By Bradley Fargo, news correspondent
Presenting a full rendition of Carl Orff’s 25-movement composition “Carmina Burana,” 119 singers of the Northeastern Choral Society as well as the Northeastern University Madrigal Singers performed in front of an audience of about 300 at The Fenway Center on April 10.
Since last year was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the first half of the concert consisted of a collection of choral works paying tribute to Carroll’s stories and fictional world.
“Chorus is always an amazing time to bond with other people under the common goal of perfecting the music,” Duane Swift, a member of the chorus and sophomore computer science and linguistics double major, said. “It’s always fun to perform music that’s musically fluid.”
The first act of the concert included choral pieces by Irving Fine as well as student-orated passages from Carroll’s books. The songs for the concert were chosen by music professor Joshua Jacobson, who is also the director for the Choral Society.
“I have to say the whole concert was a tremendous high for me,” Jacobson said.
The last performance before intermission was a progressive rock song entitled “White Rabbit” by Grace Slick. Wearing a bright outfit to match the psychedelic song, junior theater major Monica Cole sang lead vocals while members of the Northeastern Rock Ensemble provided rhythm and the chorus sang backing vocals.
“[White Rabbit] gave me chills,” Ben Deurso, a third-year anthropology major, said. “It was a very authentic performance. They always go for something epic.”
After a short intermission, the music resumed with a full-length rendition of “Carmina Burana” accompanied by two pianists and seven percussionists in lieu of a full orchestra.
“[Carmina Burana] wasn’t a piece of music that you listened to; it was a piece of music that you felt,” Andrew Robbertz, who came to see his brother Matt Robbertz, said.
Students performed solos from the famous cantata alongside Ron Williams, a professional baritone, while Northeastern music professors Won-Hee An and Edwin Swanborn provided the piano accompaniment.
The translated lyrics of the piece were projected onto a screen above the performers, so the audience could understand the music.
“It sounds really academic and formal and what you’d expect from choral music, but really it’s women, wine, drinking and song,” Rebecca Cerasoli, a chorus member and third-year criminal justice major, said.
Jacobson purposefully prepares “Carmina Burana” every five years so that every student who goes through the program has the opportunity to perform it.
“There was this tremendous sadness when I got to the last movement because it was going to be over,” Jacobson said. “Not only was the concert, but this whole semester of work that led up to it. It’s kind of like postpartum blues.”
With a lack of counterpoint and a lot of repetition – the last movement is identical to the first – some see “Carmina Burana” as boring, Jacobson said. He himself used to hold this opinion in college until he became a member of the New England Conservatory chorus in graduate school.
“Music – there’s nothing physical about music. It exists only in time and sound waves,” Jacobson said. “You get to the point and it’s over. What you have at that point is just our memories.”
Photo by Alex Melagrano