‘Spring Awakening’ offers Steamboat a musical treat
May 4, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Under the exceptionally able direction of Marie Carmichael, the Yampa Valley Singers, The Steamboat Chamber Singers and The Steamboat Strings Quartet groups, joined by additional instrumentalists, dancers, children singers, a narrator and a slideshow, presented "Spring Awakening" on Saturday and Sunday.
Like November's concert, this was a multimedia production with slides of relevant scenes displayed on a screen above the chorus. There were other props and special effects all to augment the voices and instruments. Enunciation was always clear, which is important as the texts are profound. For the Latin selections we were thankfully provided with translations.
The show began with slides of icebergs, snow slopes and frozen waterfalls, accompanying Mack Wilberg's "Requiem" in Latin, beginning: "Grant them eternal rest, Lord/and let perpetual light shine on them … O born light of light/Jesus, redeemer of the world." The theme, then, is not the spring awakening of insensate seeds, but the awakening of our too long dormant human spirit. This is especially pertinent after our recent harsh winter that will not quit.
The next two pieces were arranged by Eric Whitacre, whose work we were introduced to at an earlier concert featuring his "Lux Aurumque." He has published some 44 concert pieces, which have sold more than 1 million copies. He also conducts choirs worldwide, and his musical "Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings" sounds especially intriguing, second only to his "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas." He is young, born in 1970. The concert featured two of his works based on poems by two 20th century writers, e.e. cummings and Federico Garcia Lorca. The cummings poem begins: "I thank you God for this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees," which was cutesy but expressed the theme of the concert.
The Lorca poem is more passionate. It begins: "O my night Love!/With a lily in your hand/I leave you, O my night love!/Little widow of my single star/I find you/Tamer of dark butterflies." Both Whitacre pieces were sung with zest and gusto, revealing the chorus's appreciation of the poetry.
Another great verse, Robert Frost's lines about spring "… The sun was warm but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day …" based on the music of Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons' La Primavera Largo" and arranged by Matthew Naughton was next, heartily sung and with great precision. This simple poem put to a complex baroque melody was played by the Steamboat Strings Quartet. The visuals, highly effective in this piece, were yellow crocuses pushing up through thick snow, then red poppies and finally daffodils in snow.
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"Time to Say Goodbye" (Con Te Patiro) by Sartori, Quarantotto and Peterson was accompanied by images of sailboats against the sunset, the moon over the sea and a sailing ship and was rich in harmonies. "Yes, I know there is no shedding sunlight in a room where sun is missing." Sun in this case is the person who has gone away.
We were handsomely treated to a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley, with selections from "Carousel," "Oklahoma," "The King and I," "The Sound of Music," "State Fair" and "South Pacific." While the screen displayed bright yellow sunflowers, the chorus donned scarves and then cowboy hats for "Oklahoma," and later ballroom dancers Matthew and Holly Blanchard took command of the church's center aisle (hardly wide enough for full extension). Meanwhile, children blew soap bubbles from the side aisles. Top honors went to Samantha Kucera for her rendition of "Do Re Mi."
Narrator Tim Winn, who performed the functions of a master of ceremonies, added many light touches to the evening. He was particularly engaging during the medley, recognizing the audience's familiarity with the many popular tunes and noting our lip-moving participation.
The medley was followed by "The Awakening" by Joseph M. Martin. "I dreamed a dream … where no bird sang … Let all our voices join as one to praise the giver of the song." It was strident and theme-stirring music.
The last selection, by J. S. Bach, was "Dona Nobis Pacem." The screen gave us a rainbow against snowy mountains. This piece began with a round we were all to join in and then developed into a more complex arrangement accompanied by strings, trumpets and tympani.
Leaving the Methodist Church on Saturday, the night was uncommonly cold for April 30. It was clear that the skiing on the considerable snowpack left on Emerald Mountain on Sunday would be great and that on the occasional bare spots there would be the first blooms of spring, called salt and pepper, with white petals and magenta stamens, nearly microscopic in clusters about an inch long, appearing from above like puffy clouds floating over a sea of mud, affirming that the Earth is indeed wobbling drunkenly, inexorably toward the summer solstice. A certain élan would be the lingering pleasure of the evening's music.
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