On Saturday, three of Yale’s largest musical groups joined forces in their first concert of the semester.
The concert featured the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Camerata and the Yale Glee Club, along with the United Girls’ Choir and centered around Carl Orff’s cantata, “Carmina Burana.” The composition, which has been a part of the international repertoire since the 1930s, was popular in Nazi Germany where it originally premiered.
“The concert was planned long in advance — the YSO has a history of collaborating with the Yale Glee Club, Yale Camerata and the United Girls’ Choir in large orchestra works with chorus,” YSO President Cindy Xue ’17 said. “A few years back, we performed Mahler’s ‘Symphony No.2’ and Brahms’ ‘A German Requiem’ with various configurations of those aforementioned choral groups.”
To accommodate the hundreds of performers, the groups utilized a double stage extension. Additionally, the show sold out several days before its premiere, with about 2,400 tickets sold, according to Xue.
Both performers and audience members alike said they found the concert experience enjoyable and successful.
Stefan Jones ’20, a concertgoer, noted the stage’s grandeur as well as that of the concert in general. He said there was a sense of excitement in the air, largely from the piece’s novelty since it requires “unusually massive forces.” He added that the performers coordinated the concert well despite some of the difficulties associated with a large ensemble.
“Soloists were on the whole quite fine, though the infamously difficult tenor solo did trip up the performer in a few places — nothing that the audience wasn’t entirely sympathetic to, however,” Jones said. “It is truly a strange piece, and the bawdiness of the text was not missed on the audience, I think.”
Eileen Norris ’20, a YSO violinist, said the most amazing part of the concert for her was the manifestation of each of the individual groups’ works and their successful collaboration with each other.
Norris added that leading up to the concert, each organization rehearsed individually. However, the week of the concert, YSO had two rehearsals with the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Camerata and only one with the United Girls’ Choir, she said. The success of the performance reflects the dedication of all of the musicians involved and the focus maintained in a limited amount of rehearsal time, she said.
Given the groups’ large size, some performers were members of more than one. John McKissack ’20, a Yale Glee Club and YSO member, said that he chose to sing for the concert because the score favors the choir in terms of its melody.
Some of the best moments in the piece are choir only, McKissack said, and the orchestral part is mainly there to support its beauty. McKissack added that while he missed playing violin in the orchestra, the entire performance gave him “goosebumps.”
“I had a massive adrenaline rush during the concert,” said Charles Comiter ’20, a YSO bass drum player. “‘Carmina Burana’ is one of the staples of the repertoire and is just so much fun to play.”
The piece has a historical background as Nazi propaganda leading up to and during World War II, Xue said. To bring attention to its historical significance, Glee Club president Emma Hathaway ’17, YSO publicity officer Noah Stevens-Stein ’18 and Xue wrote a program note addressing these issues. The note encourages audience members to think critically about the relationship between populism in the sociopolitical sphere and popular works of classical music.
“Carmina Burana” premiered in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1937.