Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 14, 2014

VCC presents powerful 'Carmina Burana'

Chorale groups join together for 200-musician spectacular

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The Valley Concert Chorale will highlight its 50th anniversary season on March 30 with a performance of Carl Orff's choral masterpiece, "Carmina Burana," at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.

"'Carmina Burana' is one of the top three choral masterworks of all time, and we are very excited to be performing this incredible music as part of our 50th anniversary season," said John Emory Bush, artistic director and conductor of the all-volunteer, nonprofit Valley Concert Chorale.

VCC performed "Carmina Burana" as part of the Bankhead's inaugural season in 2008 with a rousing performance accompanied by two pianos and percussion that received a standing ovation. But what makes this performance even bigger is the number of musicians involved, the most ever on Bankhead's stage.

"We will have nearly 200 singers on stage thanks to collaboration with Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo, Las Positas College Chamber Choir and Cantabella Children's Chorus, accompanied by a 37-piece orchestra and professional soloists, that will power an incredible experience for the audience," Bush said.

The program also includes Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" featuring VCC's accompanist and concert pianist Daniel Glover, and Brahms' "Four Songs for Women's Chorus, Two Horns and Harp."

Professional soloists for the afternoon are soprano Shawnette Sulker, baritone Igor Vieira and tenor Brian Thorsett, who performed "Carmina" for VCC in 2008.

"Each of the soloists brought such drama and emotion to our previous performance, and they are the best combination of soloists for 'Carmina' that I have ever heard," Bush said. "The audience will be in for a real treat."

"Carmina Burana" will be conducted by Dr. Bryan Baker, artistic director and conductor of Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo. Bush will conduct the Beethoven and Brahms.

The appeal of "Carmina Burana" is its combination of a fascinating text and accessible music. The lyrics consist of 24 poems that Orff set to music in 1936. Orff's composition quickly became popular and a staple of the classical music repertoire. The opening and closing movement, "O Fortuna," is the most recognizable movement as it has been used for numerous films and commercials.

The original text dates from the 11th or 12th century, including some from the 13th century written mostly in Latin verse, with a small amount of Middle High German and Old Provenšal. The selection covers a wide range of topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are today: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gambling, gluttony and lust.

"The music is both dramatic and emotional, with some movements injecting a bit of fun," Bush explained. "The audience will hear themes of love and anger, and even of beer drinking in a tavern. But the most powerful are the opening and closing movements of the ominous 'O Fortuna' that tells the tale of the wheel of fortune and the highs and lows of the wheel of fate in each of our lives."

Tickets cost $25-$38; students $18-$28; seniors $21-$34. For more information, call 373-6800 or visit www.livermoreperformingarts.org

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