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The Voice of Orpheus

Volume 7, #3 ____ May, 2006
Art: Tom Wentzel ____ Editor: Ned Mackey

“Happy birthday, dear Wolfgang...”
Accolades abound in this yearlong celebration of Mozart’s 250th birthday, so a small disservice to his mighty name in these pages should be easy enough to forgive if the choir does justice to his music. We hope you’ll be on hand May 20th or 21st to judge for yourselves. Here’s the disservice:

In April 1791, Leopold Hofmann, Kappelmeister of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, appeared to be on his deathbed. Although Mozart, in desperate financial straits, had not been much interested in sacred music for some time, he was interested in Hofmann’s handsome salary and practically pried the baton from Hofmann’s feverish fingers.

Mozart took the St. Stephens position as an unsalaried substitute in the hope of securing the job with pay upon Hofmann’s death. Five months later, in the midst of work on the “Requiem in D Minor,” Mozart died. Hofmann recovered and lived on for a year-and-a-half.

(Somehow it is comforting to know that a great man could feel as needy as might the ordinary man struggling to produce something worthy of the great man’s genius.)

Two months after Mozart began his short run at St. Stephens, he wrote the lovely “Ave Verum Corpus.” Just 46 bars long, its compact simplicity is a perfect example of Arthur Schnabel’s famous statement about much of Mozart’s music: “Too simple for children and too difficult for adults.” We think we can prove Schnabel wrong.

We’ll also sing the brief but brilliant “Chor der Priester” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. It’s one of the favorites in our repertoire, a real thrill to sing. Mozart lives!


We like to start our spring-season concerts with a bang, so this year we really will! The banger will be bass/percussionist Iván Berger, who will tote his field drum onstage to introduce “Rataplan,” a soldiers chorus from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment. (See page 6)

Rataplan is an imitative sound, at least as the French hear a drum. This listening error is strange indeed! Everybody knows a drum goes rat-a-tat.

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain explored the French language problem in a dialogue between Huck and Jim. Huck tells Jim “...about Louis Sixteen that got his head cut off in France long time ago; and about his little boy the dolphin, that would a been a king, but they took and shut him up in jail, and some say he died there.”
   “Po’ little chap.”
   “But some says he got out and got away, and come to America.”
   “Dat’s good! But he’ll be pooty lonesome —dey ain’t no kings here, is dey, Huck?”
   “Den he cain’t git no situation. What he gwyne to do?”
   “Well, I don’t know. Some of them gets on the police, and some of them learns people how to talk French.”
   “Why, Huck, doan’ de French people talk de same way we does?”
   “No, Jim; you couldn’t understand a word they said—not a single word.”
   “Well, now, I be ding-busted. How do dat come?”
   “I don’t know; but it’s so. I got some jabber out of a book. Suppose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy—what would you think?”
   “I wouldn’t think nuff’n. I’d take en bust him over de head.”

At this point, Huck is almost ready to give up, but he decides to have another go at it.

   “It’s only asking if you know how to talk French.”
   “Well, den, why couldn’t he say it?”
   “Why, he is a-saying it. That’s a Frenchman’s way of saying it.”
   “Well, it’s a blame’ ridicklous way, en I doan’ want to hear no mo’ about it. Dey ain’t no sense in it.”

Jim was right. There ain’t no sense in “Rataplan” either, but we’ll sing it for you with the most precise diction we can muster, even though the words don’t mean a thing.

Enough with the joke about the French language. Orpheus has been singing in French and eight or ten other languages from our beginning fifteen years ago, and scholarly types in the choir make sure we always know what the words mean.

We’ll happily sing two other French songs: the beautiful and hypnotic theme “Vois sur ton chemin” from Les Choristes (a movie we recommend highly), and Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane,” a piece he seems to have written automatically. He says of its composition: "While I was thinking about a thousand different things of no importance whatsoever, a kind of rhythmical theme in the style of a Spanish dance took form in my brain... this theme developed by itself, became harmonised in different ways, changed and modulated; in effect it germinated by itself."

Learning to sing “Pavanne” has not been automatic, but Tom Wentzel’s arrangement and some hard work have caused the song to germinate for us. We hope you’ll attend the blossoming in May. (Perhaps the only spring flowers the desert will produce this year.)

Some other pieces we’ll perform are “The Awakening,” a song commissioned by the Texas Choral Directors’ Association; “Choose Something Like a Star,” a poem by Robert Frost set to music by Randall Thompson; the finale from Beethoven’s Fidelio; “Homeward Bound,” sung with a screening of slides showing American service men and women in Afghanistan; a cowboy group including “Mule Train,” “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds,” and “Streets of Laredo.” And we remind you that the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra will perform a set with us, as always.

Spring Concert Particulars

Where: The Proscenium Theater, Pima College west campus, 2202 W. Anklam.
(Ticket office phone number 206-6986)

When: May 20 and 21, 7:30 and 3:00 p.m. respectively.

How much: $15. $10 for students and seniors. See coupon, back page

Remembering Jack Beckman
Orpheus bid farewell to Jack at funeral services on February 4th. The following is a reprise from the February 2002 edition of the “Voice of Orpheus”:

One of the last of the original members of Sons of Orpheus, Jack “hired on” when Grayson Hirst recruited three men from the choir of a church where he was giving a performance— a sneaky maneuver if ever there was one.

In 1940 Jack and eleven of his buddies quit high school and joined the army. By sunset on December 7, 1941, Jack may have wondered about the wisdom of having lied about his age so he could see the world for a year at Uncle Sam’s expense.

He was lucky, at first. He spent three years of “great duty” driving a truck as part of the Western Defense Command in California until his regiment was broken up to provide replacements on the European front in 1944. He joined his new outfit in Naples and fought from Rome north. He was shot through the shoulder September 18th, “just going up a hill, chasing some Germans.”

He spent 30 days in a hospital in Naples and went back to war. Hepatitis put him back to bed, after which he rejoined his battalion at Bologna and walked the length of the Po Valley chasing Germans all the way to Trieste until V-E Day.

Jack Beckman, by Bob Swaim

Jack came home to finish high school and later to train as an architect at the Lawrence Institute of Technology in Detroit. He spent his professional career as a project manager in charge of plant development with General Motors. He retired in 1983 after 31 years in harness and moved to Tucson three years later. He married during his freshman year at Lawrence, and is the father of a son who lives in Chandler.

Jack’s wife Julia is a delightful southern belle. They’ll travel to Great Britain with us this summer, but Jack’s singing days are over. Asthma has taken its toll on a fine voice.

We sang at a Westerners convention at the Sheraton four Points December 19. At the close of the performance Grayson delivered a tribute to Jack, and the choir presented him with a bottle of “Stoli.” Resting on its graceful shoulders was a sterling silver plaque to commemorate the occasion. Many happy toasts, Jack.

Now forward to the issue you’re reading. We wish to thank those who have made donations to Orpheus in memory of Jack:

Fred and Beverly Aldous
Richard Darling and Julie Locke
Michael Fraser
Lee and Thomas Moser
Virginia and Larry Vance

Orpheus’ First Annual Unrummage Sale
Concert singing is an expensive enterprise for amateurs. We do receive grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Tucson Pima Arts Council, and we sing for our supper, although many of our concerts are fundraisers for other organizations. Our annual dues are $120, and we buy or rent our own costumes. We rent auditoriums and rehearsal space, and pay ASCAP and licensing fees. We pay printing costs for music, program notes, and our newsletter. We buy equipment, carry liability insurance, and keep our director, accompanists, and arrangers clothed and fed.

After a decade of rummage sale fundraising, Orpheus has decided to try something else. Choir members are going to rifle their own pockets instead of grubbing through public’s. Except as follows:

We wonder if you’d be willing to help us. Look at it this way: if you mail us a check, you would be expressing your appreciation for not having to come to a 2006 rummage sale, or assuaging your guilt for never having come. Sons of Orpheus is a 501 (c) 3 organization. All donations are tax deductible.

A Special Enticement
In conjunction with our unrummage sale, we are running a raffle to encourage donations. $20 entitles you to one slip in the raffle jar. Each additional $20 entitles you to another slip. The winning ticket will be drawn at the May 21st concert. You need not be present to win. The prize is a $150 gift certificate to Fleming’s Steakhouse, 6360 N. Campbell.

Thanks to our Recent Cash Donors:

Christine and Frank Alvarez
Mr. and Mrs. Don Aquilano
Arizona Aerospace Foundation (Dan Ryan)
Morris Barkan
Mr. and Mrs. John Belk
Guy and Diann Belleranti
Michael Bezusko
Robert and Gail Buchanan
Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Corley
Raul and Isobel Delgado
Peter DiCurti
Lee and Carole Dingle
Dorothy H. Finley
Cameron Fordyce
Michael and Eleanor Fraser
Richard C Froede
Glassman Foundation (Rodney Glassman)
Gordon Grossetta
Mia Hansen
Sam and Sara Hauert
Richard and Helen Henderson
Grayson Hirst
Jim Hogan
Freeman B. Hover
Jeff Howard
Robert J. Howard
Barbara Katz
Laurie Kostelecky
Clyde and Connie Martak
Norrine McMillan
J.J. McMorrow
Emily Minerich
Jeffrey Neff
Al Paulus
Sonja Rath
Annie Frances Ross
Larry Ross
Carl and Helga Russell
Larry and Nancy Sayre
Robert C. Swift
Dorothy Soland
Timothy Wernette
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wetzel
Mary and Robert Wolk
Walter and Iris Zukowski
Clarice and J.D. Zutter

Our cash donors are our bread and butter and the icing on our cake. If we have forgotten someone, we apologize, and we’d like to hear about it.

Profiling Tom Mc Gorray
Tom grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. and graduated from Oblate college, majoring in philosophy. After graduate work at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he became a Navy aviator and spent four years scanning the seas for Russian submarines. He jokes that he never found one until he paid $9 to go aboard the one docked alongside the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

Tom entered the FBI in September of 1963 as a special agent. He spent a year studying Polish, after which he worked in foreign counterintelligence, about which he could not say much without having to kill us.

Some career aspects he can reveal were his instrumentality in solving the Alex Rackley murder case in New Haven, Connecticut and his involvement in the indictments of several members of the Black Panther Party in Atlanta, Georgia. Tom received commendations from J. Edgar Hoover and from Clarence Kelley for his work in the fields of terrorism, extremism, and espionage.

Tom moved to Tucson shortly before his retirement and now runs three businesses, one of them as a licensed private investigator.

Musical interests started early for Tom. In his grammar school the nuns taught Gregorian chant without sheet music or accompaniment. He has been an avid barbershopper for many years, and he sings with the Diocesan Chorale and St. Elizabeth's special choir. Our first tenor section leader, he has sung with Orpheus since the fall of 1999.

In addition to sleuthing and singing, Tom is computer literate, with a special skill in web design. He writes newsletters for the Tucson Mac Users Group, the Knights of Columbus Council, and the Tucson Chapter of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. He also runs e-mail services for four organizations including ours, alerting us to our responsibilities for rehearsals and concerts.

Other interests are genealogy and his family. He and his wife Carolyn have seven children, six of whom live in Arizona. His physical activities have been reduced somewhat by a knee replacement, but he can still get around a racquetball court. An avid collector of police and political news, he can’t read a newspaper without scissors at hand. He figures he has written somewhere around a thousand poems.

Thomas F. Mc Gorray is a busy man. The F stands for Francis, but it might as well stand for Frenetic. He says, “I think the real reason I stay committed to such a wide range of activities is so that I’ll have a handy excuse in case I screw up.” If he does, we’ll look the other way. We are lucky as heck to have him.



Casa de los Niños Thrift Stores

...where shopping helps Tucson’s children and families

Shop at our friendly stores where you’ll find unique and one-of-a-kind merchandise at reasonable prices.

We accept gently used merchandise — all deductions are tax deductible.

Call 325-2573 to schedule for a pickup.

1302 E Prince Road

3000 W Valencia

Our New Cowboy CD
This is a project we’ve been working on with the Bill Ganz Band. We hope it’ll be ready and waiting for you at our Spring Concert, or you can order from our website, www.sonsoforpheus.org. We’re calling it “Legends of the Old West and Classics of the Silver Screen.” Below is a page from the album notes:

Small bites, tasty music...

“Ghost Riders”: Stan Jones first sang this at a campfire gathering of the cast in a John Wayne movie. Later that year Jones appeared in the Gene Autry movie, Riders in the Sky, featuring his song.

“El Paso”: Marty Robbins violated Columbia Records unwritten rule that no song be longer than three minutes. Robbins got his way and won the first Grammy ever awarded a country song.

“3:10 to Yuma”: Composer George Duning studied classical composition, but after graduation he moved from classical to popular music. Movie lovers will forever be grateful for the change.

“Don’t Fence Me In”: Cole Porter bought this one from a Montana cowboy named Bob Fletcher. It became a monster hit for Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters before Fletcher received compensation.

“Home on the Range”: Now here’s an Oldie! The words and music were written in 1872. In 1932 FDR declared it his favorite song. It’s the state song of Kansas, but it’s known worldwide.

“Rawhide”: Television westerns have produced some memorable music. One of the best, the Rawhide series starring Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, ran on CBS from 1959 to 1966.

“Cool Water”: Bob Nolan wrote the words while a student at Tucson High School. Twenty-five years later, a national survey proclaimed his composition “Best known song of the American west.”

“Cowboy’s Sweetheart”: At age 16, Ruby Blevins landed a job in radio as “The Yodeling Cowgirl from San Antonio.” Six years later she wrote her signature song, one of over 200 she published.

“Do Not Forsake Me”: Russian born Dimitri Tiomkin composed musical scores for 160 motion pictures, winning four Oscars along the way. One was for this theme song for High Noon.

“Bury Me out on the Lone Prairie”: Although it started life as a seaman’s lament called “Ocean Burial,” it came west and dried out to win gold for The Gaynotes in the 1958 International Barbershop Quartet Championship.

“Back in the Saddle”: Gene Autry, America’s Favorite Cowboy, had a career that spanned 60 years. He appeared in 94 films and made 635 recordings, over 200 of which he wrote or co-wrote.

“Arizona, Arizona”: We picked up this one at a post-concert party in Germany. We didn’t expect to hear our German hosts singing “Arizona Arizona” to us, or learn that the composers were a Hamburg band called Truck Stop.

“26 Men”: Hal Hopper wrote the show’s theme song and acted in eight of the 78 episodes of this TV blockbuster from the 1950’s. The Arizona Rangers disbanded in 1909, but we’re keeping them alive.

“Happy Trails”: Orpheus always saddles up and rides on down the trail with this one. Dale Evans decided to write a song about the way Roy Rogers signed autographs. Good idea!

...Enjoy! Sons of Orpheus,
the Male Choir of Tucson

An Opera Note from Grayson Hirst—
Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
Gaetano Donizetti was born in Bergamo, Italy in 1797, the fifth of six children. His father was a janitor. The family lived in extremely modest circumstances. From two cramped, dark rooms in a cellar, a hovel really, one of the most fecund, variegated and finally tragic careers in all the annals of opera was launched.

Donizetti dominated Italian opera for a decade following the death of Vincenzo Bellini in 1835. He became the bridge between Rossini and Verdi. His catalogue includes some 65 works for the stage. His facility and sound technical grounding enabled him to turn out as many as five operas a year ranging from farcical one-acters to serious works composed for theaters in Venice, Rome, Naples and other cities. Anna Bolena, given for the first time in Milan in 1830, gained the ear of all Europe.

Donizetti’s ever-fresh comic opera La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) was composed during the latter part of his career. In 1837, his young wife, Virginia, died after giving birth to a stillborn child. Donizetti idolized Virginia and never ceased to mourn her loss. To escape melancholy memories, Donizetti accepted Gioachino Rossini’s invitation to Paris. There, in 1840, he presented his first attempt at a French opéracomique. La Fille du Régiment’s military subject matter does give rise to the occasional lusty martial number. But despite a volley of musket shot here and there, the opera is far removed from the realities of warfare. Its infrequent military flourishes are never vulgar. It is concerned with good-humored patriotism, not with realism. La Fille du Régiment is brimming with lighthearted naïveté and sparkling good humor. The musical score matches the story line with irresistibly catchy tunes and exhilarating energy. In short, La Fille du Régiment has everything that pedants found easy to condemn!

The premiere took place at the Opéra- Comique on February 11, 1840. Perhaps it was the insouciant, boastful jingoism, or perhaps it was just the general military ambiance that offended the more narrow-minded members of the audience when the opera was first produced. One of the most infectiously happy operas Donizetti ever wrote was not well received. However, following the unsuccessful premiere, La Fille du Régiment did go on to become enormously popular in France throughout the rest of the 19th century.

During the last years of his life, Donizetti was subject to fits of depression and abstraction, bordering on insanity that became more and more intense. In 1847, he returned to his birthplace where he died at the age of 51.

Board Member Emily Minerich
When Jo Anderson moved to Colorado last year, she left us short one yodeler and one board member. Emily, Jo’s good friend, says she can’t yodel, but she has filled Jo’s position on the board. So our cowboy repertoire is somewhat diminished, but our board of directors is whole and strong.

One thing Jo had going for her in her recruitment effort was that Emily had heard Orpheus sing at the San Xavier Christmas concerts. Emily thinks we have a bright future and is pleased to be part of it. She provides leadership as well as her beautiful home for board meetings. And she will host our annual post-season fling. How much more could an organization ask than that? (Grayson Hirst has warned the basses to be on their best behavior at Emily’s house, but it probably won’t do any good.)

A Realtor with 23 years experience, Emily is an agent with Long Realty. We thank her for her service in the cause of promoting great music for Tucson and Southern Arizona audiences.

Emily Minerich

Charlie Gaash and his wife Rosalee have been fellow travelers on our European concert tours. Charlie passed away in March. He was first tenor Jerry Villano’s father-in-law. Charlie was a multitalented musician who entertained us all. We’ll miss him.

A Ticket Special for Our Readers

If you mail your Gala Spring Concert ticket request by May 15, the price drops to $13 general admission; $8 for seniors and students. Send your order to Sons of Orpheus, PO Box 31552, Tucson, AZ 85751. We'll have your tickets waiting at the will-call table at the entrance.

Early Bird Tickets

Saturday, May 20th, 7:30 p.m.

Hold ____ tickets @ $13 per.
Hold ____ tickets @ $8 per.
Total $____

Sunday, May 21st, 3:00 p.m.
Hold ____ tickets @ $13 per.
Hold ____ tickets @ $8 per.
Total $____

Please make checks payable to Sons of Orpheus.

Read the
January 2006 Newsletter
October 2005 Newsletter
April 2005 Newsletter
January 2005 Newsletter
October 2004 Newsletter
April 2004 Newsletter
February 2004 Newsletter
October 2003 Newsletter
May 2003 Newsletter
February 2003 Newsletter
September 2002 Newsletter

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