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    Choir for Louisville Orchestra and Carmina Burana
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    The 2014-2015 Louisville Orchestra season continues to generate an energetic buzz around town, thanks in large part, to a focus on getting the orchestra out into the community and in front of many people who may not normally make it to Whitney Hall at Kentucky Center. The latest program in the Classics series will bring the community to Whitney Hall, however. To present Carl Orff's powerhouse cantata, Carmina Burana, a chorus of upwards of 300 voices will join the orchestra on stage -- drawn from all over the city -- including the University of Louisville, the Louisville Chamber Choir, Eastern High School, Male High School, and YPAS, to name only a few. 

    Orff's "O Fortuna" anthem is as familiar to sports and film fans  as it is to those who love classical music. Its operatically over-the-top bombast is the perfect accompaniment to aspiring athletic programs and action movies. It's big, it's medieval, and it sounds like it will blow you away. That's why you need a lot of voices and musicians.

    In charge of this massive choir is Louisville Orchestra Chorus Master Kent Hatteberg (Director of Choral Activities at the University of Louisville). Coordinating such a crowd -- with a full orchestra -- is no small feat. How do all these groups come together for a show of this complexity? I had the opportunity to get some idea of the behind-the-scenes preparation from Mr. Hatteberg, who took the time to answer some questions about it before the big night.

    What has your working relationship with Teddy Abrams been like in getting ready for Carmina Burana? 

    It's an exciting venture. Mr. Abrams appreciates musicians who give it their all. When he came to the final massed choir rehearsal, his energy and enthusiasm was infectious, and the choir responded with a similar level of intensity and enthusiasm. It is a pleasure watching him rehearse such large forces.

    How many groups and voices are taking part in this week's show? What has been the biggest challenge in getting such a large group rehearsed and ready?

    In the massed choir there are 303 singers from nine different choirs as well as some community singers who wanted to participate. There is also a children's choir made up of roughly 70 singers from the Louisville Youth Choir. 

    Any time you have a large chorus made up of singers from several choirs, you want to mold them into one unit, with matched articulations,  matched volume levels, and, particularly in the case of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, matched pronunciations of the text. The secular texts of Carmina Burana are taken from a 13th century manuscript, and the languages presented are medieval Latin, some Middle High German, and even some old French. These texts are unfamiliar to us today, and the pronunciations we are using are intended to represent how those languages may have been spoken.

    In my position as Chorus Master,  I wanted to prepare the massed choir to be flexible, watch the conduct intently, and respond quickly. There are a number of dangerous places in Carmina Burana, with sudden changes of tempo, meter, and/or volume, and adapting to a new conductor can be a challenge. Part of that, of course, is being well prepared before the conductor comes in to work with the massed choir, and I have several colleagues to thank who prepared their musicians before our first massed rehearsal. I was able to get at the problem areas in the massed rehearsals before Mr. Abrams came in to conduct the choir. When he came to the final massed choir rehearsal, the choir adapted easily to his conducting gesture, which is a credit to both Mr. Abrams and the preparation of the musicians. Audience members can look forward to a bold, confident, and exciting performance of Carmina Burana.

    What is your favorite thing about this piece by Orff? Is there anything special that the audience should know and appreciate about Carmina Burana -- other than it's familiar "O Fortuna"?

    For me it's the driving rhythm of the work. Orff was known for his energized rhythmic writing. I also enjoy the interesting and unique orchestration of the work, particularly in its array of percussion instruments and keyboards. Audiences will be taken by the sheer power and magnificence of the work, especially knowing there are some 450 musicians taking part in the performance.

    You are also leading the chorus in Thomas Tallis's "Spem in alium." What should we know about this piece?  

    "Spem in alium," composed by  Thomas Tallis, is a work for 40 different voice parts split into eight choirs of five voices each, making it quite unique in the choral repertoire. The beauty and magnificence of this ten-minute work is overwhelming. There are numerous antiphonal effects among the choirs, as the sound is passed around from pairs of choirs to other pairs. There are climactic points where are 40 parts join together, and there are poignant moments when just a few voices carry the message of this sacred text.

    Get Tickets

    The Louisville Orchestra will present Carmina Burana on Thursday, October 16 for the Coffee Concert at 10:30 a.m. and on Friday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m. at Whitney Hall. The program, conducted by Teddy Abrams, will also include the rarely performed Renaissance motet for 40 voices, "Spem in Alium" by Thomas Tallis and a selection of other pieces that will explore the sacred and profane in music. For tickets, visit Kentucky Center's online box office or call 800-775-7777. Tickets start at $15.

    What are you getting yourself into? Witness this Random Act of Culture at the Philadelphia Amtrak Station for a public rendition of "O Fortuna." I'm totally digging the woman on tympani wearing the oversized Broncos jersey. That really is random.

    [Photo: Courtesy of the Louisville Orchestra - Rehearsal]

    Selena Frye's picture

    About Selena Frye

    I'm a writer and editor living in Louisville since 1996. I'm originally from the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

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