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2015-16 Season Preview: Climbing Higher

Marlene’s Musings
July 5, 2015

The WSO has so much in store for the 2015 – 16 season: A world premiere, a composer in residence, well-known soloists and as always, we perform works from the standard repertoire as well as unfamiliar, fabulous creations.

KuenzelBWwebKarim Elmahmoudi-HeadshotOctober 11, 2015: Adam Kuenzel and Orbit: A Symphonic Fantasy
Guest Artist: Adam Kuenzel, Principal Flute, MN Orch
Pre-concert talk with composer Karim Elmahmoudi: 2:00
Concert: 3:00 Wayzata Community Church

MahrTimothywebDianaLeeLucker4November 22, 2015: Minnesota’s Own
Guest Composer: Timothy Mahr
Guest Artist: Diana Lee Lucker, Organ
WSO Concerto Competition winner: Tori Okwabi, Clarinet
3:00 Wayzata Community Church

patrick-harison1February 14 and February 21, 2016: Twist of Tango
Guest Artist: Patrick Harison, Accordion and Bandoneon
Feb 14: 3:00 Wayzata Community Church
Feb 21: 3:00 St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Mahtomedi

MariaJette2May 1 and May 7, 2016: Maria Sings Maria
Guest Artist: Maria Jette, Soprano
May 1: 3:00 Wayzata Community Church
May 7: 7:30 Trinity Lutheran Church Stillwater
All of our concerts are free and open to the public with no ticket required. I hope to see you at any or all of our exciting programs!

Verdi Requiem – Opera in Disguise

Marlene’s Musings
January, 2015

MarlenePodiumShotWebThis is my fifth season as Music Director of the wonderful Wayzata Symphony Orchestra. I’m thrilled that a hallmark of the season will be our performance of Verdi’s Requiem at Orchestra Hall on Feb. 22, 2015.

I have been a lover of great singing since I was a kid. My paternal grandmother, though not an opera singer per se, was soprano soloist in their Lutheran Church in Austin, MN. She had the most glorious voice and would often hum as I nestled in for a cuddle on the couch. Very happy memories, indeed!

Although Verdi’s Requiem is not an opera, it cannot be performed or conducted unless one has a love and an understanding of opera. The four vocal soloists will be required to display virtuosity comparable to many of Verdi’s great arias. Our soprano will climb to a breathtaking high C at the climax of the final movement as she sings, “Deliver me, Oh Lord, from eternal death on that fateful day.” Spine chilling!

OrchHallSingersOur partners, Edina Chorale and Two Rivers Chorale, have been rehearsing for months. This is no walk in the park for singers. The Sanctus and Libera Me movements include masterful fugues that challenge the very finest of choirs. Their diction will have to be highly rhythmic in order to cut through the texture so that everything can be heard.

Everyone will be challenged by the extreme dynamic range which goes from f f f f to ppppp! One rarely sees five pianos in any score.

For Verdi, who was not religious, this work speaks about the fear of death in very human terms. He does not shy away from the thought that death and the afterlife might not be a pleasant experience. That fear of uncertainty is no more palpable than in the Dies Irae where the solo instrument is the bass drum. It is bone-crunching, terrifying music complete with 8 trumpets placed antiphonally, proclaiming the approaching day of judgment when all sins will be revealed.

This is dramatic music at its best and with Orchestra Hall as our venue, the electrifying energy in the music will be magnified onstage.

Inspiring Voices

Marlene’s Musings
January, 2014

Inspiring Voices – singer, Bruce Henry and composer, Florence Price

Back in 2003 I heard a podcast of Joe Carter and Krista Tippett (MPR “ON BEING”) talking about the ‘back stories’ for the Negro Spirituals. Normally I do other things while I listen but that day I sat down and listened to the entire show. What intrigued me was how VERY little I knew about those extremely familiar songs. I heard the re-broadcast of that podcast in 2010 after Joe had died and I promised myself I would find a way to get that music and the stories behind the music told to a broader audience.

BruceHenryWebsiteIn Bruce Henry, I found the perfect singer for the concert.

Bruce’s energy is infectious, his range of 3-1/2 octaves amazing and his musicianship truly inventive and engaging. And he is an educator, sharing his thorough knowledge of the history of black music with young people in schools here and in Chicago.

The hidden historical meaning of the texts will fascinate and the wonderful orchestral arrangements created for these concerts by Paul Gericke will surely enhance Bruce’s inspiring renditions.

Florence Price was the first African American woman composer to have a work performed by an American Orchestra (the Chicago Symphony premiered Symphony #1 in 1933). In the spirit of nationalism of the 20s and 30s, Price’s primary goal was to incorporate Negro folk idioms – spirituals, blues and characteristic dance music – into the symphonic form. The symphony achieved wide acclaim, catapulting her onward to write hundreds of other works including 100 songs, many of which were made famous by Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct Florence Price’s Symphony #1. With the resurgence of interest in her music, a recognized place among the finest American composers is hers.

Carmina Burana

Marlene’s Musings
February, 2013

The fickleness of fate,
The treacherous territories of greed, lust and gluttony
The joy of spring
Love songs

220px-CarminaBurana_wheelThese are the age-old, timeless themes of Carl Orff’s amazing secular cantata, Carmina Burana. All of the texts were written during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Orff selected only 24 poems and writings from a huge and beautifully bound volume of 254 poems discovered in 1803 when the monastery, Benediktbeuern, was secularized. The title, literally translated, means Songs of Beuern.

I find the backstory of every piece of music fascinating but this one has special intrigue. Who were the poets? The texts are NOT AT ALL religious. In fact, some are bawdy and lascivious.

WHO WROTE THE TEXTS?

Probably travelling minstrels, defrocked priests, students satirizing the Catholic Church and many, scholars think, were written by the Goliards.

The Goliards were known for their rioting, gambling and intemperance rather than their scholarship. They were often erroneously supposed to have been a religious order, an idea that arises from their satiric order of St. Golias, the fictitious patron saint of debauchery. The actual word goliard may derive from the Old French and means “big mouth.”

You’ve heard of the troubadours, right? Well, the Goliards were to the Troubadours what John Belushi was to Sir Lawrence Olivier. Both the Troubadours and the Goliards earned food, drink and lodging from their songs and poetry. The audience for the troubadours was the high and mighty, so they created sophisticated songs for connoisseurs of music and poetry. The audience for the Goliards was the middle and lower classes, so the Goliards, who tended to be rebellious and irreverent, created witty songs for the connoisseurs of cynicism and raunch. Although the goliards were initially tolerated and protected, their multiplying numbers eventually turned into a plague of beggars and their irreverence provoked an increasingly conservative church hierarchy, which began suppressing the movement.

The texts are in three different languages – Old Provencal French, Middle German and Medieval Latin. This fact has caused quite a bit of angst for our fabulous singers. These are unfamiliar languages to all of them and to me. Making sure that every syllable is correctly pronounced has been quite a task. Since languages continue evolving, you can imagine the changes and morphing that has taken place since the texts were written 900 years ago! Is the “v” pronounced as a “v” or an “f?” Is “que” pronounced “kvay” or “kvee” or “quay” or “quee?” You get the idea.

THE MUSIC

170px-Carl_OrffEven if you don’t think you’ve heard the piece, I’m quite certain you will recognize the opening lines of “O Fortuna.” It has been used in movies, trailers, advertisements and commercials. Even at the 2013 Superbowl, when San Francisco rallied and it looked like they just might trump the Ravens, I heard the main theme. The text at that point speaks about never being too cocky about your good fortune. The goddess, Fortuna, whose wheel continues to turn, will elevate you and then debase you on a whim. It appears there is no escaping that inevitable part of human existence.

Musically speaking, there is almost no polyphony in the work. Rather, rhythm is the central feature. The piece is easy to listen to but far from pabulum. Even without motivic development or harmonic complexity, the texts are fascinating and the music riveting in its energetic and driven pace.

Carmina Burana is one of those pieces you’ll never forget – from the opening and most famous, “O Fortuna” to the greatest drinking song of all time, “In the Tavern,” to the rapturous high D in the soprano aria, “Oh, Sweetest One.”

A favorite of the soloist arias is “O Trutina.” The music is so glorious and tender as it accompanies such an internal struggle between virtue and desire.

With more than 200 people on stage this will be quite an event!

Everyone is working so hard. When the music is great, hard work is the gift we give ourselves in order to experience the powerful transformative feelings that only music can give. A reward in extremely valuable currency!

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