2013-2014 Season

Long Beach Chorale merges with two other groups for weekend performances of 'Carmina Burana'
By Zen Vuong, Staff Writer, Press Telegram
Steve McCrank, Staff Photographer
Posted: 03/14/2013

LONG BEACH -- When more than 90 singers were smushed together for the first time three days before a live performance, what could have been chaos became a chorus.

The Long Beach Chorale, Orange Coast College Chamber Singers and members of Southern California Children's Chorus are joining forces to perform Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" on Saturday and Sunday. Many of the group had never met before their first dress rehearsal as an ensemble Wednesday.

They will be led by Eliza Rubenstein, their artistic director and conductor.

The Long Beach Chorale, Orange Coast College Chamber Singers and members of the Southern California Children's Chorus join forces to perform Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" on Saturday and Sunday at Grace Presbyterian Church in Long Beach. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)

"Eliza is so meticulous in her preparation of her singers that the only thing we could be worried about is our physical arrangement in front of the church. Arranging the risers and the chairs for 100 plus adults and 30 children is a challenge," said Barbara Miles, a Long Beach Chorale administrator and alto singer.

Rubenstein has been artistic director of the chorale since 2003. She is also the director of choral and vocal activities at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. For this weekend's performances she will lead a collaborative ensemble comprising soloists Jenny Spence and David Stoneman, more than 90 singers, two pianists, and a team of percussionists.

"The piece of music we're doing is one that everyone knows even if they don't know they know it. It turns up in movie clips and ads all the time," Rubenstein said.

"Carmina Burana" is Carl Orff's 1937 secular oratorio, a large-scale musical work for orchestra and voices. It is divided into three parts: "Spring," "In the Tavern" and "Love." As Orff's most famous work, it has been assimilated into songs by death metal group Therion, rappers Naz and P. Diddy, and electronica artist SUB. The Long Beach Chorale hasn't partnered with anyone in six years, and this performance will embrace three generations.

Eliza Rubenstein directs the nearly 90 singers and musicians.
(Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)

"Having the kids especially is exciting. Even the energy of college kids is different. Having all those young people with us is much more exciting than any collaboration we've done," said Miles, 59. Some of the youngest Southern California Children's Chorus members in the performance will be 12 years old.

Cassandra Mohr, 15, has sung in the chorus for three years.

"I'm a bit nervous about working with new conductors just because it's a new experience," Mohr said.

But because Cassandra has worked in many collaborations over the years, she said she is not too worried.

Her administrative director, Pat Freeman, said it's an honor to be able to collaborate with the older groups. She's confident her 24 choir singers will excel because "they're young professionals." In fact, last year 120 Southern California Children's Chorus members sang with Esperanza Spalding in the Academy Awards.

Even though some people have been practicing this oratorio since early January, Rubenstein said the music itself isn't complicated.

"You don't have to know anything about classical music to listen and enjoy his composition," Rubenstein said. "It's a great gateway drug" because it's universal, entertaining and highly emotional, she added.

Soloist David Stoneman rehearses his solo.
(Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)

Because the piece will be sung in German and Latin, its original form, people generally aren't up in arms about its colorful, risque moments.

"Rather than just spelling it out, it hints at raunchy and risky fun," Rubenstein said.

Yet Rubenstein said the most memorable lyrics are emotive expressions rather than the bawdy words. She translates one as "Homer Simpson saying 'd'oh,' which is 'my life is going miserable,'" Rubenstein said.

The Saturday collaborative performance is at 8 p.m. at Orange Coast College. Tickets can be bought online at http://orangecoastcollege.edu/about_occ/events/Pages/OCC-Tickets.aspx.

The Sunday performance at Grace First Presbyterian Church in Long Beach is a smaller venue, so its 4 p.m. performance is almost sold out. Visit http://longbeachchorale.org/ for more details and online ticket purchasing.

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