All's well that ends well
Pacific Shores Philharmonic caps its first season with a choral performance
By Christina Lopez 08/02/2012
Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” is a well-known and beloved classic portraying the ups and downs of life, making it an excellent piece for Pacific Shores Chorale and Youth Choir to perform at the end of its inaugural season. Fortunately for the fledgling choral group, the performance included more ups than downs.
Conductor and music director of the Pacific Shores Philharmonic Orchestra and Pacific Shores Chorale, Dr. E. Burns Taft, opened the Ojai Libbey Bowl performance on July 28 by briefly discussing the long-enduring popularity of “Carmina Burana.” Composer Orff was often made fun of by his contemporaries for his simple scores, but he perfected the art of simplification.
“For those of you who haven’t heard this before, it will be a great experience,” explained Taft. “For those of you who have, I know why you’re here — because you love it.”
People enjoy Orff’s characteristic repetition and find his pieces refreshingly easy to follow. The small audience was eager to hear Taft’s new choral group’s rendition of the famous cantata that has appeared in countless movies, TV shows and commercials.
The piece began with “O Fortuna,” a dramatic song with crashing cymbals and a multitude of voices joining in crescendo. The Pacific Shores Chorale and Youth Choir were well-blended, their voices combining with great clarity.
In the background, the instrumentalists successfully accompanied the singers, never distracting from their voices. The Pacific Shores Philharmonic percussion section seamlessly brought in lively, staccato accents. Pianists Fern Fay and Miriam Arichea grounded the piece with their superb timing.
As the performance continued, high female voices, juxtaposed to low male voices in several call-and-response sections with nice and predictable repetition. The song was at times joyous and uplifting, at others melancholy and frightening, but it was constantly lively and attention-grabbing.
The experienced and acclaimed soloists were the main highlight of the show. Tenor Robert MacNeil had a very small part, but his voice rang out with such a clear sound. The soprano soloist, Shana Blake Hill, and baritone soloist Zachary Gordin, both making their Libbey Bowl debuts, proved to be even more captivating.
When Hill first opened her mouth to sing, she showed off her excellent vibrato and began to produce notes that most people couldn’t even dream of hitting. Her high and lilting voice dominated the stage every time she stood up to sing. Gordin, on the other hand, was both an excellent singer and actor. Even though the entire song was in Latin, his facial expressions and body language translated the emotions of the character he was playing. His vocals were the strongest in the show, with a wide range and smooth transitions between high and low notes. His articulation and pitch were always spot on.
Unfortunately, the speakers cut out a few times during the performance, and the audience could hear some feedback. Nevertheless, the acoustics of the theater were perfect for the booming forte “Carmina Burana.” Being outdoors also allowed the moments of silence to be filled with the sounds of nature.