The E.S.O - Sunday With Carmina
BIG.... That is one of the words I must use to describe the E.S.O's Sunday afternoon concert that featured the performance of "Carmina Burana". It was an astounding afternoon. As soon as I saw the assembling of the 140+ members of the five mass choirs, I knew that something exciting was bound to happen. It was certainly something that didn't disappoint in any way - there are so many expletives to use that it is impossible to select just one. What an afternoon. I was invited to attend the concert and provide a blog - sharing my feelings of this April 5th concert. It would be my first opportunity to sit up in the beautiful Winspear Centre's gallery that offered a very unique vantage point of the orchestra and choirs. It was more than I expected as it provided a pretty well unobstructed view of all the players and choristers. One who has any insite into the scores or "charts" would be able to follow the path to each instrument's "plays". I got the idea that this might be a place to seat youngsters that might like to study the instrumentation during a concert. By the way, the Sunday Master's concert was abundant in youngsters in the audience, a sign that parents were paying attention to their children's musical development. I have always maintained that giving children the opportunity to absorb some variety in music is a good start to their appreciating the arts. That too was very evident in the young members of the Kokopelli choir - one of the five very professional choirs participating in the afternoon spectacular.
The concert wasn't totally about Carmina Burana. Borodin's Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances opened the show. I expected something very Big from the union of the five choirs and Symphony and they sure delivered. The powerful strains of the familiar "Stranger in Paradise" enthralled the audience, bridging the gap between highly classical and popular genres. Being familiar with "Prince Igor" allowed me to really study the orchestra and witness each players handling of the score. Sensitivity and emotion was so evident in all these professional musicians by their handling of the phrasing and timbre. They all displayed their intense dedication to their craft. Setting the musical content aside for the moment, I must recognize that extreme dedication - even as relating it to this particular concert. The many hours of time everyone was required to spend in rehearsals and preparation would only be spent by those totally immersed in their love of music. I spoke to one of the members of the Ukranian Men's Choir who traveled in fro Two Hills every week to attend rehearsals and sessions for the choir. I am sure there are many others in the same situation, making sacrifices for that love of music.
I very much appreciated the several genres of music provided. Prince Igor was an excellent choice for the mainstream not-so-high classical minded listener. The many very interesting moods of "nighttime" was presented well by the orchestra in Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. It was an intriguing study in coloratura, made even more interesting by the french horn. Allene Hackleman was certainly one with her instrument, a not always easy instrument with which to display sensitivity. She certainly displayed all the control and passion required for the Serenade. She also helped in exhibiting the versatility of the Winspear Music Chambers. Who would know that the hard-walled back-stage hallway would offer up such a great ambience in the final passage of the number. Both Tenor, Bonaventure Bottone and Baritone, Hugh Russel performed the three "characters" of the title selection exquisitely.
As I said earlier, I got what I had expected in my appreciation of Carmina Burina. I have only been familiar with the selection for a short while. It had been a prominent theme in several motion pictures. As the first strains of the opening blasted out into the Winspear, I felt an appreciative exuberance. Everything was right about the whole performance. Choir and orchestra came together as though they had worked together for years rather than weeks. They are all class entities - and this writer - the accordion player with true pitch wasn't at all disappointed. There were no cracking trumpets, woodwinds or any audience distractions. If I were to be at all critical, I might only hint that on occasion I found it hard to separate the tenor's singing from the orchestra. One has to appreciate that it is an almost impossible task to overpower a large symphony in a totally acoustical environment. Mr.Bottone was excellent in his performance in Carmina... as were his singing partners, Hugh Russel and lovely, Hana Davidson. Everyone in attendance seemed totally mesmerized by this Grande gathering of professionals.
I remember commenting to my girlfriend on the ages of the younger members of the choir. The Kokopelli Youth Choir members are at such young ages, representative of youth that will be guided through the years with a great musical grounding. There's little doubt in my mind that the young need an interest in the arts like this to shape them as Lovely young adults.
We can be very proud that we are living in an environment such as Edmonton. Our Arts community is rife with Great Theatre, and Great Musical interest and performing groups, especially in our Symphony Orchestra, Choirs and performance venuse such as our Winspear Centre. Professional can be a tagged description far more in meaning that "for a living". This concert was very memorable and I am surely looking forward to the exciting season that the ESO is embarking on.