Tonight’s audience in the Tianjin concert hall was treated to an astonishing performance of Carl Orff’s historic cantata, Carmina Burana. For the first time, Wellington College’s choir of pupils and staff came together to produce a vibrant and exhilarating production.
The school’s choir, made up of 150 pupils, aged from 10-17 years, have been rehearsing for this one-off performance since May. In combination with the professional musicians of the symphony orchestra, the students created a thrilling interpretation of this most complex of pieces, enchanting the audience with their skill and passion.
Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata composed in 1935 and 1936 by Carl Orff, based on 24 secular poems of the 12th and 13th Centuries. The poems are mostly in Latin, the international language of medieval Europe, and come from a wide variety of historic and literary sources. The religious origins of the source material make it all the more surprising that most are bawdy student songs, celebrating such earthly pleasures as drinking, gambling, and dancing. Orff’s music is a modern masterpiece, setting these ancient texts to music that is as dramatic as it is immediately recognisable. Perhaps the cantata’s best-known movement is O Fortuna, notable for a driving rhythm that has made it one of the best-loved, and most performed, pieces of modern classical music.
Wellington College has been a centre of musical excellence throughout its history, well known across Tianjin for its annual musical productions and seasonal concerts. All students in the school have the chance to study music, take up western and Chinese musical instruments and perform regularly in public. This not only fosters musical talent but also helps young people to challenge themselves, grow in confidence and self-discipline, and push themselves to achieve things well beyond their own expectations.
Julian Jeffrey, the Master, commented that, “Wellington strives for excellence in all that it does. Our performers have worked so hard to balance their schoolwork and other commitments with hours of rehearsals for Carmina Burana; everyone can see how hard work can create these extraordinary results. I am so proud of them all, and grateful to my dedicated colleagues who have made all this possible.”
Ms. Faye Gossedge, Director of Music of the College and the Conductor of Carmina Burana, commented that, “Leonard Bernstein famously stated that, ‘to achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time.’ Bernstein was right, we never quite get enough time, but we did achieve something great, and we certainly had the man-power.”
Tonight’s audience clearly agreed with Mr Jeffrey’s assessment of the quality of the students’ work, with wild applause greeting the rousing finale. Tianjin’s Concert Hall has witnessed many triumphant performances over the years, but few will have matched the euphoric atmosphere that swept across the auditorium throughout the electric production.