Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

From monks to music, your guide to 'Carmina Burana'

Odds are high you've heard Carmina Burana, or at least part of it. (Not sure? Click here to listen to a portion of it.) You might nod knowingly when the topic comes up at a chichi cocktail hour, but do you actually know anything about this musical behemoth?

Instead of slinking away to the cheese table in shame, read on for some facts about Carl Orff's masterpiece inspired by monks, which the Florida Orchestra performs with the 150-voice Master Chorale of Tampa Bay this weekend.

 

What's this about monks, now?

Scholars have debated the origins of Carmina Burana, but there are some solid findings. It's a collection of ancient poems, songs, biblical texts and writings discovered in 1803 in a Bavarian Benedictine monastery. But things get really interesting in the margins, where the monks jotted some controversial ideas.

"These men had given over their lives to the church, and you would think for a love of God and Christ, and they're writing in the margins about very non-Christian topics," said Master Chorale's artistic director James Bass, also director of choral studies at the University of South Florida. "They're writing about fate and fortune. O Fortuna, the wheels of fortune. If you believe in preordainment, you don't believe in fortune."

So what are the topics du jour? Carmina Burana is about fate and destiny, about love and mating and about heavy drinking. So, nothing too different from what we talk about today.

 

How did it go from monastery to music?

Carl Orff might be best known as a music teacher who created a system of percussion designed to help children understand music. But Orff was also Bavarian, and as such, became "nationalistically enthralled" with the Carmina Burana texts, Bass said.

"They were about Bavarians, written by Bavarians and stored in Bavarian homes and discovered in a Bavarian monastery," he said. "It was central to his entire familial experience."

In the 1930s, Orff chose 24 poems from the texts and set the writings to a musically theatrical cantata, with instrumentation and a choir. He was so convinced this was the most meaningful thing he had ever done, he insisted everyone forget about his prior works. Generally, he succeeded.

 

Wait. Haven't I heard this in a Hershey's commercial?

Yep. You've also heard it sampled by the rapper Nas. You've heard it in that holiday classic Shrek the Halls. You've heard it in Speed, on Glee, on Wrestlemania. You may have even heard the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run onto the field to it. O Fortuna, the opening to Carmina Burana, has been sampled in countless pop culture contexts, usually when something dramatic is about to happen.

The rest of the piece, which takes about an hour to perform, switches from orchestration representing a barn dance to all-male tavern toast to a soaring soprano section. And then it closes with the familiar sounds from the start, full of modern rock 'n' roll sensibility.

"It's a little bit of simplified music, and the harmonies are simple, but the rhythms are so tribal in nature," Bass said. "And there's something about it that is just so base, and I think as a species we still respond to that."

 

If I've heard this a million times, what's new?

Carmina Burana gets performed quite a bit, but that doesn't mean there aren't original approaches. The difference lies in the conductor, who decides which parts to highlight. For this weekend's performance, it's Danail Rachev, who was born in Bulgaria and is in his fourth season as conductor of the Eugene Symphony Orchestra in Oregon. Watch for fresh takes from soprano Elizabeth Caballero, tenor Gordon Gietz and baritone Cameron McPhail.

The Master Chorale is tweaking the pronunciations this time to make the words sound more Bavarian. Orff would have approved. Maybe the monks, too.

Contact Stephanie Hayes at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.

Comments
Review: Taylor Swift lights up Tampa with majestic, open-hearted concert at Raymond James Stadium

Review: Taylor Swift lights up Tampa with majestic, open-hearted concert at Raymond James Stadium

The world's biggest pop star sat alone at a piano in Tampa, looking for the first time in a long time like she wasn't quite sure what to say."This exact day a year ago, I was not playing a sold-out stadium in Tampa," Taylor Swift told the crowd of mo...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
SoundBytes: Hoobastank, PrettyMuch, Kevin Gates, Every Time I Die and more

SoundBytes: Hoobastank, PrettyMuch, Kevin Gates, Every Time I Die and more

— Hoobastank is coming to the Capitol Theatre. The show is scheduled for Nov. 19, with Secondhand Serenade opening. Tickets are $29 and up. Click here.— Boy band PrettyMuch is coming to the Ritz Ybor on Oct. 28. Tickets go on sale this we...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Highly Suspect postpone concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Highly Suspect postpone concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Highly Suspect's upcoming concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg was one of our must-see shows of this fall.We'll have to wait a little longer to see it.The Grammy-nominated rockers have postponed their Oct. 29 show in the courtyard, according to t...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rick Springfield postpones ‘Best In Show’ concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Rick Springfield postpones ‘Best In Show’ concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Bad news for Rick Springfield fans: The Jessie's Girl heartthrob is postponing his concert this month at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.Even worse news for the Fixx fans: They're no longer on the bill.Springfield's Best In Show Tour, which was to fea...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Lindsey Buckingham coming to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater

Lindsey Buckingham coming to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater

As you've probably heard, Fleetwood Mac fired Lindsey Buckingham. He won't be part of their next tour, which will come to Tampa in February with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn filling his shoes.But if you're still hankering for some hot Big Love action,...
Published: 08/14/18
SoundBytes: Michael Bolton, Dire Straits, Patti LaBelle, (Sandy) Alex G and more

SoundBytes: Michael Bolton, Dire Straits, Patti LaBelle, (Sandy) Alex G and more

— It's not quite Valentine's Day, but it'll be close enough when Michael Bolton returns to the Capitol Theatre on Feb. 15. Tickets are $80 and up. Click here.— A couple of Texas legends, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, are teaming up fo...
Published: 08/13/18
Season tickets on sale for PHSC Foundation 2018-2018 Performing Arts Series

Season tickets on sale for PHSC Foundation 2018-2018 Performing Arts Series

NEW PORT RICHEY — The upcoming Pasco Hernando State College Foundation Performing Arts Season offers another blast from the past, featuring tribute artists recreating the sounds and personas of Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Paul McCartney and more. Se...
Published: 08/13/18
‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin is gravely ill, according to multiple reports

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin is gravely ill, according to multiple reports

Aretha Franklin is gravely ill, according to several reports. The "Queen of Soul" last year announced she planned to retire from touring, and in March she had to cancel shows on doctor’s orders.The Associated Press, citing a person close to the singe...
Published: 08/13/18
For King and Country bringing holiday tour to Amalie Arena in Tampa

For King and Country bringing holiday tour to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Another big holiday show is headed our way.Smash Christian duo For King and Country is bringing their 2018 Christmas tour to Amalie Arena in Tampa on Dec. 14. Zach Williams will open the show. Tickets are $25.50 and up. Click here for details.The Gra...
Published: 08/13/18
That time a little-known Taylor Swift played the St. Pete Pier in 2006

That time a little-known Taylor Swift played the St. Pete Pier in 2006

Jim Everson isn’t entirely sure why he asked for a photo with the tall, blond singer from Nashville. "To be honest with you, I didn’t even really know who she was at that time," he said. "I got pictures with a bunch of different people, and I just wa...
Published: 08/13/18