Thursday, 28 April 2011

'Take Orff!' with Marion Wood Monday 28 March

The stage is set:
Exeter University Choral Society Choir and Orchestra
Regular listeners will be familiar with a welcome additional voice on the 'Classical Journey' these days. We have the very great privilege to have the company of Exeter University's Director of Music, Marion Wood, every couple of weeks or so. It is always great to see her in the studio, and she really knows her stuff.
Marion is also well known to concert lovers. She conducts the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra in regular concerts.  At the end of last year she conducted Beethoven's Violin Concerto with soloist Tom Gould from the Britten Sinfonia, and only last week she conducted the extravagant Mahler Second Symphony with a full choir and two soloists. Although Marion is an impressive figure fronting the orchestra in a concert, seeing her work with an orchestra (and choir) in rehearsal was truly and education! With perfect pitch Marion can sing to the instrumentalists or singers not only what notes they should be using, but also exactly reproducing their mistakes to make the difference clear - and that includes the tenors and basses!
Conductor Marion Wood
Always happy to combine music and education, Marion got together with the Exeter University Choral Society a few weeks ago to present a highly informative selection of songs from Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana'. (That's your mediaeval Latin: 'Songs from Benediktbeuern'.) As a preview and introduction to the full work, which will be performed at the Northcott Theatre in June, Marion got the orchestra and choir to perform a selection of the songs on the Northcott stage on Monday 28 March.
In addition to conducting Marion gave a brief synopsis of what the songs were actually about, and the precise words (all sung in Latin of course!). This really helps with the appreciation of the music and, even better, she is able to give a brief explanation of exactly how the music works - in layman's terms of course!
The first song to get the Marion Wood treatment was the well known 'O Fortuna'. Within minutes the audience were able to clap out Orff's complex rhythms while becoming familiar with the meaning of the words. By the time the orchestra and choir started performing it for real, it all made perfect sense.
a bow and a handshake for the leader:
E-Yan Sham
Listening to too much mediaeval Latin all in one go can lead to the songs all melting into one, but even a little prior knowledge keeps things fresh. The line "Ecce Taves" ("Listen! - Hooves") might have passed unnoticed, except that we all know in advance that whole orchestra and choir were having fun matching their music to sound of receding hoofbeats. 'Floret Silva' might not immediately conjure up what the next song was about but 'The Woods are Burgeoning!' gives a much better idea of what to expect. Young girls in the springtime leading on the young men and playing hard to get - the mediaeval church scholars who wrote the songs were anything but stuffy bookworms! With Marion's commentary the audience didn't miss a thing - the gorgeous humming chorus, the wealth of exciting percussion, and the amazingly deep and magnificent contra-bassoon. Marion even stopped the proceedings so that we could all hear the contra-bassoon in isolation, and compare its lowest notes with the tuba and double bass - something you don't usually get to hear at an orchestral concert.
High five for E-Yan Sham as soprano soloist
With the amount of fascinating detail that Marion was bringing to Orff's Carmina there was only time for a few of the songs, but there was time to hear Michael Willmott sing the tenor solo 'Estuans Interius' ('Burning Inside') and join forces with James Hartley for 'Circa Mea Pectora' ('Concerning My Heart'), and the orchestra leader E-Yan Sham delighted us all with her soprano solo, 'In Trutina' ('In the Balance').
Monday's little evening recital ended as it began, with the very moving 'O Fortuna', presaged by the beating of the tam-tam by a very enthusiastic percussionist.
Anyone who was there to hear Marion's exposition on the 'Carmina' will certainly want to hear the whole work when the orchestra and choir return to perform it in June. If you missed Monday's extract, you will still be able to get 'enhanced' pleasure from the June performance - there will be not only an orchestra and choir but also dancers performing the ballet version! (The Northcott Theatre is rare in this part of the country, in that it has room for all those performers on one stage.) I should also imagine that Marion will be more than willing to give us all a little more of her fascinating analysis of the music on the 'Classical Journey' as the concert date approaches.
From now on I shall always think of Marion reciting 'triangle' whenever I hear triplets.  And for an off-beat - 'Sonic the Hedgehog' of course!
See you later, educator!

Exeter University Choral Society
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Weds&Thurs 15&16 June 7.30pm
Orff: Carmina Burana (Ballet)
Musical Director: Marion Wood
Dance Co-ordinator: Rebecca Payne
Tickets: £10-15 (with concession £5)
Group discount available (box office only)
Box: 01392 493493

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