Masterworks Chorale celebrates with 'songs of Beuren'

May 02, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Scott Williamson, director of choral and vocal activites at Shepherd College, will conduct the Masterworks Chorale and Orchestra in "Carmina Burana" this weekend at the Frank Arts Center Theater.

"It's celebratory," Williamson says of 20th-century composer Carl Orff's work, which he describes as a popular masterpiece.

Celebration is in order as Masterworks Chorale completes its 30th season. The choral ensemble was formed in 1972 as the Centennial Choir in observance of Shepherd College's 100th anniversary.

The chorale, about 65-voices strong, consists of Shepherd College students and members of the community.

"It's a great thing for the community and the department," says Mark McCoy, chair of the Department of Music and Theater at Shepherd. "It's a great opportunity for people to stay connected to music and hear masterworks performed," he adds.


Carol M. Didden, 40, who lives in Shepherdstown, has performed with the Masterworks Chorale off and on since 1978. She has performed solos as an alto and tenor, and she will sing in her tenor voice in the 30th anniversary concerts. Her solo - in "Germanized Latin" - is a lament. She portrays a swan, a beauty who once lived on a lake, who is about to be roasted for the dining pleasure of revelers in the tavern. "Oh, poor me," Didden says she sings with some irony.

Didden, who sings as cantor at St. Agnes Chuch in Shepherdstown, is excited about singing "Carmina Burana. "It's beautiful," she says.

"Carmina Burana" translates as "songs of Beuren," a German region south of Munich. Orff's songs are set to medieval texts composed by 13th century monks, and therein lies the irony, Williamson says.

The lyrics are sensual, he says. "Carmina Burana" celebrates the pleasures of the senses and young love. One part, in a tavern setting, is a "big old drinking song," he says.

"It's a big work. It's a fun work," says Anne Munro, adjunct music professor at Shepherd, who is serving as manager of the production's professional orchestra. A flutist, she gets to play this time.

"Carmina Burana" also will feature soloists Melissa Raymond, soprano, and baritone Brian Ming Chu.

The weekend performances will include the orchestra premiere of a work by the winner of the Shepherd College Composers' Competition.

Several students wrote four-to-five minute pieces which the approximately 50 members of the orchestra will see for the first time at the Friday, May 3 rehearsal - the only opportunity for the orchestra and chorale to rehearse together, Munro says. The compositions will be sight read and played. A panel, including members of the music faculty, the chorale and the orchestra will vote, and the winning composition will be performed Saturday and Sunday.

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