Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra
Carmina Burana - May 17, 2014
by Nancy Bramlett
What a joy it was on Saturday evening to revel in the music of the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra! The audience, replete with formal gowns, spring frocks, and suits and ties, gathered in eager festive expectation.
Expectations were high for a reason. The SCSO has a reputation for being the best of the best in choral music in Sacramento, and, in fact is recognized for its excellence around the world. One claim to fame is its own professional orchestra, the only chorus out of over 12,000 community choruses in the United States to have one. The SCSO is also a cultural ambassador to the world, traveling to such places as Carnegie Hall, Switzerland, Italy and the Great Wall of China. Their next adventure will take them to Paris, Normandy and London in 2015. Their family of members come from different eras (ages from the 20's to 80's) and many different professions and backgrounds, but they illustrate how we can all come together to make beautiful music. They commit themselves to hours of practice and rehearsal so that others can be uplifted and healed through music, making the world a better place.
This evening’s performance was dedicated to Tevye Ditter, a dear member of the SCSO who preceded us to heaven this year. The concert consisted of two parts. Part I included Brahm's Schicksalslied (“The Song of Fate’), John Burge's Angels’ Voices, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region – all in honor of their dear friend. In Part II, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana showed off the SCSO's superb skill and style.
I happened to catch Donald Kendrick expressing afterward that his favorite piece from this concert was the Brahms. The emotion on his face clearly expressed his deep love for the music – of all the music he helps bring to life. I gained an instant appreciation and admiration for this talented and committed leader.
Enlightening program notes explained the background of the piece, as well as the composer and the process of creation. (Click here to open the concert program in a new window: the notes begin on page 5.) I love program notes!
Schicksalslied held a rhythm of life in the drum beat throughout. With a perfect balance between chorus and orchestra, a gentle lyrical melody emerged, hopeful, yet with a tinge of sadness. The sound swelled and faded and swelled again. The choir continued in seamless voice to express the angst of the suffering of humans, ending with Brahms’ hopeful harmonies as if to say, “Do not give up hope. Believe.”
Truly angels’ voices were heard when the Sacramento Children's Chorus joined with the Sacramento State University Chorus to perform two sections of contemporary composer John Burge's Angels’ Voices. The lush sounds of the orchestra were amplified by the exquisite words of the first movement. “Angels pour blessing and joy without ceasing.” The beauty of the second movement (featuring a lyrical trumpet solo) appeared through the angel charming “away the cares of the day and the burdening griefs and pain.” How lovely when words and music entwine with great performers to create. I smile. My heart is light. Bells of joy ring.
Toward the Unknown Region completed Part I. Chills coursed through me as the music spoke of the hope of eternal life, the joyous expectation of the unknown hope beyond. This piece was my personal favorite.
Part II was all Carmina Burana, a masterpiece well known in choral circles. Pleasant memories wafted as I heard the music I remembered from days gone by. This contemporary piece is full of life: power and pain, bawdiness and tenderness, anger and love, desire and indifference. The audience clearly had its favorites. At the conclusion of the first section of 25, so powerful and impressive, the audience exploded into applause before the music could continue. Other favorites included a fair amount of levity: from the women flirting then ignoring the men, the men drinking and carousing, and of course the swan. Tenor Kirill Dushechkin did a fabulous job of singing and acting the part of the “cooked goose.” The feathered jacket was quite a hit! Baritone Dan Kempson was featured in several pieces thoughout this work, the audience's favorite being the famous “Burning Within.” Kempson succeeded in convincing us of his burden with a luscious and powerful tone. Soprano Nikki Einfeld thrilled the audience with her light and nimble musical acrobatics and crystal clear tone, as well as her engaging presence.
It was a near perfect night. However, there was a slightly disconcerting lack of congruence between the translation on the page and the translation overhead during Carmina Burana. I wish I could magically conjure a way to bring the children closer to the audience (they were a bit difficult to hear) and to give the elegant dancer more room to be expressive. But that would have to be magic with all those performers on the stage!
Many thanks to all the singers, the orchestra players, the guest choirs, the soloists and the ballerina, Kendall Reinitz. It is indeed inspiring to see such collaboration! Special thanks as well to Dr. Donald Kendrick who has made all this possible. His vision brought the SCSO to life. Dr. Kendrick has blessed the Sacramento region with incredible music, directing 6 choirs in total with two at Sacred Heart Church and three at Sac State. He also initiated the Graduate Degree Program in Choral Conducting at Sac State: one very busy and dedicated man.
It was a wonderfully tender and festive evening with many gathering afterward to meet the performers and share their experiences. If you have thought of joining a choir, you would have been inspired tonight by these great performers to take a risk and join a choir. There are more than 90 choirs in the Sacramento area. Let the music uplift you and inspire even more.
If you would like to hear more of the SCSO before their next concert, I encourage you to visit the SCSO website (www.sacramentochoral.com) to purchase recordings of previous performances. I personally purchased three!
(Hundreds more photos of this concert are at this link.)
Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO. She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis. Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale. She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services. Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.