Conductor Jeffe Huls led Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in Barnum Hall to a packed audience on Friday, April 11.
Carmina Burana is a cantata composed by Carl Orff between 1935 and 1936. It is based on 24 of the poems found in the medieval collection Carmina Burana, which are predominantly in Latin, and some German.
The collaborative concert included Samohi choirs and percussionists, students from Lincoln and John Adams Middle School chorus, piano accompanists Daren Goulet and Inna Ganelis, and three professional vocal soloists.
Carmina Burana is a dramatic oratorio that begins and ends with majestic, forte sections. In between are a variety of movements that vary in dynamic range and voicing. The movements that featured the baritone soloist and Samohi men were particularly varied and sensitive. Orff wrote arias that severely tested the vocal ranges of each soloist. The soprano wowed the audience by hitting her highest notes with the same beauty and control she demonstrated in her lower vocal range. The baritone, who sang in more movements than either of his peers, showed great range in pitch, dynamics, and emotion. Another highlight of the concert was when the children’s chorus came on stage and joined the other musicians.
One of the cantata’s interior movements got off to a rocky start, but conductor Huls handled the situation with aplomb by stopping and then re-starting the chorus and instrumentalists. Few in the audience seemed to notice this minor distraction from an otherwise excellent performance. It’s unusual for a high school chorus to attempt such an ambitious, demanding piece of music. Under Huls’ able and energetic direction, the students of Samohi’s music program gave a very exciting performance, for which the audience rewarded them with three standing ovations. It was a great night of music at Samohi’s beautifully restored Barnum Hall.
This concert comes one week after the Santa Monica High School Madrigals, Chambers Singers, and Chorale returned from a competition in San Francisco where they received the highest gold awards in almost every category.
In other Samohi music news, the Samohi Symphony Orchestra has returned from a memorable Spring Tour of Salzburg, Vienna, Brno, and Prague. The district’s musicians were warmly received by Austrian and Czech audiences at each of their four performances. In Austria, they were guests at closed rehearsals of the world renowned Berlin Philharmonic and Conductor Simon Rattle, and the Vienna Symphony at the Musikverein. In Prague, the students were guests of the Prague Symphony, where they were personally coached by their Concertmaster for the district’s string section, First Clarinet for the woodwinds section, and First Horn for the brass section.
The students’ first concert took place in Vienna at the Orangerie at Schonbrunn Palace, where Mozart and Haydn performed, and where the students were introduced to the audience by the US Cultural Attaché to Austria. Throughout the concert, snow was softly falling, and afterwards, our musicians let off a little steam with a snowball fight! Brno was the site of the second concert, after a workshop with Brno Conservatory students, where Samohi students performed with the Brno students in a joint concert to a full house. In Prague, the Samohi Chamber Orchestra performed beautifully at the Czech Museum of Music, and their final concert was held at the Rudolfinum in Prague, considered one of the most beautiful concert venues in Europe. At this concert, the Samohi Symphony Orchestra presented a plaque commemorating the Czech composer Dvorak’s stay in the United States, which will be placed in the Czech Museum of Music.