Carmina Burana April 8 at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church
Bawdy Medieval Poems to be Featured in Spring Choir Concert
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The Sierra Nevada College Choir, led by conductor Donna Roberts Axton, will perform the Austrian choral masterpiece Carmina Burana on Thursday, April 6, and Saturday, April 8, at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline Village.
“The piece is about two-thirds performed by the chorus and the rest is done by a 10-piece orchestra as well as a choir of young children,” Roberts says. “The whole piece is about an hour and 10 minutes, with many dramatic ups and downs.”
Carmina Burana is based on a collection of medieval poems written by priests in the 1100s. The poems were hidden in a cave for centuries until they were discovered in a Benedictine monastery in 1803. More than a century later, German composer Carl Orff decided the poems deserved music to accompany them. His work was first performed in Frankfurt in 1937.
Older listeners may recognize the dramatic opening song, which was used in numerous television shows, commercials and movies of the late 20th century. Millions of Americans heard “O Fortuna” in an Old Spice aftershave television ad or in the films “Natural Born Killers” or “The Hunt for Red October.”
The musical composition is divided into four sections. The first is about “changes in fortune and how easily people can shift from being at the bottom to being at the top, and vice versa,” Axton says. The second section is about the glory of spring, the third is about bawdy tavern life, and the fourth is about romantic love.
The SNC choir is comprised of SNC faculty, students and alumni as well as community members. Students singing in the spring concert include Tufon Kalbassi, Brianna Falge, Christina Cervi and Nicole Ross, as well as alumni Kayla Meltzer and Morgan Burke. Biology professor Suzanne Gollery and her husband Marty will also sing.
“I’ve been enjoying this piece. It’s got a lot of small pieces and they have real character. They’re fun. The melodies are easy to remember, it’s something you can find easily stuck in your head,” said Gollery. This is her first time performing this piece.
“Donna has fabulous talent, and I try to support her because to have a community choir at a college this size is a treat,” said Gollery.
Axton began playing piano for SNC’s choir in 1985, and she took over as conductor in 2005. She is both a classically trained pianist and a rock-and-roll pianist, but describes her role as conductor as “really, really fun” because she gets to stand up in front. She says that anyone who would like to join the choir for fall semester can register for the class and earn credits.
Axton spent 14 years of her life playing gigs all over the world with Hoyt Axton, a 1970s rock star. She also worked as an accompanist for many Broadway performances.
For both concerts, tickets are free for SNC students and staff and $20 for the general public. The shows begin at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church at 341 Village Boulevard, Incline Village.