has been featured in numerous movies, television programs and commercials.

The two co-directors became friends last year, Mayhew’s first at Heidelberg. Anders has been at the University of Findlay for 30-plus years and has ties to Heidelberg. He has served as the musical director for several musical theatre productions at the ‘Berg over the years.

“He (Michael) mentioned to me that ‘Carmina Burana’ was on his ‘bucket list’, and I just said, ‘Let’s do it – this year,’” Mayhew said.

Joint rehearsals have gone exceedingly well as the choruses put the final touches on the performance. The University of Findlay Concert-Chorale is comprised almost entirely of undergraduate students and a few community members. Heidelberg’s ensemble is the exact opposite; 23 singers are students and the remaining members are community members, alumni, faculty and staff.

Paul Mayhew“They will tell you that it is, by far, the hardest piece they’ve ever done,” Mayhew said, noting that the concert will be sung almost entirely in Latin, as it was written. Audiences will be provided with translation scripts.

“Carmina Burana” was originally completed by Orff in 1936 and was premiered a year later in Frankfurt, Germany. The text consists of 23 13th century poems from a collection found in the Benedictine Monastery in the Bavarian Alps. Orff arranged the poems into three parts, each dealing with springtime, activities on the tavern and the court of love. A prologue, addressed to “Fortune, Empress of the World,” appears again as the closing number. The thread that runs throughout is the working of Fortune, the goddess of fate.

Performing solos will be soprano Dr. Carol Dusdieker, assistant professor of voice at Heidelberg, tenor Tim Sarsany and baritone Lance Ashmore. Accompanists are Kelly Lewis and Sharon Vaas on piano and percussionists Michael R. Malloy, Brent Deskin, Matt Timman, Jose Duarte and Craig Schutz.

Mayhew promises a high-energy, fast-paced and entertaining performance, with many switches from solo to chorus to children’s choir and instrumental accompaniment. “It is more than just an aural experience. It’s a visual experience … maybe even a spectacle,” he said. “It’s fascinating music. Boy, is it fun to sing and boy, is it fun to conduct.”

And the melody is sure to stick with you.  

See information about the concert.