Ottawa Choral workshops presents Orff’s Carmina Burana

By Roland Graham
Ottawa Choral Workshops presents its most ambitious production to date – Carl Orff’s mighty Carmina Burana, on November 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Southminster United Church.

For anyone whose musical trivia resources are lacking, Carmina’s opening movement, “O Fortuna,” is one of the most recognizable and frequently used pieces of classical music in popular culture, chosen by filmmakers, marketers and others for its ability to convey a sense of epic grandeur, intensity and vital life force.

It’s also been frequent fodder for parody and comic adaptation, perhaps most amusingly as reimagined in the YouTube clip “O Fortuna Misheard Lyrics” (google that for a laugh), such is its immediate familiarity and catchiness for music fans the world over.
Otherwise, Carmina Burana is highly memorable for its captivating blend of powerful melodies, rhythmic energy and dramatic storytelling, depicting themes of love, fortune and fate, elements that have always connected with singers and audiences on profound levels.
Set predominantly in Latin – with a bit of Middle High German thrown in – the score offers singers a perfect blend of musical challenge and reward. An effective performance requires nuanced musicianship and a good measure of vocal stamina; learning the score facilitates these, offering not only a great educational experience, but also a thrilling, immersive and unforgettable sonic experience performing.

The fall Choral Workshop started back in September. Participants have been studying and learning the Carmina score through weekly rehearsals and sectionals in the weeks since, at home through online study resources and by listening to favourite recordings. In all, they will have about 20 rehearsals under their belt by the time they take the stage to perform.

For many, singing Carmina this fall has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, the striking of one item off their bucket list. Learning the music and rehearsing it with friends has certainly been a significant part of that; performing it with a professional percussion ensemble and trio of outstanding vocal soloists after 10 weeks of preparation will be merely the cream!

Furnishing the bulk of the instrumental score will be pianists Matthew Larkin and Jean Desmarais, playing a pair of nine-foot Steinways – Southminster’s own piano and the one that replaced it as the new flagship instrument at the Steinway Gallery of Ottawa. It’s a rare and special occasion when two quarter-million-dollar pianos are nested side by side for a single shared performance!

A five-person percussion ensemble featuring several of Ottawa’s top percussionist will round out the “orchestra,” playing the composer’s own chamber arrangement of pianos and percussion that employs glockenspiel, snare drums, cowbells, timpani, triangle, xylophone, cymbals and more.

Local vocalists – soprano Morgan Strickland, tenor Adam Sperry and bass Ryan Hofman –will interpret Carmina’s delightful and arresting solos, including the inimitable “Olim lacus colueram,” which depicts a swan contemplating its circumstances as it is roasted over a spit and prepared to be eaten! Hard to be more visceral than that!

Tickets for the concert start at $30, and you can find them through our new website, and on (search OCW + Carmina Burana). Hope to see you there!

Roland Graham is the founding director of Ottawa Choral Workshops.

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