Cecilia Chorus, April 2, 2022
Richard and I heard Cecilia Chorus in concert at Carnegie Hall on April 2, 2022. They're a large chorus (about 150 singers) conducted by Mark Shapiro. They opened the concert "Prayer for Ukraine," which was sung with the Every Voice Concert Choir youth chorus. They sang the tune with the Cecilia Chorus singing the harmony from the first rows of the auditorium. It was a little disappointing that they did the whole thing on "loo" rather than in Ukrainian. Maybe they could have brought in a soloist to do it in Ukrainian, with the chorus singing the harmonies?
The next piece was the one I was most excited to hear, Stravinsky's *The Rite of Spring,* in a 1997 arrangement by Seann Alderking for four pianos and percussion. This piece from 1993 is still shocking its modernity, full of delicacy and brutality. This performance could have been more crisp but it packed a punch. Maybe it's because I recently saw the new movie, but quite a few moments sounded like *West Side Story*! Was Bernstein conducting this piece when he wrote *WSS*? My favorite moment of the performance was near the end, when the two tympani players and the bass drum player were all bobbing in rhythm, keeping the beat so they'd come in at the right time. It was super cute.
This is the thing that turned me onto *The Rite of Spring,* a PBS special about the Joffrey Ballet doing a reconstruction of the original Ballet Russe production. It starts with a documentary about their process - - the ballet itself starts at 25:40.
The other piece on the program was Carl Orff's *Carmina Burana,* which was the piece Richard was most excited to hear. Here's a performance from 2016 with the late great Robert Orth singing the baritone solo:
Richard and I sang it with his chorus (The Glass Menagerie) a few years ago. Would you believe I hadn't heard a performance of this oft-performed piece since I was in high school? It was a thrill to hear it. But for such a big group, their sound was a little thin and colorless. I've heard many smaller groups with a richer sound. The piece is sort of performance-proof - - even a mediocre performance (and this was much better than that) will be effective, because the piece itself is so good.
There are three solo parts in the piece. The tenor has just one aria, a wickedly high evocation of a swan being roasted on a spit. It was marvelously sung by Martin Bakari.
Baritone Joshua Conyers had the largest part. I wasn't always convinced that he knew what he was singing about or that he was communicating something specific, but he sang with relish and bold style, like a Verdi baritone.
My favorite soloist was soprano Maria Brea. Oh what a gorgeous voice and a very special singer, singing with meaning, musicality, and feeling. Here she is singing my favorite aria ever, "Depuis le jour."