By Roberta Sladovnik, Director of Audience Development and Chorale Alumna
Ahhhh…..Valentine’s Day. It’s a day that, for me, brings back memories of conversation hearts and store-bought cards with “Be mine” and red and pink hearts on them. On this Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of my two great loves as a child as well as a recent love. Sounds steamy, eh?
Let me give you a little bit of background to help put my ramblings into proper perspective. First and foremost, I am a proud Colorado Children’s Chorale alumna. I am one of the “more mature” of our alumni group, having sung in the Chorale from 1976-1980. Secondly, I consider myself very lucky to get to work for the Chorale, as it offers me the opportunity to put my corporate business experience and my love of music to use each and every day. Lastly, I am a 23-year member of the Colorado Symphony Chorus, something that my 13-year old self could never have imagined I would be, yet it was my 13-year old self that fell in love when I least expected it.
Over the weekend, I received a postcard from the Colorado Symphony advertising an upcoming concert on April 2 and 3, Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, creator of the Orff-Schulwerk method of teaching music. The Colorado Symphony website describes Carmina Burana as music “set to 11th and 12th century poems and dramatic texts written by German students and clergy. Themes of satire, greed, seduction and worldly pleasure combine with memorable tunes to make this evocative work one of the most popular choral masterpiece of all time.” One cannot escape hearing music from Carmina at some point in life as its powerful “O Fortuna” is often used in movies and commercials. The performance includes an orchestra, soloists and an adult and children’s chorus. That’s where my story begins.
As a Concert Choir member, I first learned the music to Carmina Burana for a performance of the work with the Denver Young Artists Orchestra. I can’t say that I remember being too excited about the music one way or the other, until we set foot on the Boettcher Concert Hall stage. Despite having to sit silently on risers onstage until it was our time to sing, I was hooked. I had never before in my life actually been in Boettcher Concert Hall, nor had I been exposed to live classical music beyond my Chorale experiences. But, when I heard those first few powerful chords of the piece, I forgot how long we had to sit and how uncomfortable the risers were. Instead, I was enthralled by the music – all of it. The soloists, the fantastic rhythms played by the orchestra, the power and beauty of the adult chorus. I loved being onstage, singing our parts (in the “Court of Love” portion of the piece, incidentally), being a part of something much bigger and more spectacular than I ever imagined. Carmina Burana was the first classical cassette tape I ever purchased, with my own money, soon after our performance.
Fast forward a decade or so to one of my first few years as a symphony chorus member. Imagine the joy in my heart when I arrived at rehearsal one evening and was handed a choral score for Carmina. After our vocal warm-ups, we read through the work, my voice a little shaky as I sang the second soprano part of “O Fortuna”. There I was, face to face with my first love while experiencing my current love – the CSO Chorus. This time, I was a different part of the whole equation; nonetheless, the Chorale was still the catalyst for my new love.
Since our first performances of Carmina Burana, I have sung the piece seven times – twice as a child and five times as a CSO chorus member. This April will mark my eighth round of performances and yet I never tire of Orff’s masterpiece. I have no need to fall in love again; my great hope is that one of our current Concert Choir members, who will be singing the piece for the first time, will fall in love instead.