We just got back from Southern Oregon, where the San Francisco Girls Chorus performed two solo concerts and Carmina Burana at the Britt Music & Arts Festival in Jacksonville. Carmina Burana is a well-known piece composed by Carl Orff. It’s written for a large orchestra, a mixed chorus, a children’s choir, and several soloists.
We worked on Carmina with the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, a community chorus with over 150 singers. Even though the singers ranged from middle school students to retirees, we felt connected to each of them because of their passion of singing, which was evident while we were on stage with them. It was an honor to feel like respected colleagues among these experienced singers. In rehearsal that week, we stood next to the bass section, the lowest of voices, who provided a strong core to sing over. For most of the rehearsal, we were not singing, which allowed me to pick up on nuances in the music, such as the subtle entrance of the flutes, as well as observe the rehearsal process. The conductor, Teddy Abrams, led a fast-paced and effective rehearsal. Abrams would imitate sections of the orchestra and choir in order to demonstrate the quality he was expecting
The Carmina Burana concert was held at the Britt Pavilion. When we got on stage, it was incredible. I felt the intensity of the orchestra, chorus, soloists and even the audience. Since the piece is sung in Latin, Middle High German and Old Provençal, I could not understand what was being sung, but the soloists did an incredible job of conveying the love story between the bass and the soprano. They sang with such confidence and passion, and I could not take my eyes off of them. Carmina Burana is very scenic, so the music alone paints a picture. Orff composed the piece in such a way that the soprano’s run could signify the butterflies in her stomach while she talked to her lover.
Although we came to Oregon to sing, we also got the chance to explore the area and its culture. We spent some time at Crater Lake where we took a beautiful hike. We had time to explore Ashland, where we saw musicians playing in the streets and Shakespeare-themed shops like “To CD or Not to CD.”
We returned to the Britt Pavilion for our last concert, this time on a smaller, more intimate stage for a solo concert. We were all happy to be able to perform a solo concert, because we had the opportunity to share the broad range of our core repertoire that we recently sang on our Scandinavian tour. One of my favorite parts of singing with the San Francisco Girls Chorus is that our repertoire isn’t “traditional” chorus music. We are pushing boundaries by singing songs like Herring Run by Carla Kihlstedt and Panda Chant by Meredith Monk that tend to astonish audience members, no matter their musical knowledge. After 6 years, my own time in chorus has come to an end. It was bittersweet to sing my last concert, but even after just a week of rehearsal with the new members of our touring ensemble, I can tell that they will go far to keep the spirit of the chorus alive.