Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ and ChoralArt will bring Carl Orff’s iconic “Carmina Burana” to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on Oct. 2.
The collaborative performance will feature 200 singers from around the state, including the Masterworks Chorus of ChoralArt and guest singers from the Portland Community Chorus and six high school choral programs: Brunswick, Greely, Katahdin, Presque Isle, Rangeley Lakes Regional, and Scarborough.
First performed in 1937, “Carmina Burana” takes its title from the 800-year-old manuscript containing poems and other dramatic texts that are irreverent, bawdy, and satirical. Mostly written in Latin by defrocked monks and students traveling around 13th-century Europe, the texts focus on themes that resonate as loudly today as they did then: the fickleness of wealth and fortune, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gambling, lust, and gluttony.
“I have long thought that modern-day Goliards, the authors of these remarkable poems, would likely be writing for ‘Saturday Night Live,'” concert conductor Robert Russell of ChoralArt said. “Irreverent, caustic commentary seems never to go out of style.”
Orff composed music for 24 of these, of which the first, “O Fortuna,” has become iconic through its use in movies, by football pep bands, and other popular culture.
This performance will feature Portland’s municipal organist, James Kennerley, playing the Kotzschmar Organ. His transcription of the work for organ will be a world premiere, and he will also offer a solo organ work to start the concert.
“Music is all about community, and I am thrilled to be working with ChoralArt to bring so many musicians from around the state to Merrill Auditorium to perform one of the most exciting works of our time,” Kennerley said. “Singing this piece with the Kotzschmar, ‘The People’s Organ,’ will be a wonderful experience for our student guests, and it promises to be an incredible performance for the audience.”
Rounding out the cast will be four PSO and Boston-based percussionists, and Maine-based soloists soprano Molly Harmon and Maine Public Classical host, baritone Aaron Engebreth, who has sung this piece with orchestras across the U.S.