Captive Audiences: How Many Tickets can one Singer Sell?

Peanut never lacks for an audience because he expects everyone he encounters to pay attention to him.  Perhaps we singers need to take a lesson from him and have higher expectations of our friends and family to attend our choral performances.

Choirs understand that they have great built-in audience potential living in their singers’ address books.  How many friends and close family does each choir member have?  10? 20?  Our goal is to make sure that when we perform, all of those people are IN THE AUDIENCE.

So what should we expect from our singers?   And how do we overcome resistance?  Here’s a look at some of the obstacles and solutions to this problem:

Provide Advertising Materials — This seems like a no-brainer, but most choral organizations are multi-generational; the younger members want on-line information and the older singers like a nice shiny postcard or flyer.   Don’t discount the appeal of a printed card placed a store window, and don’t be surprised if one of the sopranos invites her grandchildren using an email.

Provide Several Purchase Portals — More and more people purchase tickets to events online, but when you are dealing with family and friends, they may need a little help.  A telephone ticket hotline might just be the convenient factor that reaches your new tenor’s Grandpa.

Provide Enthusiasm — Sometimes chatter is your best advertising.  Encourage singers to talk about their upcoming concert and to be open about their love for the music.

Provide Encouragement — People love to be invited to events.  Studies show that almost half of all people who attend concerts were invited by someone else.  Don’t think of it as selling tickets, think of it as extending invitations.

Provide a Culture of Participation — Positive reinforcement is the name of the game.  We’re not talking about contests, or shaming the slackers.  Our best tactic may be to recognize and praise those who do a great job.

Provide Training — Consider investing 15 minutes per concert to simply review ticket prices, purchase options, marketing materials and even a script of talking points.

The bottom line is that singers want that big audience as much as anyone else.  They may not realize how much power they have to make that a reality!

Long Beach Camerata Singers will be performing Handel’s Messiah on November 30 and December 1, 2018.  Tickets can be purchased for $30/$45.  Click HERE to visit our website.

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“Word-Painting” and Handel’s Messiah

One of the most extraordinary aspects of Handel’s music is the use of “word-painting,”  the musical technique of composing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song’s lyrics. For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death.

This technique is employed throughout Handel’s most famous work, “Messiah.”  Today we will examine the use of word painting in two  arias, “Ev’ry Valley,” for Tenor and “But Who May Abide” for Bass.

In the very first aria, or air, of the composition — “Every valley shall be exalted,”  Handel literally begins the work with powerful word painting.  Many a composer would be content with just composing a melody with half the beauty of Handel’s, but he went much further.  The text is: “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.”  When the tenor sings the word, “crooked,” Handel toggles between two notes; and with “straight,” he writes one long note. The effect wonderfully contrasts uneven with straight.

“But who may abide the day of his coming?” contains one of the most dramatic moments in the entire oratorio. The text from Malachi prophesizes about Judgment Day, asking “who may abide the day of his coming?” This Handel crafts into a mysterious, slow air. But at the text, “for he is like a refiner’s fire,” the music explodes into … well … a fiery exclamation. The acceleration and ferociousness captures perfectly the threat of hell and damnation.   The word “shake” uses a melisma that actually sounds like the singer is shaking.  And, if you listen really closely you can hear the violins play a run that is reminiscent of  the “flames” of the “refiner’s fire” licking at the singer’s feet!

These are just two examples of many in Handel’s Messiah that make it interesting, exciting and accessible.  This is why the work has endured since its first performance in 1742.  We hope you will join the Long Beach Camerata Singers in their performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach on November 30 and December 1, 2018.  Click HERE to purchase tickets.

 

Homer (Simpson) Loves Handel

We all know that GF Handel is famous for his iconic chorus from the oratorio, Messish, the Hallelujah Chorus.  He’s so famous, it turns out, that even Homer Simpson likes his music.  This is evidenced by the fact that the Hallelujah Chorus has appeared in the soundtrack of The Simpsons not once, not twice, but FIVE times!

  1.  “Bart Gets An F” (1990) —   Bart is about to flunk out of 4th grade.  A snowstorm saves him, to the accompaniment of the Hallelujah Chorus.  Other music in this episode:  Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
  2. “There’s Something About Marrying” (2005) —  Bart becomes a minister to capitalize on the rash of weddings about to take place due to the legalization of gay marriage.  Other music in this episode:  Let’s Twist Again.
  3. “Thank God It’s Doomsday” (2005) — Homer hears about the Rapture, and by using numerology to calculate when the Rapture is coming he learns that it is only one week away.  Other music in this episode:  The Flower Duet from Lakme.
  4. “The Treehouse of Horror” (2017 — Maggie gets possessed by a demon; Lisa discovers a creepy/perfect version of her family in an alternative universe; Homer cannibalizes himself.  Other music in this episode:  On the Road Again.
  5. “Singin’ in the Lane” (2017) — Homer gets his old bowling team back together and they wind up competing with arrogant millionaires.  Other music in this episode:  The Boys Are Back in Town.

Long Beach Camerata Singers will be performing Handel’s Messiah, including The Hallelujah Chorus, on November 30/Dec 1.  We hope you will join us.  Click HERE to buy tickets.

How GF Handel Made History Reusing Music

GF Handel, like most composers of his era, borrowed and recycled musical themes on a routine basis.  Today, we would consider the practice at best, distasteful, and at worst, plagiarism.  But in Handel’s time it was a sign of respect.

As we know, “Messiah” was composed in just 24 days.  Part of the reason Handel was able to accomplish this remarkable feat is that four of the major choruses in the oratorio were “repurposed” from earlier work that the composer had done.

In the beloved Chorus, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” Handel not only borrowed music from one of his earlier compositions, he pretty much lifted in intact and just set it right down in the middle of the Messiah score.  The original composition was a duet for 2 Sopranos, an allegro movement from HWV 189, a short cantata called “No, di voi non vo’ fidarmi” or “No, I do not want to trust you.”  This piece was composed in 1741, shortly before Handel began work on Messiah, but it harkens back to his Italian sojourn in the early eighteenth century, when these vocal miniatures established his reputation as an up-and-coming composer.  Click Here to listen to a performance of the duet, beautiful and a bit bizarre in its original incarnation.

Stranger still, Handel was not done borrowing from this particular cantata.  The final movement of the cantata is another allegro section and yes, you guessed it, was also reincarnated into the “Messiah” oratorio, this time morphing into “All We Like Sheep.”  Use the same link as above to listen, but advance to 3:35 seconds to hear the second allegro.

If borrowing twice is successful, why not do it again?  And again still? Source material for “His Yoke Is Easy” and “He Shall Purify” was supplied by Duetto XV, HWV 192, “Quel fior che all’alba ride” or “That flower that laughs at daybreak.”  Again, the borrowing is deep and extensive.    Listen Here to this beautiful music.

Regardless of how he got there, we can only be grateful that GF Handel composed this great, enduring piece of music.

Long Beach Camerata Singers will perform Handel’s Messiah with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra on Friday, November 30 at 7:30pm, and again, on Saturday December 1, at 3:30pm.  Both performances will feature a pre-concert lecture one hour before the concert.  The Beverly O’Neill Theater is the venue for these events.  On Saturday, a holiday sing-a-long will kick off the afternoon.  Tickets are $30 and $45.  Click HERE to visit our website to learn more and purchase tickets.

A Busy December for Camerata

December is typically the busiest month of the year for choral musicians, and this year is no exception for the fine singers of Long Beach Camerata Singers.  As the reputation of the group and of choral music grows in our area, the calendar has become crowded with concerts and performance engagements.

First up for the holiday season, is Camerata’s own performance of Handel’s “Messiah” on November 30, 2018 and December 1, 2018.  Marking the 11th annual mounting of this holiday classic, this is the first year that two performances will be offered.  The Friday event will take place at 7:30pm at the Beverly O’Neill Theater.  On Saturday, the concert will start at 3:30pm with a short program of Holiday music, featuring the Long Beach Youth Chorus.  The audience will be encouraged to sing along with the program.  Musica Angelica Baroque orchestra will accompany the chorus for both concerts, and top-flight soloists have been contracted to perform with the group.

No rest for the singers!  The following week Long Beach Camerata Singers will perform with Musica Angelica again — this time at their holiday concert.  The singers will appear in the second half of the concert, as the two groups collaborate to present Handel’s “Ode to St. Cecelia,” the patron saint of music.  Again, two performances will take place, the first on Saturday December 8, at the Beverly O’Neill Theater and the second at Zipper Hall at the Colburn School on Sunday.

Long Beach Camerata Singers is always excited to perform with the Long Beach Symphony, and they will have the opportunity to do so on December 22, when they collaborate for the Holiday Pops! concert.  These immensely popular concerts take place in the Long Beach Arena, as friends and neighbors gather to dine and visit before the concert.

Please join us for all of these events!  Tickets can be purchased as follows:

Long Beach Camerata Singers presents Handel’s Messiah:  http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/handels-messiah/ 

Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra Holiday Concert:  https://www.musicaangelica.org/events/

Long Beach Symphony Holiday Pops!:  http://longbeachsymphony.org/browse-concerts/2018-2019-pops-series-become-subscriber-today/

 

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/

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.

Observations and anecdotes about classical music in Southern California