Peanut Interviews Dr. James K. Bass

In a recent interview with the Artistic Director of Long Beach Camerata Singers, Dr. James K. Bass, we discussed his approach to the group’s upcoming performance of Carmina Burana:

Peanutsez:  What makes Carmina Burana an enduring favorite?

Dr. Bass:  First of all, the piece has a special combination of rhythm, melody and imagery.

PS:  Imagery?

DB:  Yes!  First there’s the big beginning, “O Fortuna,” and then we are immediately introduced to the imagery of spring — the magic of the forest and first love.  Next is the tavern scene — in taberna — with all the images of drinking.  You know, drunken abbots, dozens of toasts, and the swan roasting on the spit.  Finally, we enter the Court of Love, populated with Greek Gods and their “higher” feelings.  The whole thing is a prescription for musical perfection!

PS:  What does it take to reach this music perfection?

DB:  Carl Orff composed the piece in such a way that there is nothing superfluous.  The ideas are repeated, albeit in an old german/latin dialect; the melodies are short and memorable and the rhythmic qualities are strong and appealing.  This music is easily consumed by the ear and the heart.  It is accessible to all levels of music lovers.

PS:  As Artistic Director, what interpretive choices have you made?

DB:  First, I decided to use the version written for 2 pianos and percussion.  This allows us to take the tempos faster and make the piece more exciting.  Also, I want to elicit an emotional response from the audience, so when a key moment or phrase occurs, I can choose to make it last longer, to make it louder or to make it softer, all for emphasis.

PS:  What do you want your audience to take away from the performance on April 22?

DB:  First and foremost, I want our audience to rejoice in the music, to take pleasure in the human voice as it touches the human heart.  I hope this performance will provide a “sonic meal” of different sounds, a live, high-fidelity experience.

If you would like to hear more from Dr. Bass about our performance of Carmina, please join us on Tuesday, April 17 at 3:30pm at the Long Beach Airport Holiday Inn for “Orff Revealed.”  Click here to reserve your free seat: http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/carmina-burana-2/

To purchase your ticket for Carmina Burana on Sunday April 22 at 4:30pm, at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach, click here:http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/carl-orffs-carmina-burana/

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A Bit About Carmina Burana

Why is Carmina Burana so popular?  Perhaps it is the simple, repeated melodies, and the insistent rhythms.  It is also the connection between past and present, the yanking of  early medieval poetry into the present day and the universality of the human experience that we discovered in the process.  Here’s a little background on the composer and the piece in advance of Long Beach Camerata Singers’ April 22 performance.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was a German composer known mainly for his cantata Carmina Burana and his large contribution to music education. While Orff was not the most prolific composer of his time, Carmina Burana would become one of the most celebrated and performed works in recent history.

In 1934, during the approach of World War II, Orff happened upon an 1847 edition of a manuscript entitled Carmina Burana (Latin for Songs of Beuern) by Johann Andreas Schmeller which consists of medieval poetry and satirical texts that were written in Latin and German by a group of nomadic, defrocked clergy known as the “Goliards.” The contents of the manuscript were filled with dramatic texts depicting nature, love, lust, and above all, fate and fortune. Orff embraced this literature and recognized an opportunity to create a large-scale work which would become the famed Carmina Burana, subtitled “Cantiones profanae” (profane songs), a staged cantata for orchestra, chorus, soloists, and dance ad libitum. The work was composed in 1936 and premiered in Frankfurt on June 8, 1937.

The work is divided into three main sections, framed by an opening and concluding chorus in praise of Fortuna, the goddess of fate. In the first section entitled ‘Primo vere’ [In Springtime] the arrival of spring with its sunshine and fresh breezes awakens the whole world with new life. In ‘Uf dem Anger’ [On the Green] the village boys and girls, in particular, respond with quickening desire to the enticements of courtship and dance. The question is left open: how best to find love in this season in which everything seems to be bursting anew? In second section, ‘In taberna’ [In the Tavern], the men sit deep in their cups, rather oblivious to the springtime that is unfolding around them. A baritone sings with bitter pathos about the ruin he has made of his life and in a grotesque parody, a tenor sings the dying lament of a Swan being roasted on a spit. It is a fool’s paradise and a singer proclaims himself the Abbot of all this folly. The men are inebriated and sing rousing choruses calling for the entire world to join them in their toasts to dissipation. In the final section, ‘Cour d’Amours’ [The Court of Love] the power of love prevails. It proves irresistible as Cupid, the God of Love, is said to fly everywhere. “Young men and women/ are rightly coupled.” In a joyful climax a young woman submits to the power of her lover’s full embrace and the chorus sings a final hymn to Venus, the Goddess of Love.

After its successful premiere in Frankfurt, Orff said to his publisher: “Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin.” Orff lived long enough to see Carmina Burana become one of the most recognized works in the anthology of choral repertoire. And though he had originally scored this cantata for full orchestra and chorus, in a display of shrewdness and savvy, he also approved for the arrangement of the work for chorus, soloists, two pianos, and percussion to allow smaller ensembles the opportunity to perform the piece.

Tickets to Camerata’s performance of this important work can be purchased at www.LBCamerata.org

Recognition to Joseph Kim for his illuminating program notes, from which this post is largely derived.

Baroque Trivia: Five Crazy Facts About Handel’s Messiah

IMG_2875It’s a good thing that Peanut wasn’t GF Handel’s dog — he never would have put up for being ignored during that 3-week period when the master composed Messiah!  You can see that Mr. Peanut is ready for the holidays in this photo, wearing his little hunter’s cap. The little guy is surprisingly good natured about having his photo taken! Here’s some interesting trivia about this beloved piece for your reading pleasure:

  1.  Messiah is rich with vast effects derived from simple means,  along with beautiful melodies and the insistent rhythms that are characteristic of the Baroque era, easy to love and hard to forget.
  2. The Music gains extraordinary intensity through the Baroque compositional technique of “word painting,” in which the flow of notes in the music actually seems to replicate a shape or contour that the words describe.
  3. Papa Haydn, always generously praising the merits of other composers, called Handel “der Meister von uns allen,” or  “the master of us all” at a performance of Messiah. But Beethoven, who was far more grudging with his approval, used almost the same words—“der unerreichte Meister aller Meisters,” “the unequalled master of all masters.”

  4. images-13The association between diva soprano and the soprano solo role in Messiah extends more than a century earlier, back to the legendary Jenny Lind, who barnstormed the U.S. as a Barnum-sponsored headliner in the 1840s. On one of her transatlantic crossings, the Swedish Nightingale asked the ship’s captain to wake her before dawn, without specifying a reason for her request. At the appointed hour, she stood with him at the ship’s railing as the sun rose over the waters and sang “I Know My Redeemer Liveth.”

  5.  Handel’s Messiah continues to exert a very real influence upon modern composers.  Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, composed in 1971, brings together music, dance and diverse religious and secular traditions in a way that owes much to Handel.  Andrew Lloyd Webber—like Handel, a master of theatrical craft in music—wrote a requiem mass as his only full- scale classical work. Paul McCartney, too, ventured into oratorio with his only classical work, The Liverpool Oratorio.

    This year will be the tenth annual performance of Messiah by the Long Beach Camerata Singers.  The chorus will be accompanied by Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra
    Camerata sings Handel’s Messiah.  TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE $40.  www.LBCamerata.org or call 562-373-5654.  Sunday December 3, 4:30pm, Beverly O’Neill Theater

     

5 Big Reasons to Hear Camerata Perform Handel’s Messiah on Sunday!

IMG_2892Mr. Peanut is getting ready for the Holidays.  If you watched his Thanksgiving Message, you know he is expecting lots of goodies.  Today Peanut would like to recommend that you attend the upcoming performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Long Beach Camerata Singers — it’s a holiday tradition!  Here are 5 big reasons to attend this year’s show:

  1.  Bring Family and Friends Together — In a world laden with consumer goods, why not invest in an afternoon with the people who are important in your life?  Put down the cell phone, step away from the computer and, yes, visit with people — in person!  You won’t regret it.
  2. Build Traditions that Endure — It is important for both children and adults to have traditions in their lives, traditions that define the season and create memories; traditions that can be passed on to future generations.  Traditions loom large when we remember our childhoods.  If you don’t already have a holiday musical tradition, our concert is the perfect place to start.
  3. The Beauty of the MusicIMG_2303There’s a reason why this piece of music has endured for almost 300 years — it’s unbelievably beautiful!  The compelling melodies, the dramatic arias and the powerful recitatives never fail to thrill.  You will be surprised at how much of the music is familiar to you — and don’t forget the Hallelujah Chorus.  Be prepared to stand for that one!
  4. The Power of the Message — Regardless of your belief system, Messiah is filled with important reminders of our highest values.  Goodwill toward others, hope for a better life, comfort for those in distress:  these are the impulses that build our character.  It doesn’t matter if you attend church, or which denomination, if any, your subscribe to.
  5. Get a Brain Massage — Give your poor, overworked brain a rest!  images-18Allow the sounds of the chorus, soloists and orchestra to flow through you !  Close your eyes and float on the river of sound.  Your brain will be washed clean of electronic beeps, digital images and the cluttered detritus of our daily lives for this small piece of time.
This year will be the tenth annual performance of Messiah by the Long Beach Camerata Singers.  The chorus will be accompanied by Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra.
Camerata sings Handel’s Messiah.  TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE $30/$45.  www.LBCamerata.org or call 562-373-5654.  Sunday December 3, 4:30pm Beverly O’Neill  Theater

What’s Your Sign?: The Camerata Peace Project

Because inclusion and belonging are the overriding theme for our Peace Project concert on Sunday, we want to make this beautiful concert accessible to a group that you wouldn’t normally associate with music — the deaf community.  However, it turns out that music plays a significant role, both therapeutically and recreationally in the lives of deaf people.  That is why we will have a song signer at our concert on Sunday.

So, how can the hearing-impaired enjoy music?  According to one   young man, they “Feel” the music and “listen with the heart.”  Here is a heartwarming video called “How Deaf People Enjoy Music:” https://www.facebook.com/aimediaAUS/videos/10155189131339220/?id=100010747232096

Deaf people often retain some degree of hearing.  In addition to sound, the tactile, the visual, and the kinesthetic all play important roles in deaf perceptions of music.  Song-signing performances use four principal forms of expression: music, lyrics, the signs of ASL, and other gestures independent of the signed language (i.e. dancing, swaying, pulsing, etc.).  One of the earliest records of song signing can be found in a film project by the National Association of the Deaf, produced between 1910 and 1920

The song signer portrays musical elements like rhythm, pitch, phrasing, and timbre through productive musical signs and non-linguistic gestures.  In fact, many song signing videos have gone viral on YouTube, and people are beginning to understand that signing can enrich the musical experiences of the deaf and hearing alike.  Song signing presents us with an opportunity to expand our understanding of familiar songs and to experience them in new ways.

Join us for The Camerata Peace Project on Sunday for an incredibly rich experience, including song signing!  Here is a link for tickets: http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/camerata-peace-project/

Peace by Piece: The Camerata Peace Project

How we spend our time IS very important.   As we have seen this week, some people spend their time planning the cruelest deeds imaginable.  Not us, no not us.   We spend our time making our community better.

And making our community better is exactly what Long Beach Camerata Singers is all about. That is why our first concert this year is The Camerata Peace Project – how timely is that??? Now more than ever . . . we need to keep reminding ourselves that decency, goodness and belonging are alive and well, and that is exactly what we will be singing about in our concert on Sunday.

 Without pause or second thought, all of the singers are working together to create a work of art. Musical performance is without question an endeavor towards peace. On Sunday you will hear music representing many styles, religious traditions, cultural differences and generations. We hope that this afternoon will be unlike any “concert” you have ever experienced …and is instead a visual and sonic representation of community at its very best. 

The concert is comprised of a series of individual pieces from many different traditions — Pop/Folk (Gilkyson’s “Reqiem”), African-American (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”) Hebrew (“Hine Ma Tov”), Russian (Rachmaninoff’s  “Bogoroditse Devo”) and so much more.  Peace by Piece . . . each piece of music will add to your understanding and sense of belonging.      

Please come and spend an afternoon with us! Our music and our message has no meaning without your ears!  We promise you will leave moved and inspired 

 

An Anthem of Compassion: Eliza Gilkyson’s “Requiem”

Camerata’s Peace Project Concert on October 8 will be filled with fantastic repertoire.  My very favorite piece is “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson.  This absolutely beautiful piece of music is full of lament, and, ultimately,  hope.  It also has a very interesting history.

Gilkyson wrote “Requiem” in 2004 in response to the Asian Tsunami disaster.  In an interview with NPR, she revealed that she wanted to write a mass, and even considered using Latin text.  She researched female deities of many religious and cultural traditions, but kept coming back to Mary.  She used lower case exclusively in the text to signify the universal female comforter.

The composer recorded “Requiem” on her Paradise Lost album using  only two voices — hers and her daughter’s.  Her intent, exquisitely fulfilled, was to pair an innocent upper voice with a more world-weary lower voice.  Use this link for the NPR interview and the Gilkyson recording of the piece:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4847831

The story of Gilkyson’s “Requiem” doesn’t stop there.  As a matter of cosmic coincidence, both Gilkyson and  Craig Hella Johnson, Artistic Director of the professional choir Conspirare, resided in Austin, Texas, and the rest is history.  In 2006 Johnson produced a piano-and-chorus arrangement of “Requiem,” the very arrangement that Camerata will be singing on October 8.  In a blog posting by Conspirare, Johnson describes the piece as “an anthem of compassion.”  Click here for Johnson’s remarks and a Conspirare performance of the piece: https://conspirare.org/inspire/requiem/

Please join us on October 8 to hear the Gilkyson/Johnson version of “Requiem,” as well as many more wonderful choral nuggets.  To purchase tickets please visit Camerata’s website:  http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/camerata-peace-project/

 

Observations and anecdotes about classical music in Southern California