A Ruby Anniversary
Our founder/director Grayson Hirst dreamed up the Sons of Orpheus fifteen years ago. Twelve men, some of them stolen from church choirs, were in the original group. Fifty men reported for this year's first rehearsal, rarin' to get with it.
Grayson spent the summer searching through our repertoire for a chestnut or two, assigned new work to our intrepid arrangers, and purchased sheet music. It's going to be a wonderful year.
Our first appearance will be November 15th at 2 p.m. at the VA Hospital, 3601 S. 6th. We'll sing a program of songs reminiscent of the WWII era in what will be an interesting and moving Veteran's Day program.
Thanks for Donations
The April edition of the newsletter carried a plea for donations. Thanks to the following readers who contributed to the future purchase of a whiz-bang amplifier for our portable keyboard:
Don and Lucy Aquilano, Gail and Buck Buchanan, Carole and Leroy Dingle, Sam and Sara Hauret, Richard and Helen Henderson, Freeman B. Hover, L.J. Kostelecky, Clyde J. Markak and Carolyn Markak, J.J. Mc Morrow, Charles W. Wetzel, and Lt. Col. Walter and Iris Zukowski.
Robert Frost as Lyricist
Randall Thompson, 1899-1984, composed music for seven Robert Frost poems and called the work Frostiana: Seven Country Songs. The work was commissioned to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Amherst, Massachusetts in 1959. Frost, Amherst's most famous citizen, was in attendance and is said to have risen from his seat at the end of "Choose Something Like a Star" to shout, "Sing that one again!" We think you'll like it too.
Frost's title is "Take Something Like a Star." It's from Complete Poems, 1949. Find it below as it appears in the book, the way Frost wanted it, we assume.
Take Something Like a Star
0 Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud--
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may take something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
We men hope the readers of our newsletter will be members of the mob in 2005-06, and that too much praise is what we'll need to stay our minds against.
Observations of a Rummage Flagger
Orpheus resorts to an annual spring rummage sale. Of course, you can't have a rummage sale without a flagger. Wave at oncoming traffic all morning on the southwest comer of Tucson Blvd. and Ft. Lowell, and you're bound to find out a great deal about the American driving public:
1) Porsche owners exhibit little interest in rum≠mage sales.
2) Many drivers multitask. An especially accom≠plished one held a cat on her lap and talked on her cell phone while drinking a soda, smoking a ciga≠rette, and checking her hair in the rear view mir≠ror.
3) Lots of people smile and wave back. If they're stopped at the light, some roll down the window for a chat. Informative: "It's hotter than hell this morning." Sympathetic: "Is your wife making you do this?" Smart-alecky: "Why aren't you wearing a bikini?"
4) Dogs riding in pickup beds or with their heads out the window are not distractible. They're to≠tally focused on the world as it comes jammed up their noses at 45 miles per hour.
5) 29.85% of cars have rearview mirror hangings; the most popular are of a religious nature, just edging out pine-scent air fresheners. Graduation tassels and strings of beads are tied for third.
6) Old guys driving sporty convertibles like to en≠hance the image with a jaunty cap.
7) It's especially rewarding to see a car you waved in pull away from the sale bearing a white elephant you contributed.
8) Savvy rummagers drive reading a newspaper turned to the classified section.
9) Most people believe that a yellow light means "drive faster."
10) If you stand at a busy intersection for four hours, you will suck in sufficient greenhouse gasses to develop a giant hole in your own personal ozone layer.
Northminster Presbyterian Church was the site of this year's sale. We sang a concert for their mem≠bers to thank them for that and for the use of Sat≠urday morning rehearsal space. We thank them again here.
July Fourth in Oro Valley
What a grand night it was! We sang with the Tuc≠son Symphony Orchestra for a large and apprecia≠tive audience gathered on blankets and in lawn chairs to hear some of America's greatest patri≠otic music. George Hanson, the music director and conductor of the TSO, was a masterful Master of Ceremonies.
Sure, it was hot, at least until the sun had been down for a while. We could see people cooling off low-tech style with the concert programs, and high-tech style with battery-operated fans and misters. Some of the groundlings tossed lighted rings back and forth, giving the crowd a preview of the fireworks that lit the sky after the final thunder of the ď1812 Overture.Ē
It hardly seemed fair that the musicians performed from an air conditioned band shell, but I didnít hear any requests to go ďnative.Ē
Our thanks to Jim Mack, Program Supervisor; Bob Weede, Symphony Committee Chair; Carmen Feriend, Executive Director of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council; and to all the citizens of Oro Valley who work so hard to put on a great show.
From the Bookshelf (or Magazine Rack)
Alex Ross, in an article entitled "The Record Ef≠fect, How technology Has Transformed the Sound of Music" in the June 6th New Yorker writes:
Ninety-nine years ago, John Philip Sousa predicted that recordings would lead to the demise of music. The phonograph, he warned, would erode the finer instincts of the ear, end amateur playing and singing, and put professional musicians out of work. "The time is coming when no one will be ready to submit himself to the ennobling discipline of learning music," he wrote.
"Everyone will have their ready-made or ready-pirated music in their cupboards." Something is irretrievably lost when we are no longer in the presence of bodies making music, Sousa said. "The nightingale's song is delightful because the nightingale herself gives it forth."
What would Sousa think of the iPod?!
Ross goes on to quote the American composer Ben≠jamin Boretz:"In music, as in everything, the disappear≠ing moment of experience is the firmest re≠ality." The paradox of recording is that it can preserve forever those disappearing moments of sound but never the spark of humanity that generates them. This is a paradox common to technological existence: everything gets a little easier and a little less real. Then again, the reigning unreality of the electronic sphere can set us up for a new kind of ecstasy, once we un≠plug ourselves from our gadgets and expose ourselves to the risk of live performance.
As for the Sons of Orpheus, we'd have it both ways. We love to sing for big audiences, to be your "nightingales." Exposing ourselves to the risk of live performance yields the greatest reward. But we just finished our Cowboy Classics CD in the studio and we think it will pay dividends to performers and listeners alike.
The studio experience is very different from the stage. Although we enjoy the excellent Bill Ganz Band, our accompanists, the sterility of the studio can dampen the spirit. The tension of required perfection is a negative factor. And the minute hand on the studio clock moves inexorably, marking time in dollar signs. Who hit that clinker? Who made the risers creak? Who coughed? And as the takes mount up, Why can't that idiot in the back row turn his pages quietly?
Finally, after three and a half hours, the last four numbers are in the can and we leave the cramped studio feeling we have just run a marathon. There is no applause. Satisfaction in this form of music-making will have to wait for engineers and produc≠ers and jewel case designers and note writers, and finally for the buyers. Maybe it'll be as good as an ovation. We hope you'll stop by our CD table after concerts, or go to <WWW.SONSOFORPHEUS.ORG>.
Profiling Mark Aquilano
Second tenor Mark Aquilano is a Tucson native and a steady resident of these dry climes except for the three years he spent moisturizing in Seattle af≠ter college. For the first half of that sojourn he worked in a Mt. Rainier gift shop so he'd have a handy place to hike. He spent the second half dis≠covering that the insurance business was not his game.
Mark took an interest in Spanish upon his return to the desert and began to study it at Pima College. He soon discovered that Spanish grabbed him in a way insurance had not. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the U of A and has recently begun a doctoral program in Spanish literature.
Something else Mark discovered when he came home was Orpheus, a discovery we are mighty grateful for. His pre-Seattle undergraduate degree in piano performance comes in handy during the tenors' sectional rehearsals, and he sometimes adds a third and fourth hand when accompani≠ments call for them. He is also blessed with perfect pitch, so you might notice the entire choir bending toward him before an acappela number. Mark is one of our soloists. The choir listens to his beautiful voice with as much pleasure as our audiences do.
Mark's first vocal training began five years ago when his then eighty-year-old grandmother, study≠ing with Marcia Gold, shared her lessons. (We wonder if Mark's grandma would like to do a guest performance with Orpheus. Now that Jo Anderson has moved away, we need a cowgirl yodeler!)
Obviously Mark is good for the choir, but he says the choir has been good for him too. He enjoys the camaraderie and the sense of community he gets from performing. And he feels that the experience has helped him in front of the students he teaches in a Spanish 102 class at the University of Arizona.
Travel is a passion with Mark. He has traveled to Europe three times in the past five years. He re≠ceived a Tinker grant in 2004 to study the life and times of Francisco Imperial, a 14th-15th century Spanish poet about whom Mark intends to do his dissertation.
Among Mark's hobbies are the symphony, opera, movies, hiking in Sabino Canyon, and weekly Span≠ish conversation sessions with a group of friends. If he sings while he hikes, and we bet he does, the wide outdoors is the better for it.
Looking for a few good Men
Speaking of perfect pitch, here's hoping this one will be good enough to snag a new man or two. We are always looking to grow. Joining Orpheus is a simple process. If you'd like to become a member of a dynamic choir, and sing beautiful and mean≠ingful music (well, except for "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" in our secular Christmas rep≠ertoire), call Grayson Hirst at 621-1649 to arrange for a simple audition. Get going right away and you can be ready to sing with us for the annual con≠certs at Mission San Xavier where we don't do "Grandma."
One of the pieces we will do at San Xavier this year is the gorgeous Franz Biebl "Ave Maria." It will lift the audience right off their seats and us right off the risers.
We rehearse at 7:00 Wednesday evenings at the Tucson Boys Chorus building, 5770 E. Pima. Also some Saturday mornings at 8:00.
Board Member Don Haskell
Don is the Director of Community Relations and Development at Casa de los NiŮos, with specific re≠sponsibility for fundraising and the management of the Foundation.
He was recruited four years ago to develop a working board for Orpheus. He is pleased with the quality, energy, dedication, and passion of the chorus, especially considering the large number of concerts we give each year, but he sees the need for more funding as a major hurdle to the choir's growth. His wish list is a short one: more money available to promote Orpheus.
"The choir is such a willing contributor to the arts scene. The people of this community should be kept aware of its usefulness, not only for the music but for Orpheus' desire to take Tucson to other coun≠tries around the world.
"Orpheus is like other groups with budgets less than $500,000. They can't afford staff for fund development. Board members are working on pol≠icy and procedures and are not necessarily re≠cruited for money-asking abilities."
Don would like to see funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations reach at least $250,000 annually.
Orpheus is pleased to partner with Pioneer North America to provide the back page of our spring concert program for Casa de los NiŮos. We have sung at Casa fundraisers in the past and look for≠ward to doing so in the future, not only to thank Don Haskell for his service, but because we believe in the value of Casa de los NiŮos to our community.
Good Excuse for a Party
Our thanks to Jim and Leesa Naughton who hosted the annual welcoming party for new Board and choir members. Joining the Board are Joan Caplan, Betty Egger, Emily Minerich, and Alberto Ranjel III. New choir members are Brendon Burmeister, Jim Henry, and Gary Pound. Numerous toasts to a successful 2005-06 were a feature of the evening. A great deal of spontaneous singing broke out, as always.
We Are Calling Yoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ou
In the 1936 film Rose Marie, Nelson Eddie sang ďIndian Love CallĒ to Jeanette MacDonald in the Canadian Rockies. Weíll sing to our ďroadiesĒ and to Canadians next summer, all the way from the Rockies to Vancouver Island. We fly into Calgary on Sunday, July 23 and return from Vancouver on Sunday, August 6 with stops in the Banff/Lake Louise area, Kelowna, and Victoria. The travel expense for this trip figures to be somewhat under $2400.
Weíre experienced travelers, so our trip arrangers know how to do it: excellent hotels, modern touring coaches, guided tours, plenty of free time, a free banquet. Weíll sing five times. You can listen when you want to.
A Victoria/Vancouver version of the trip, planned to cost between $1600 and $1700 is also under consideration. Weíll let you know the particulars as soon as they are carved in stone.
Caveat: Group airfare requires that you return to Tucson from Vancouver on the appointed flight.
For more information, call Mike Fraser at 529-6497, or IvŠn Berger at 623-512-3788.
From Grayson Hirst
French composer, pianist, organist, and writer Camille Saint-SaŽns was enamored of mathematics and astronomy. He was an accomplished caricatur≠ist, an amateur comedian, a critic, a traveler, and an archaeologist who contributed to every genre of French music. Born in Paris in 1835, he was des≠tined to become a chief protagonist during that glorious period from 1850 to the end of the cen≠tury that constituted a veritable renaissance of French music. At the age of 15 he joined Fromental Halťvy's composition class at the Conservatoire. By the age of 18 he had written his first symphony, followed in 1855 by a piano quintet, and a year later by a second symphony. When he was 22 he became chief organist at L'Eglise de la Madeleine, the most fashionable church in Paris. High Mass at the Madeleine was an important social event where the congregation resembled a gala night audience at the Opera. Saint-SaŽns was to officiate as or≠ganist there for the next 19 years.
Saint-SaŽns' musical gifts won him the friendship and patronage of Charles Gounod, Giacchino Rossini, Hector Berlioz, and Giacamo Meyerbeer. All the famous musicians passing through Paris called on Saint-SaŽns: Clara Schumann, Anton Rubenstein, Robert Franz, and Pablo Sarasate. It was at the Madeleine that Franz List heard him impro≠vising and hailed Saint-SaŽns as the greatest organ≠ist in the world. Richard Wagner dubbed Saint-SaŽns the greatest living French composer.
A work of great charm belonging to Saint-SaŽns' early career is the Oratorio de NoŽl, op. 12, com≠posed in 1858 when he was just 23. Like all other works written during his Madeleine period, it was composed at white-hot speed. Set for a quintet of strings, harp, organ, chorus, and soloists, the lyr≠ics consist of versicles selected from the Office of the Day and the Midnight Mass. Simple in structure and melodious in style, this charmingly Gounodian work succeeds in conveying the feeling of joyful hope associated with the season. The work was dis≠tributed to the anxious Madeleine choristers De≠cember 15th in barely enough time for them to re≠hearse and perform it on Christmas Day, 1858!
Oratorio de NoŽl is divided into nine sections. In particular, the seventh number, the beautiful Trio Tecum principium, appeals for its rapturous, soaring lines. We will perform the Trio during the Christmas season in an arrangement by Sons of Or≠pheus founding member, Vern Williamsen. Vern began work on his adaptation of the Trio for male voice choir last summer. Work was interrupted when he underwent open-heart surgery on July 15th. Vern and his doctor had hoped the valve could be replaced with a porcine valve. But either the contributing pig was too large or Vern's aortic valve opening was too small. A mechanical valve had to be installed instead. "But at least," Vern says with a chuckle, "I'm still Kosher!"
Sons of Orpheus thanks Vern Williamsen for his lovely adaptation of this little nineteenth century French masterpiece.
The Christmas Season:
December 6, 7, 8Mission San Xavier del Bac, in collaboration with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus. Concerts at 6 and 8 o'clock each evening. Tickets go on sale to the general public beginning November 10. Tickets are $80, $60 of which are tax deductible and go directly to the preservation of the Mis≠sion. Contact Vern Lamplot at 529 8204. December 11Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 Camino del Sol, Green Valley, 2:00 p.m., to benefit the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation. December 13Berger Center for Performing Arts, ASDB cam≠pus, 1200 W. Speedway, 7:00 p.m. Eighth an≠nual Holiday Benefit Concert for the Tucson Community Food Bank.
To send us comments or questions about Sons of Orpheus,
please use your email program to contact us using this address.