Last Saturday, I enjoyed a phenomenal production of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana by the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Red River Chorale, and choirs of Northwestern State University. The opening chorus “O Fortuna” and its sequel “Fortune plango vulnera” are two of my favorites, and the assembled forces brought great life to these two songs. Later highlights included “Olim lacus colueram,” a swan song in two senses as a swan laments his lost freedom as he is prepared to be eaten as someone’s dinner; and the sequence Cour d’amours with its ever-increasing tension and final release in “Blanziflor et Helena.” The coordination and exchange between instruments and singers was also quite impressive. A Bach devotee, I also quite enjoyed the Passacaglia and Fugue which opened Saturday’s program.
There is, of course, no replacing the excitement of a live performance. But, for those interested in a good recording, check out Herbert Kegel’s recording of Carmina Burana with the Leipzig Radio Orchestra and Chorus which also includes the two excellent compositions Orff later added to make it a trilogy: Catulli Carmina (1943) and Trionfo di Afrodite (1951). Plus, if you would like to hear selections from the original medieval Carmina Burana on which Orff based his modern version, look into the recording by the Ensemble Unicorn and Ensemble Oni Wytars. Both recordings are part of my collection and always make for welcome listening.
For those still energized by Carmina Burana, there is more music coming over the next few days. Thursday night, the Alexandria Youth Orchestra will perform at 6:00 PM at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center. Directed by John De Chiaro, this ensemble of talented young musicians is made up of students enrolled in schools across Rapides Parish. While their talent and determination has allowed the group to give many concerts locally, it has also given them the chance to tour, even playing in New York City’s famous Carnegie Hall back in December. John De Chiaro is not only the orchestra’s mentor, but a phenomenal classical guitarist in his own right. He also does a regular spot on KALB News Channel 5 to raise music awareness. And, John De Chiaro will play a program of classical guitar as part of this weekend’s AlexRiverFête
AlexRiverFête is a huge three-day festival in downtown Alexandria which brings together many aspects of this community from arts and crafts to great local food, and from dragon boats to classic cars. While there will be live music throughout the festival, one group that I am looking forward to in particular is the Kaminari Taiko drummers. Based in Houston, Kaminari Taiko is an ensemble of drummers which infuses Japanese traditions with modern rhythms. Between their fascinating rhythmic energy, commanding stage presence, and the sheer volume of some of their larger drums, Kaminari Taiko has become a favorite of Alexandria audiences. As exponents of Japanese culture, Kaminari Taiko perfectly complements the annual Louisiana Dragon Boat Races, and from the beginning have been an essential part of these Dragon Boat festivities.
This year Kaminari Taiko will give two performances. Friday night, as part of ArtWalk, they will give a sample of their range at 8:00 PM in front of the Hotel Bentley. Saturday at 11:30 AM, the drummers will give an hour-long concert at the Alexandria Amphitheatre overlooking the Red River. Both concerts are given free of charge.
Hope you can make either the concert with the Alexandria Youth Orchestra or can attend one of the Kaminari Taiko performances at AlexRiverFête. Or, maybe, you will have the chance to make all three outings!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a recent graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College—Louisiana’s designated honors college located on the campus of Northwestern State University. There, he studied music history, completing an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” Now living in Alexandria, he is one of the founding members of TicketCentral and will also be writing this season’s program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra.