Sunday, April 01, 2007

Shreveport Symphony's singers, strings, brass and conductor created a rock opera of Carmina Burana

Red River Children's Choir
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
Michael Butterman was working as though he were a dancer. The sweat pouring from his face said so. The conductor of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra was mouthing the words of each cue to almost 200 singers whose eyes were beamed at his gracefully bobbing head. "Michael Butterman has the ability to get more out of you as a singer," said Connie Lerchie, "without even telling you that you have more to give." Lerchie sang alonside her daughter Sarah in the Symphony Community Chorus.

Butterman was leading the Carmina Burana concert given by the SSO this week. Carmina was a display of the power that can explode from a disciplined orchestra and chorus. Carl Orff's popular song cycle is one of the earliest rock operas. It has thunderous drums and a pelvic pulse. It offers shocking stops, soaring solos and a wall of voices.

"The singers have clothesline parts," said singer and professor Gayle
Odom afterwards, indicating with her hand that "clothesline" meant melodies written at the difficult top of a singer's range. Soloists were the comely Jane Redding, the Irish tenor William Parsons and a baritone that had to sing low, medium and slip into a falsetto as well: the fluent Ian Greenlaw.

More Latin was pronounced more correctly that night than you could ever imagine in the ArkLaTex. "Credit must go to those choral directors," said Odom. The directors were Dr Julia Brasher Thorn, who managed Centenary's Camerata and Cantare singers as well as the Symphony Community Chorus. Dr Burt Allen is director of the Northwestern State University Concert Choir. And the Red River Children's Choir is led by Betty S Adkins.

The effect of Butterman's concert of 20th century music was one of timeless sensuality. He introduced listeners to the ethereal minimalism of Estonian composer Arvo Part in a piece called Fratres. He also presented Rainbow Body, a new reverie based upon chant ascribed to a medieval abbess, Hildegard of Bingen. It was written by Texas prodigy Christopfer Theofanidis.

Not only were the Riverview Theater's risers filled beyond capacity with singers, the stage was stacked with additional string and percussion players. Butterman and the SSO did not saunter through this concert. They romped and stomped it.

Pardon me for an outrageous suggestion: since Hollywood has arrived in Shreveport during what I see as a peak moment of the SSO, I can imagine a colorful production of a DVD featuring the orchestra and its prodigious director.

Orff's Carmina, the Part as well as the Theofanidis could provide, smartly framed, an enlightening evening of broad-appeal entertainment for families, churches and classrooms.

Shreveporters need only use their brains and passion to make this Hollywood moment a catalyst for community-building growth. There's no reason to huddle around the newspaper worrying about when the casino and movie business bubble is going to deflate. The elements of successful enterprise, of a shocking vault over the low expectations of a supposedly dull region, lie in our hands.

Another critic's musical view? Try Alexandyr Kent's Times review.


James Galway said...

Probably the coolest young symphony group...

trudeau said...

Harold & Kumar 2 producer Lampton Enochs
wrote, " I’m ready to take up the gauntlet for integrating the film and music industries in North Louisiana. Can’t see any reason why we’re not doing some recording here for film projects. Maybe we’ll have Michael conducting for a soundtrack one of these days… preferably soon.

Glad you are out there pushing the arts."