DUXBURY – It got pretty raucous, exciting even, when two northern Vermont choruses joined together in one of the most sensual of choral works. The enthusiasm of the performers was matched only by that of the audience Sunday at Harwood Union High School auditorium. (The program was also presented at the UVM Recital Hall in Burlington Saturday.)
The more than 100 singers of the combined Mad River Chorale and South Burlington Community Chorus, with two pianos, five percussionists and three vocal soloists, all conducted by Mary Jane Austin, joined in a joyful performance of Carl Orff’s grandiose “Carmina Burana.”
Orff’s hour-long secular cantata, based on 24 poems from the Medieval collection of poetry of the same name, comprises 25 parts, including large choruses, solos and duets, with full orchestra. This two-piano and percussion version, however, was sanctioned by the composer.
Most of the text was in Latin, but Old French and Middle and High German were represented as well. (Printed translations were provided but, as the lights were turned down, they were impossible to read.)
More concisely, “Carmina Burana” celebrates the explosion of spring, and that’s pretty much what it sounded like. The chorus held together delivered the wide divergence of emotions with excitement and a fair amount of precision.
Pianists Alison Cerutti and Samantha Angstman, and percussionists Brian Johnson, Evan Peltier, Dov Schiller, Peter Schmeekle and Avi Bauer were the driving force – and what a force!
The vocal soloists were among the best Vermont has to offer, thanks in part to the fact that opera bass Erik Kroncke is director of the South Burlington Community Chorus. Kronke was his stentorian self in his solos and duets, but Adam Hall got to have fun with his brilliant tenor expressing some of the work’s humor. Soprano Mary Bonhag enjoyed the one tender moment, “In tutina (On the Scales),” which she sang with an exquisite lyricism. (You could hear a pin drop!)
“Carmina Burana” has long been popular with community choruses for its straightforward writing and overt emotions. But, more than that, Austin and her forces were able to build an excitement that infected the entire hall.
The program opened on a much gentler note, with Kronke conducting the combined choruses in Randall Thompson’s popular “Alleluia.” Despite the more polyphonic writing and that it was a cappella, the performance was well blended with a sense of joy.
Community singing is alive and well in Vermont, thanks to its topnotch professionals, and the many hard-working voices that follow them.