Chances are you’ve heard “Carmina Burana.” From Little Mix to Little Kim, Michael Jackson to Meek Mill, Evanescence to the Pittsburgh Pirates, so many artists, sports teams, movie soundtracks and television shows have sampled the score which was originally written in 1936 by Carl Orff.
The words have been around longer than that. Between the 11th and the 13th centuries, the words of Carmina Burana were written in Latin, Old French, and Middle High German by Goliards, young secular monks in Europe who wrote satirical poetry.
On April 6, the Fairfield University Glee Club performed “Carmina Burana” with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra and the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Carole Ann Maxwell, the Director of Choral Activities at Fairfield University and the Artistic Director and Conductor for the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut, introduced the Glee Club.
Before they sang Carmina Burana, the Glee Club sang “Vencerá el Amor,” by the Salvadorian composer Carlos Quintana, a lively piece which lifted the spirit.
The Chamber Singers, composed of members of the Glee Club, performed a lovely rendition of the Arthur O’Shaughnessy poem “We are the Music Makers,” and two pieces from “West Side Story” honoring Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, “Something’s Coming” and “Somewhere.” Senior Lauren Sugantino and Olivia Coe ’20 were the two soloists on “Somewhere,” and I could really feel Sugantino’s emotion and connection to the song, and Coe’s voice was near effortless, and I loved listening to both girls sing.
Senior Elisa Castelli, the director of Sweet Harmony, Fairfield’s all-female acapella group, introduced Sweet Harmony to the stage. She noted that this was their last classical concert of the year, how bittersweet it was for the seniors to be leaving school and thanked the audience for being there with them that night. They sang “Lollipop,” a fun, bright and sweet song. Soloist Katherine MacKenzie ’21 celebrated the power of Sweet Harmony’s voices during the song “Black Horse” by KT Tunstall. Sweet Harmony was both fun to watch and powerful to hear, bright and magnetic.
The Bensonians, Fairfield’s all-male acapella group, sang after Sweet Harmony. They sang two songs, complete with coordinated moves, snapping their fingers and swaying back-and-forth like a barbershop quartet. Senior Matthew Willins and Timothy Amarante ’22 were the two soloists.
Willins had great stage presence and Amarante had smooth and crisp vocals. The Bensonians were a team with cohesion, and the fun they were having was visible on their faces and to the ears of the audience.
Finally, the Glee Club sang “Cornerstone,” a song comprised mainly of one phrase -“the stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone of a whole new world”- that was filled with unity and positivity.
After a brief intermission, the Glee Club sang “Carmina Burana” with the Mendelssohn Choir and the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra. There were twenty-five short songs, or movements, some light and lilting, some hopeful and spirited, some rousing and spirited, and all were breathtaking to behold.
It was a powerful experience to hear the operatic voices of soprano Stephanie Gregory, tenor Christopher Beaurline and baritone Tom Woodman rising above the orchestra, their voices reverberating with strength and emotion.
The Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra was impeccable. The whole time, I could see the players’ faces intently focused on their job at hand. The second chair violinist had a near- inscrutable facial expression save for her eyes of shining steel as she nimbly played her violin.
The Mendelssohn Choir blended beautifully with the voices of the Fairfield Glee Club, creating an angelic effect. There were several times when I saw members of the Glee Club looking over at the opera singers and the choir members with expressions of awe and admiration. It is wonderful that the Glee Club had the opportunity to sing with and to learn from such experienced vocalists.
Overall, the concert was a magical experience, and I am glad I had the opportunity to hear and see it live.