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Santa Clara Chorale Opens 2016 – 2017 Season with Dramatic “Carmina Burana”

The Santa Clara Chorale opened its 2016 – 2017 concert season at Mission Santa Clara October 22 with German composer Carl Orff’s powerful, three-part secular cantata “Carmina Burana,” called a rhapsodic masterpiece by SCC Artistic Director Dr. Scot Hanna-Weir.

“Carmina taps into something primal, immediate, dramatic, visceral and universal; and perhaps this is why it has remained so compelling for all who hear it,” stated Hanna-Weir.

The Chorale’s “Carmina Burana,” which debuted in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1937, had the added force behind it of the Santa Clara University Choirs, the Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley, the High School Honor Singers of Woodside Priory and soloists Jose Mendiola, Andrew Metzger and Sarah Olive-McStay. The San Jose State University Percussion Ensemble and Santa Clara University faculty pianists Hans Boepple and Teresa McCollough accompanied the choirs.

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“The concert is a musical collaboration of epic proportions, a great celebration of community and school partnership,” said Hanna-Weir to the audience. “It’s a wonderful opportunity when so many people can come together for a common purpose.” About 175 singers and musicians filled the front of Mission Santa Clara.

“Carmina Burana,” written in medieval Latin and middle high German, is based on 24 medieval (11th and 12th century) poems and dramatic texts about youthful love and life. It explores the ebb and flow of good and ill fortune, the “whirling wheel” of fickle fate. With piano and a percussion ensemble as accompaniment, rather than a full orchestra, the audience was able to distinguish the fast-flowing lyrics.

“The challenge was singing the words so fast,” said SCC bass Roger Medsker.

“Fortune, Empress of the World” introduces Movement I of the cantata. With the words “O Fortuna,” the choirs burst into song so forcefully that it was startling even to those who had heard the cantata before and knew what to expect.

“It hits you like a ton of bricks when it opens,” said Hanna-Weir.

In its three movements, the cantata celebrates the virtues of spring, lets loose with rowdy tavern drinking songs and extols the desires aroused by cupid in bawdy love songs. Lasting about 65 minutes, it ended as it began with the singers lamenting the heavy hand of fortune in “O Fortuna.” And the audience of almost 600–a full house–stood and cheered and applauded for a very long time.

“Carmina just fills the room with energy. It’s hard not to give your whole being to it,” Hanna-Weir said. “It never gets old for audiences because it’s so powerful. It’s such a dramatic piece.”

“This was absolutely great. It was a terrific season opener,” said SCC Board of Directors President Ron Paradies.

Los Altos residents Debbie Lidgate, her husband, John Bigler, and their son Kenneth Bigler were attending their first SCC concert. The couple’s son Andrew Bigler, a SCU freshman, was one of the university singers.

“It was so much more professional than I thought it would be. This is amazing,” said Lidgate.

The SCC, a nonprofit community chorus, had previously performed “Carmina Burana” with orchestral accompaniment as part of a longer program at its 50th anniversary concert in May 2012. Hanna-Weir became the artistic director in fall 2013.

December 9 and 11 at Mission Santa Clara, the Santa Clara Chorale (www.scc.org) will perform “An Evening of Lessons and Carols.” The concert will include traditional carols, intimate concert works, audience sing-a-longs and holiday readings by community leaders.

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