Category Archives: Timothy Durkovic

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:

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:


Camerata, Istad, Brandon and Durkovic: A Transformative Afternoon

Compared to the skyscrapers of New York, the winds of Chicago and the sprawl of Los Angeles, Long Beach California is a small town.  In reality, this community of 462,000 is the 37th largest city in the United States.  On Sunday, October 25, this city’s professional choir produced a concert of such power and such beauty that those other cities wept with envy and congratulation.  I’m referring to Long Beach Camerata Singers’ production, ‘Joy, Fantasy and Remembrance.”

IMG_5292The program was played in reverse order:  Remembrance opened the show with Tarik O’Regan’s “Triptych,” a powerful, three part nod to the cycle of life and how we relate to losses and passings.  The piece was incredibly moving with beautiful poetry and perfectly nuanced choral singing.  Soprano Kathryn Lillich’s etherial solo in part two evoked the far-off beating of wings and scents of lavender.

Next came the Beethoven “Choral Fantasy,” such a gust of masculine power after the delicacy of the O’Regan.  Piano Soloist Timothy Durkovic played beautifully on a Steinway Hamburg instrument brought in at his request for the concert.  IMG_5301The pairing of man, instrument and composer was astonishing and the familiar melody of the theme resulted in maximum audience enjoyment.  We had to wait until the end for the choral statement of the theme, which was full-bodied and satisfying.  Harry Saltzgaver of the Long Beach Gazette read the poetry for the audience.

After the intermission the same 35-piece orchestra gathered for the world premiere of “We Are Joy,” the work that Camerata commissioned to honor it’s 50th Anniversary.  Written by Jenni Brandon, a Long Beach composer, the piece uses the same orchestration as the “Choral Fantasy” and is designed to be played on the same program.  We had our second poetry reading of the night as librettist Oliver Mayer read his text for the piece.

Sweeping and melodic, the piece used a simple yet powerful thematic statement that was passed around from the piano to the orchestra to the choir, and back again.  The piano concerto was beautifully ringing, evoking bells, enhanced by the unique voice of this Steinway instrument which has a particularly beautiful upper register.  Jenni has written extensively for winds in the past, and “We Are Joy” included wonderful lines for flute, oboe and bassoon.  The best was saved for the choir, because they delivered the beautiful message of this piece, and delivered it beautifully  — that we are blessed and can bless; that we are joy.

The audience literally leapt to its feet in unison at the end, recognizing that something extraordinary had happened that afternoon.  An important anniversary, unparalleled  musicians and a world premiere of an new, major work:  a testimony to the transformative power of music in our lives.  Right here in Long Beach, California — how about that!