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The Voice of Orpheus

Volume 6, #2 ____ January 2005
Art: Bob Swaim ____ Editor: Ned Mackey

Music Under the Stars
Mid-September brought us Hurricane Javier and the first cool evenings in many weeks, as all who attended the Tucson Pops concert on the 19th can attest. Orpheus was pleased to perform three opera choruses with the orchestra in the first half of the program, and four cowboy tunes in the second half. We thank László Veres for inviting us. Singing great music with a great orchestra before a great audience is a thrill, even better than hogging the mic at a karaoke bar.

Javier surprised the town. After all, in Tucson “‘urricanes ‘ardly ‘appen” as Liza Doolittle famously proclaimed. Some amateur forecasters in the choir, especially those who attended the Arizona/ Wisconsin football game the day before, predicted the concert would be washed out, but the sky began to clear mid-afternoon on Sunday.

Between our sets many of the singers went out to join the audience, listen to the music, and look at the sky. Stars and the crescent moon played hide and seek with Javier’s leftover clouds, providing a special ambiance. One might have recalled Coleridge’s “The moving moon went up the sky...softly she was going up and a star or two beside.” But, maybe it was just the music.

Fa la la
Fast away the old year passed! And we hope you were in the audience for at least one of our eleven holiday concerts or the six concerts that preceded them. We wish you a happy new year even if you missed us.

Mission San Xavier del Bac Update
The old girl looks awfully strange with her east side appearing pretty much as it did at her coming-out in 1797 and her west side hidden in what might be a launch gantry in a bad science fiction movie.

San Xavier

San Xavier, 12/20/04, Photo by Gary Smyth

But each day she gets closer to the completion of a major nip and tuck. Workmen are removing cement which had been used as patching for the past 100 years. As the old surface comes away, damage is repaired and a new surface, one that keeps moisture out while letting the inside breathe, will restore the White Dove of the Desert to her former splendor.

Upon completion of the west tower, the scaffolding and netting will move to the east tower and the process repeat. Similar work on the facade will finish the job before the turn of the decade unless some really bad surprises turn up.

Orpheus, the Tucson Boys Chorus, and various soloists and accompanists are pleased to lend their talents to help provide restoration funding. If you would like to receive information about next year’s concerts, or inquire about donations, it’s not too early to email sxconcert@cox.net or phone Lorraine Drachman at 325-2488.

Happy Hanukkah!
Orpheus shifted gears on December 12 to help Congregation Anshei Israel celebrate its 75th anniversary. The congregation was incorporated in 1930 from the Hebrew Ladies Aide Society.

The Cantor’s Hanukkah Concert entitled “75 Years in Song” included the Congregation’s choirs, Cantor Ivor Lichterman, Cantor Janece Cohen of Congregation Or Chadash, Rodney Glassman, Grayson Hirst, and the Sons of Orpheus in black tuxes and black yarmulkes.

In addition to the Hanukkah numbers, we revisited some of the music we presented last spring and took on tour in Italy. These selections were requested by Cantor Lichterman, who sang with us during our spring concert and also in Italy. We performed Randall Thompson’s “The Last Words of David,” Giuseppe Verdi’s “Coro di Schiavi Ebrei,” and Vern Williamsen’s choral arrangement of Giacomo Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma.” As with our triumphant Italian performance, we received a standing ovation after the Puccini number.

—Chuck Dickson, baritone

Tucson Food Bank Concert
Our favorite yodeling cowgirl Jo Anderson and her husband Ed have done a fabulous job organizing this concert for the past five years. Craig Baugh, the manager of the Albertson’s at Speedway and Silverbell, provided goodies at intermission and advertised the event by stuffing flyers in grocery bags, so we had a good crowd to hear us and the kids from the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind at the Berger Auditorium on December 14. An adult interpreter signed all the songs we sang, and ASDB deaf kids signed all the songs the ASDB blind kids sang. Quite a show. And quite a haul for the Tucson Food Bank. A thousand forty pounds of food came in the door that night along with $182. The Albertson’s Corporation matched the take pound for pound and dollar for dollar! It’s the best feel-good concert of the year.

The Last Two
We finished the season December 19th singing two programs with the excellent Foothills Women’s Choir at the Eller Dance Theater on the U of A campus. It was great fun to share the stage with the women and their director Terrie Ashbaugh. We were especially proud of Jim Hogan who stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth to sing the duet with soprano Rachel Kuhn in “O Holy Night.” (Jim was pinch hitting for Grayson Hirst who showed up sounding as though he had been hit in the throat by a fastball in his previous at-bat.)

In fact most of us were a little throaty by the time it was all over, ready for a short break (Grayson gave Christmas and New Year’s Day off!), but we sang in the shower to stay in shape for you in the second half.

Two Art Songs: A Bit of the Bard...
An especially nice piece we’re doing in the second half of our season comes (loosely!) from words Duke Orsino speaks at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, wherein the duke, a hopeless romantic overwrought by pursuit of the beautiful Olivia, seeks relief. (Olivia is too busy mourning her dead brother to have anything to do with love, or at least with Orsino. Orsino is in love with love, she in love with grief.) He says:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Only the first six words of the text we’ll sing are Shakespeare’s; the rest comes from the pen of Henry Heveningham who borrowed without so much as a by-your-leave, then turned the message on its head. Rather than begging to get out of love, Heveningham was, I’m guessing angling to get into it. Enough with the listening already, he concludes. Let’s give some of the other senses a chance. (Notice Heveningham changed “play” to “sing.” Makes one wonder if he was chorister in a men’s choir!)

If music be the food of love,
Sing on till I am fill’d with joy;
For then my list’ning soul you move
To pleasures that can never cloy.
Your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
That you are music everywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
So fierce the transports are, they wound,
And all my senses feasted are,
Tho’ yet the treat is only sound.

Sure I must perish by your charms
Unless you save me in your arms.

Henry Purcell, 1658/9-1695, was the first of several to set Heveningham’s text to music. David C. Dickau, a teacher of choral music and composition at Minnesota State University, Mankato, composed the music we’ll sing for you. It is very beautiful, but we don’t think it’ll overfill you. For one thing, it only lasts a couple of minutes.

and a Fragment of Folklore
British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958, was an avid collector of folk songs. He arranged music for many of them, one of the best known being “The Turtle Dove,” or “True Lover’s Farewell.” Many variations of the text are extant. The version Williams chose starts like this:

Fare you well, my dear, I must be gone,
And leave you for a while;
If I roam away I’ll come back again,
Though I roam ten thousand miles.

O yonder doth sit that little turtle dove
He doth sit on yonder high tree
Amaking a moan for the loss of his love
As I will do for thee.

Perhaps most people know about the turtledove from Song of Songs:
For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle(dove) is heard in our land.

But it probably wasn’t Solomon’s turtledove that informed the anonymous 18th century Dorset song maker who gave us our song. It’s more likely that the bird’s mournful call and pair-bonding habit were the inspirations. After all, the song is about the interruption of love rather than the season for it. In any case, the song will season the program: sweet with a pinch of salt.

More Food Notes: Bread
It’s the staff of life, no doubt. But another kind of bread helps to keep Orpheus alive. We thank the following for their generous contributions following last year’s spring concerts:

  • Christie and Frank Alvarez
  • Anonymous
  • Duke and Janet Corley
  • Raul and Isabel Delgado
  • Richard and Sybil Kinonen
  • Law offices of Little and Little
  • Jeffrey Neff
  • David and Isabel Sanchez
  • Annalyn Watt
  • Mary and Robert Wolk
  • Clarice Zutter

From the Bookshelf
In Jeffrey Euginides’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex, clarinetist Milton Stephanides, “a Brylcreemed Orpheus” unfit for military service in WWII due to flat feet, woos his beloved from two backyards away:

Artie Shaw’s big hit “Begin the Beguine” floats on the humid air. It freezes squirrels on the telephone lines, who cock their heads alertly to listen. It rustles the leaves of the apple trees and sets a rooster on a weathervane spinning. With its fast beat and swirling melody, “Begin the Beguine” rises over the victory gardens and the lawn furniture, the bramble-choked fences and porch swings; it hops the fence into the backyard of the O’Toole Boardinghouse, stepping around the mostly male tenants’ recreational activities—a lawn-bowling swath, some forgotten croquet mallets—and then the song climbs the ragged ivy along the brick facing, past windows where bachelors snooze, scratch their beards, or, in the case of Mr. Danelikov, formulate chess problems; up and up it soars, Artie Shaw’s best and most beloved recording from back in ‘39, which you can still hear playing from radios all over the city, music so fresh and lively it seems to ensure the purity of the American cause and the Allies’ eventual triumph.

Brylcreem will not do for the Sons of Orpheus, not even a little dab. Glistening pompadours are out, replaced by mousse, the dry look, or a washcloth. Some of us ascend the risers on flat feet or are otherwise unfit for military service, but perhaps we could serve the nation if one of our arrangers were to write “Begin the Beguine” for us to sing in these troubled times.

The Balalaikas Go Hollywood
The Arizona Balalaika Orchestra celebrates twenty-five years with gala concerts on Saturday February 5th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February, 6th at 2:00 p.m. Over one hundred musicians, singers and dancers perform Russian and popular favorites from the big screen including excerpts from Dr. Zhivago, Fiddler on the Roof, At the Balalaika, Silk Stockings, The Hunt for Red October and more. Featured guest artists from the Ukraine (via Los Angeles) are Vhadym Kavrun, bayan; Iryna Orlova, domra; and conductor/bayanist Anatoly Mamalyga.

Nevada theater critic, Jack Neal, had this to say about Orlova and Mamalyga: “... a superb duo from Kiev called the Magic Strings, and indeed they are magical. Made up of Iryna Orlova, a first-rate virtuoso of the domra (the most soprano of the complete band's instruments), and Anatoly Mamalyga, an equally splendid artist on the less showy bayan (an accordion type of wind instrument). The two musicians are from Kiev, are wife and husband, and play exquisitely together. Their playing was described by an aficionado of their work as being so personal and private it seemed an intrusion to eavesdrop. She plays with dazzling brilliance. He plays with abandon and love.”

The dancers are the Kalinka Russian Dancers; the singers are the Sons of Orpheus, always one of our favorite gigs!

This year we’ll back our excellent baritone, David Harrington, in “Ey Ukhnyem” (Song of the Volga Boatmen) and sing the theme from the movie The Hunt for Red October, and “Raz Dva,” (One Two) a Ukrainian folk song.

Tickets: $15 General / $10 Students in advance; $20 General / $15 Students at the door. Purchase tickets at (520) 206-6986 Pima College Box Office. For more information and group rates contact Mia Hansen, (520) 327-2628.

From Grayson Hirst
A lot of behind-the-scenes planning goes into the making of a successful concert season. One part of the preparation involves the selection of music. It doesn’t hurt to have a knowledge of the repertoire, but it’s not simply a matter of having a lot of ideas. The tough part is narrowing one’s choices to create balance. So it is helpful to have a litmus test.

Our goal has always been to offer our audiences a high level repertoire that is at once wide-ranging and eclectic as well as accessible and stimulating for our members. Our standards are high, and our programs are demanding. A specific work under consideration has to measure up. Is it inventive, moving, unexpected, unusual, adventurous? Can we master a particular piece technically and musically in a timely fashion? We want to draw on material that shows the best qualities of the choir. Will a selection under consideration demonstrate the ability of the choir? Is it a work as magnificently alive today as it was when first conceived? I feel it is utterly ridiculous to program music that we largely look upon as some sort of inconsequential relic of olden times. Unless the choir can accept a work as an artistically valid combination of poetry and music, it is best not to program it.

With the exception of all-Christmas/holiday, all-patriotic, or all-cowboy events, I have little interest in constructing single-theme programs: “Get America Singing,” “Around the World in Twenty Songs,” “I will Sing of Life, Love and Longing,” “International Flavors,” “Madness in Music,” “Drama, Power and Destiny,” etc. In my view, these general theme concerts are a cop-out. It is so much more challenging to select, rehearse and perform an imaginative, well-balanced program coming from sharply diverse genres and styles—musical personality galore! In the final analysis, a program should be a creative inquiry, and a musical journey through the passion, exhilaration, inspiration, and just plain fun that our magnificent art form can provide.

Board Member Mo Barkan
Mo and his wife Sharon own Albar Packaging Supply. Mo graduated from Rincon High School (Another Ranger!) in 1964. He has a BA in Spanish from the U of A (1968), an MBA from Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management (1972), and an M. Ed. in Counseling and Guidance from the U of A. (1983).

The Barkans have two children: Bekki and Russell. Mo describes himself as a golf addict, but he also loves to play viola and piano. Cantorial music is another of his interests. He has been learning the intricacies of chants for different services from Cantor Ivor Lichterman of Congregation Anshei Israel.

As for his participation on the Orpheus board, he emphasizes harmony and cooperation in implementing long range plans. “All of us involved with Sons of Orpheus should remember that our purpose is to make music, share that music, and learn from each other. Hopefully, we will have fun along the way.”

Mo is underwriting the $1200 art cost of the Orpheus brochure that will go out nationwide from the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, helping us to cast our bread upon the waters. We thank him for his efforts in our behalf.

Orpheus Calendar through May

Arizona Balalaika Concert of
Russian Music and Dance

Proscenium Theater, Pima College, West Campus
Saturday, Feb 5, 7:00 p.m.,
Sunday, February 6, 2:00 p.m.

Benefit for the U of A School of Music
“Concerts in the Schools” Program
“An Evening of Love Songs”
Orpheus will share the stage with the
Tucson Boys Chorus, the U of A Pep
Band, and various Tucson luminaries.
Tickets: $150, call 275-7415
U of A School of Music, Crowder Hall,
Reception, 6:00-7:30 p.m.,
Concert, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 11.

Concert of All Ages
Canyon Del Oro High School
Friday, April 8, 7:00 p.m.

Spring Concert
Green Valley Community Church,
Sunday, April 10, 3:00 p.m.

Gala Spring Concert
Proscenium Theater, Pima College, West Campus,
Saturday, May 14, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 15, 3:00 p.m.

Orpheus at Anshei Israel
Sons of Orpheus at Congregation Anshei Israel
Photo by Gary Smyth

Read the
April 2004 Newsletter
February 2004 Newsletter
October 2003 Newsletter
May 2003 Newsletter
February 2003 Newsletter
September 2002 Newsletter

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