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Choral Music Media Review Print

Choral Society of Durham

January 13, 2002 - Raleigh, NC:

Orff: Carmina Burana. Jo Anne Greene-Beatty, s, John Daniecki, t, Grant Youngblood, b, Choral Society of Durham with Duke University Chorale, NC Boys Choir, Singers from 5 Durham and Chapel Hill High Schools, full Symphony Orchestra (including members of the NC Symphony), Rodney Wynkoop, conductor (live recording of the performance of February 26, 2000). Available from members of the Choral Society of Durham (online at http://www.choral-society.org/CDs.html) or at CSD concerts. $15.00 (by mail, $17.00). (58:14)

With two performances of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana coming up this weekend in Greensboro, and on the heels of a recent revival of Carolina Ballet's staged version of the piece, given (with reduced orchestration) in Winston-Salem, we turn to a live recording of one of the finest concert renditions we've yet heard. Back in February 2000, Rodney Wynkoop massed a cast that would doubtless have pleased Cecil B. DeMille for a performance of the great barnburner of a piece in Weaver Auditorium at the Durham School of the Arts. The concert set all kinds of new standards, eclipsing earlier area readings of the piece by miles and miles. As we wrote at the time (for another paper), statistics told part of the story. The 156-voice Choral Society of Durham constituted the "main body" of singers. Fifty-two members of the Duke University Chorale were on hand. The elite North Carolina Boys Choir sang the two numbers that call for "ragazzi." There were 26 additional singers from five area high schools. Thus the choristers numbered 270, give or take a few.... The orchestra consisted of 60 outstanding instrumentalists, culled from the ranks of the NC Symphony and various other bands. The three soloists proved to be among the finest yet heard in this music, "live" or on records. So the total number of participants, including our resident choral czar, came to 334. 

Under normal circumstances, massed singers tend to produce huge volumes of sound, so one of the most amazing things about the performance was that all those singers often sang softly, delicately, gently - but always with great intensity and rich tone (as opposed to volume). The diction was marvelous. It was a faithful rendering in terms of the instrumentation, so Orff's intentions were honored. Veteran violinist Paul Gorski made a most welcome appearance as concertmaster. 

The soloists - soprano Jo Anne Greene-Beatty, tenor John Daniecki, and baritone Grant Youngblood - were scrupulously accurate, technically, and invested their interpretations with lively, engaging deliveries that were consistently successful. The tenor has little to do, but what Daniecki did came close to stealing the show. His single number describes a banquet from the perspective of the fowl that gets eaten. He sang it brilliantly, so we suffered as he suffered, and we laughed when he crossed himself at the end. Youngblood impressed throughout despite some challenges in the highest passages of one section, and Greene-Beatty sang marvelously. The choral sections were splendidly performed, but the several purely orchestral dances were revelatory, too, and in the process these showed, in no uncertain terms, that Wynkoop has the makings of an outstanding orchestral leader, should he ever decide to opt for that sort of career path. The performance itself lasted 58 minutes, and at the end, there was, from the packed house, an ovation that mirrored the magnitude of the participants' achievements, resulting in three curtain calls. Wynkoop seemed ecstatic, at one point defying gravity to dance - as Edward Villella used to do - in mid-air.

Proceeds from the sale of a CD of this concert, recorded by Frosty Clark, benefits the CSD and allows everyone to savor the incredibly high performance standards attained during the concert. This recording may well long serve as a yardstick for "measuring" other choral-orchestral presentations here. The concert was that good. So, too, is the CD.

See our calendar for details of the upcoming performances of the score by soprano Sandra Lopez, countertenor Marshall Coid, baritone Robert Overman, UNCG Choruses and the Greensboro Symphony, directed by Stuart Malina.