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The Voice of Orpheus

Volume 8, #1      Winter 2006
       Art: Tom Wentzel         Editor: Ned Mackey

We will be lifting our voices in secular and sacred programs for our 16th Christmas season. We invite you to hear us at the following concerts:

December 1, 7:30 p.m.
The Desert View Performing Arts Center,
39900 Clubhouse Dr.
Tickets $12 at the door, or call 818-1000,
or online at

December 3, 2:00 p.m.
Green Valley,
Valley Presbyterian Church,
2800 Camino del Sol.
Tickets $10 at the door, or call
Greater Green Valley
Community Foundation, 625-4556

December 12-14, 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Mission San Xavier del Bac,
Tickets are $80, ($60 tax deductible).
Contact Vern Lamplot, 407-6130, or

December 19, 7:00 p.m.
Berger Center for the Performing Arts
Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind
1200 W. Speedway.
Admission: nonperishable food items
for the Tucson Community Food Bank.
Reception and goodies follow.

A San Xavier Christmas CD
Have we got a great Christmas gift idea for you! It’s a best of San Xavier Christmas music produced over the years by the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, Sons of Orpheus, and some wonderful soloists. The CD will be available just before this newsletter gets into your hands. (See Director’s column.)

You and everyone who finds the CD in a Christmas stocking will enjoy such favorites as “Gesu Bambino,” “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night,” the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria,” and “O Holy Night (Cantique Noël.)”

Christmas at Mission San Xavier del Bac will be for sale at Orpheus concerts. Or call Art Dumes at 808-2409 or visit our website's CD page.

Let Us Proceed
Our Christmas processional, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” may be an expansion of the final passage from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk: “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” The text for the carol exists in three verses translated from the Greek by Gerard Moultrie (1829-1885) and set to an old French carol arranged by Gustav Holst (1874-1934).

It seems that Habakkuk, a 5th century BCE prophet, learned from God that the wicked are to be punished by those who are even more wicked until peace reigns at last.

The penultimate passage in Habakkuk has God saying to the prophet:

Woe to him who says to wood,
'Come to life!'
Or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'
Can it give guidance?
It is covered with gold and silver;
there is no breath in it.

There is some irony in this, for Orpheus and the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus will not keep silence as we process. Indeed, the beautifully decorated wood and stones in Mission San Xavier del Bac will come to life in the candle light and breathe the echoes of the mighty alleluias and amens that conclude the carol. Orpheus’s other Christmas venues in Saddlebrooke and Green Valley will also resound with this processional.

The DiCurtis at San Xavier
Pete Dicurti is a progenitor of good singers. His son Leo and his grandson Chris will join him for Christmas at San Xavier. Leo is a new member of our choir, and Chris sings with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus. Pete, a stalwart baritone and a heavy lifter on the riser crew, is a longtime member of Sons of Orpheus.

Pete’s wife Mary Pat is a singer too, a member of the Southern Arizona Women’s Chorus. There must lots of fun times around the piano at Pete’s house.

(More about Pete in the item titled “Veterans Day Concert.”)

The ASDB Concert
San Xavier will sell out for all six concerts. Even the dress rehearsal will play to a full house. We expect that the folks in Saddle Brooke and Green Valley will turn out in strength, but the ASDB concert needs some drumming. It’s the best feel-good concert in town, and the ticket is right there in your larder.

This year will be our ninth Christmas appearance with ASDB students at the Berger Center for Performing Arts, 1200 W. Speedway. We hope you’ll come to the concert bringing some canned food or something lighter, like paper money. Or drop some nonperishable items into the bins at the Food City store on Grande and St. Mary’s Road.

Orpheus is planning its own food drive for the occasion. The men will be raiding their pantries and annoying the neighbors. We’ll also get collection bins into our places of business, such as the Hogan School of Real Estate, 4023 E. Grant Rd.

Please join the kids and their teachers, and Orpheus and our Board members for punch and cookies at the end of the show.

Getting a Head Start
By the time you read this, we will have turned our attention to Christmas music, but we started work on our spring program at our first rehearsal in August.

As usual, we’ll open our spring concerts with a chorus from Grand Opera. This time it’s “Coro di Zingari” from Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, the opera between Rigoletto and La Traviata in the so-called "popular trilogy."

The “Coro di Zingari,” better known as the “Anvil Chorus,” is the seventh Verdi chorus in our repertoire. The previous six have been hits with our audiences and with us, as this one is bound to be. Not only is the music stirring, but our director has searched the countryside and found two anvils that ring sufficiently. We’ll wheel them onstage and let the sparks fly. Mike Fraser and Chuck Dickson, who have been working out, have volunteered to strip to the waist to wield the hammers, but we don’t want to overexcite our audiences. Mike and Chuck will sweat for you wearing tuxedos.

“The Anvil Chorus” is a variation or reemphasis of the age-old “wine, women, and song” theme. The Gypsy blacksmiths sing that wine and Gypsy women (zingarella) make life good.

(This is an opinion not everyone shares. What follows is taken from an account of the editor’s experience with the zingarellas in Milan several years ago.)

From “Among the Gypsies”
Two minutes before he let us off the bus near the Duomo, our tour guide warned us about the Gypsies. Five minutes after that, I understood why. Lost in the jet-lag fog that lay darkly upon the one I'm always in, I wandered away from the group.

While I was gawking, two bedraggled young women approached from my right. One of them carried a stack of newspapers and began speaking to me in some foreign tongue. I genially explained to her that I was an American (like she didn't know) and therefore did not speak or read foreign languages. I thanked her and wished her the best of luck in her endeavors. I thought perhaps she was deaf because she stayed right in front of me, shoving the newspapers against my stomach.

As I was about to turn away, her cohort slid a hand up my bare left arm. Instantly I was in massive sensory overload. Luckily my wife, looking out for me as always, spotted the caper and yelled, “Look out! She’s after your wallet!” The fog lifted long enough for me to slap a hand away from my hip pocket and employ my high school basketball spin move to fight through the double screen. Wallet intact, but pride bruised, I returned sheepishly to the group.

My fellow tourists were extremely solicitous about the incident, but I knew they were secretly happy they hadn’t been the first to be sized up for a sucker.

Ha! I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one. I’m sure several of our companions got home missing an item or two. I can just hear someone saying, “A hat. Didn’t I have a hat?”

More Spring Music
Also in our black binders are the following pieces:

“Bashana Haba ‘ah,” a Hebrew hymn,
    lyrics by Ehud Manor, music by Nurit Hirsh

“The Colorado Trail,” an American folk song
    arrangement by Donald Moore

“Dirait-on,” a French song,
    words by Rainer Maria Rilke,
    music by Morten Lauridson

“Old Dan Tucker,” and American folk song,
    arrangement by Douglas L. Ipson

“The Sinking of the Ruben James,”
    words and music by Woodie Guthrie,
    adapted for men’s voices by Mike Fraser*

“She walks in Beauty,” a poem by Lord Byron,
    music by Earlene Rentz

“Think on Me,” a poem by Mary, Queen of Scots,
    arrangement by Victor C. Johnson

“This is the Moment,” from Jekyll and Hyde
    Bricusse and Wildhorn arranged for Orpheus
    by Ray Tess*

“We Live on Borrowed Time,” from the off- Broadway review Listen to the Music,
    words and music by David Friedman,
    arranged for Orpheus by Ray Tess*

* Member of Sons of Orpheus

This is glorious music! We mention it here to entice men who read our newsletter to join us in song, and/or recruit a friend or two. Our risers easily support the weight of our 37 singers, and they could take more. We encourage new members to join us for the post- Christmas season which begins as soon as the last carol dies away. It ends with the Spring Concerts in late March. Visitors are welcome to sit in on rehearsals at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evenings at the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus building, 5700 E. Pima. Contact Grayson Hirst, 621-1649, for further information. We also invite you to learn more about us at our website: www.sonsoforpheus.org.

Veterans Day Concert
We helped the veterans celebrate their day with a concert at the VA Hospital. One of the songs we sang was “Before You Go,” words and music by Sam Bierstock and John Melnick, arranged for men’s choir by our own Tom Wentzel. You can find the original on the Internet. It is said to have been downloaded 9 million times. In case you are one of the 291 million who have not done so, type Before You Go into the search engine on your web browser, and you’ll find Dr. Sam and the Managed Care Blues Band. We guarantee you’ll be moved by the song and the accompanying photos. Dr. Sam writes the following:

"‘Before You Go’ is offered as an expression of heartfelt gratitude to those who fought and won the Second World War—for their bravery, gallantry and sacrifices that assure the continued enjoyment of freedoms unprecedented in the history of mankind.

“As we lose those who gave so much to age and time, it is our hope that the wondrous technology of the age of Internet will help us deliver this tribute and message of thanks to every surviving veteran of the Second World War, their families and descendants.”

Another of our choir’s arrangers, Mike Fraser, adapted Woodie Guthrie’s “The Sinking of the Reuben James” for us. Mike’s title page bears the following dedication:

“This adaptation is dedicated with admiration to fellow chorister Peter DiCurti, US Marine in the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea and court reporter at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials. He knows well the horror and heroism of war, and many names of those who fought and died.”

Jim Campbell, a charter member of Sons of Orpheus, is another veteran in our midst. He sang a solo in last year’s Veterans Day concert. It was a perfect occasion for him, for at age 20 Jim began training as a B-24 pilot. Two years later he was flying combat missions out of Italy. His navigator was killed during a bombing run over Austria; and on Jim’s final flight, April 24th, 1945, he lost two engines and landed a plane that had 128 more holes in it than when he took it up.

A health problem has kept Jim out of action this year. He had planned to be in the audience at the VA Hospital but at the last minute thought better of it. He sent along the following message which Mike Fraser read to the choir after our warm-up rehearsal:

Ode, Poem, Haiku, Whatever
Fifteen Years with Sons of Orpheus

Joy of Song

imparting this feeling to others
stumbling over many foreign languages
limitless camaraderie and friendship
savoring exciting trips abroad
helping aging neurons of the brain
     remain supple
form of meditation, for with music
     all else disappears.
let music never die in me;
forever let my spirit sing.


We sang for all veterans on November 11th, but we were thinking especially of Jim. We miss him and wish him good health.

Choir members were encouraged to wear their service uniforms for the event, but with only one exception our men showed up in civilian garb. (Apparently some moths have gotten fat. Couldn’t have been the men.) Eugene Friesen stepped out in his perfectly fitting army dress blues with a colonel’s insignia and Airborne badge. The only physical change Eugene seems to have undergone since his army days at the end of the Korean Confllict is a little less hair on his head.

A Naturalist Looks at Song
(Editor’s note: Bass David Yetman, KUAT’s The Desert Speaks host, contributed the following piece to green the newsletter and supply some sophistication. We thank him.)

David Yetman

I love to sing. My whole family loved to sing, and those of us who survive still do. From my earliest memories our Methodist household resounded with song. When someone was not singing, somebody else was whistling. I cannot imagine not singing. Nor can I conceive how it is that some pathetic souls find my singing obnoxious. I cannot help it if my everlasting warbling drives my office colleagues to strong drink. As I shall demonstrate here, to be human is to sing.

We humans are animals with deep history, with an evolutionary past. We talk more than other animals. Our language facility enables us to get our messages across better than we could without it. Our voices are ideal for arguing, preaching, teaching, ordering, commenting, joking, plotting, persuading, seducing, and so on. All this seems sufficient, so whence this compulsion to break into song, even though it be on the bleakest plain in the dead of night and in the absence of companions? What biological purpose does singing serve that talking or grunting will not serve just as well?

For the most part our furry and mammary kind do not know music. (My dog seems deaf or indifferent to my song, a sure sign of sensory or aesthetic deficiency, but she delights in the sounds other dogs make.)

Dogs and young wolves, coyotes and foxes bark; rats, most mice, and coatimundis squeak; great cats roar, lesser cats growl and hiss. Squirrels and monkeys chatter, except for howler monkeys, who howl and whoop. Great apes (apart from us) and gibbons chirp, whoop, and yip. Hyenas laugh, sort of. Guinea pigs (more properly, cuyes) chortle. Donkeys and mules bray. Horses whinny. Sheep bleat. Goats baah. Gnus and rhinos snort. Pigs grunt. Badgers scold. Elephants trumpet. Elk and moose bugle. (Nobody trombones.) Wombats rasp. Bats echolocate. Koalas wheeze. Bears snort and blear. Seals, sea lions, and walruses bark, belch, honk, and roar. Kangaroos snore and click. Dolphins squeak (or at least that is how it sounds to us). I don’t know what deer and rabbits do. Or possums, anteaters, platypuses, lorises, bilbies and pangolins, for that matter.

We can hear a few species of mice sing, if their sounds are amplified and the frequencies lowered for our convenience. Whales, mostly humpback whales, sing. And so do we.

That’s it for mammals. Only the three of us sing, so far as we know. Whales and mice sing as part of mating and group dynamics, and singing may work in our favor in these instances too, but there must be more to it for us.

As I look around at my comrades in the Sons of Orpheus, I find the territorial or seduction functions of song meager rationale for our efforts. Sometimes we sing to remember, or perhaps to charm, court, amuse, praise, express ourselves, earn money for the choir, or show off. But mostly we sing just because we like to. Or, to put it more succinctly, just for the hell of it. Let music live!

Unrummage Sale Donations
Last May we asked Fleming’s Prime Steak House, 6360 N. Campbell, to stake us to some prizes for our Unrummage Sale. They came up with four gift certificates worth $50 each.

We offered two of them to our readers and were rewarded with a $1410 return. That sum, added to a roughly equivalent amount donated by choir members, went a long way to floating our boat. We thank you and we thank Fleming’s.

Bill & Carolyn Archibald Ivor Lichterman
Ramona Brittain Louise Lievers
Joan Caplan Pat Mackey
Janet & Duke Corley Clyde & Carolyn Martak
John & Jocelyn Cotter Norrine McMillan
Richard Coulter Emily Minerich
Robert Evans Joan Morris
Richard & Suzanne Froede Pat & Chuck Pettis
Sam & Sara Hauert Sonja Rath
Robert Hersch Larry Ross
Charles & Joyce Holm Holly Sack
Freeman B. Hover Richard Settlemire
Vaughn & Gretchen Huff Dorothy Soland
Barbara Katz Tom & Deborah Starrs
Sharon Landeen Joan & Jerry Stolle
Jack & Shirley Levy Phil Varney
Christine Ziegler

Profiling Rick Sack
When Rick joined the choir in 2003, he brought with him a long and varied musical background. He was a rocker in his late teens, playing electric violin and singing with a couple of bands in Chicago. Transferring from Kendall College to the University of Arizona in 1968, Rick majored in theater and fondly remembers his role in Showboat under the direction of Peter Maroney. Now, along with his Orpheus gig, he is a cantorial soloist with Congregation Chaverim. He measures his musical experiences against Orpheus’ San Xavier Christmas concerts and our appearance at the Mahler Hall in Dobbiaco, Italy during our summer concert tour in 2004.

After his U of A stint, Rick returned to Chicago to earn a degree in secondary education with a specialty in theater and speech from Northeastern Illinois University. Later he went on to earn a master’s degree in gerontology at the University of Chicago. He became a social worker until financial considerations caused him to seek more lucrative employment. In 1978 he got his real estate license and went into business with his brother, selling properties on Chicago’s lakefront.

During this time he was reintroduced to Tucson when he bought properties here for frozen Chicagoans. In 1993 he and Holly, his wife of three years, made the move to the desert. Rick works with Long Realty as a land broker and home site specialist; and Holly is an NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) instructor, a regimen that fuses dance movement, the martial arts and healing arts into an invigorating cardiovascular fitness program.

Rick describes himself as a habitual jock who now spends his competitive capital on the tennis courts. Indeed, he reports to Saturday morning rehearsals in his tennis gear and appears to be working on his backhand whenever there’s a lull in the singing. He also enjoys long walks with Holly and their two dogs, one of them a German shorthair obtained through FAIR, the Foundation for Animals In Risk.

Tucson has gained from Rick’s interests in social service that go back to his work with the elderly in an agency in Chicago’s East Rogers Park, and with youngsters whom he entertained as a member of the Robin Hood Players, a traveling theater troupe. Today he and Holly are co-group leaders at Tu Nidito, an organization that provides comprehensive, coordinated, child-centered support for children and families dealing with serious illness or the death of a loved one. Rick also participates in weekly meetings with a men’s group as part of the ManKind Project, an educational organization committed to empowering men to missions of service.

Rick does noble service for Orpheus too. He heads up our annual ad campaign for our spring concert program booklet. At present, he and Board member Mia Hansen are putting together a deal with Food City stores to fill the shelves of the Tucson Community Food Bank and fill the seats of the Berger Auditorium for our December 19th Christmas concert with the students of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind.

Rick and Holly provide yet another service when the choir travels abroad: they set the standard for seeing all the sights and staying up late. And they generously dispense their cheerful countenances among the travelers. Choir members know they had better start working out now if they want to keep up with the Sacks in the summer of 2008!

Rick Sacks, busted

Profiling Board Member Joan Caplan
The Orpheus Board of Directors is fortunate to count an attorney among its members. Joan owns her own business, and for the past eight years has worked with the Pima County Juvenile Court, representing parents or children assigned to her from the Dependency Unit when children have been removed from the home by Child Protective Services due to abuse or neglect. As a part of her service to the Orpheus Board, Joan is available for legal consultation.

Joan’s chief goal is to help Orpheus become better known and better appreciated in the community. Currently in her second year on the Board, Joan was recruited by our founder/director Grayson Hirst with whom Joan is acquainted as a family friend.

Grayson is always on the lookout for people who might want to help us become a more useful part of the community. Joan Caplan was a very good catch!

From the Director
Our December concerts with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus at Mission San Xavier del Bac will mark the tenth anniversary of a very special musical partnership. To coincide with that milestone event, I am proud and delighted to announce the release of a wonderful new Christmas CD featuring two of southern Arizona’s most distinguished musical organizations, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Sons of Orpheus—The Male Choir of Tucson.

The origins of our collaboration with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus go back nearly a decade. You might say that our CD is the brainchild of Lorraine Drachman, former director of the Mission’s fundraising arm, Patronato San Xavier. In 1997, she invited both choirs to join in a holiday concert that would contribute to the Patronato’s ongoing restoration and preservation efforts at Tucson’s glorious 18th century landmark Mexican baroque mission.

December 22, 1997 marked the beginning of our long and fruitful musical partnership with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus. Since then, the sold-out concerts at the Mission have become a highlight of the Tucson holiday season. What began as a one-time collaborative venture ten years ago has evolved into a major ongoing musical event–one that has been called southern Arizona’s signature Christmas concert.

Music lovers in general and choral enthusiasts in particular will prize this recording. The best-loved and best-sung Christmas anthems—from the gentle and moving to the powerful and majestic—are represented here. From the soaring opening strains of Lara Hoggard’s contemporary setting of the 14th-century processional Personent Hodie, to the closing echoes of Peace, Peace/Silent Night the two choirs’ wide range and abilities are showcased. The joining of these two distinguished choral organizations stands as an ideal of ensemble technique and musicianship. And a note to you audiophiles: the tone, blend, and balance are exquisite, and the engineering is beyond reproach.

I think you will agree that both as music to listen to carefully and (apologies to the purists) as background music to Christmas festivities—while you and your family and friends are decorating the Christmas tree, or when you’re stuck in holiday traffic, this is not only a wonderful release that deserves to be in the collection of every Christmasmusic lover, but a perfect Christmas gift for friends and family. Spread the word and spread the joy!

Christmas at San Xavier CD

For detailed information on how to order your copy of Christmas at San Xavier, please go to http://www.sonsoforpheus.org from which you can order directly or download a printable order form. Mail your completed order form along with your payment to: Sons of Orpheus, P.O. Box 31552, Tucson, AZ 85751 or call our CD wrangler Art Dumas at 808-2409.

horse over San Xavier

Read the
May 2006 Newsletter
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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