Friday, April 20, 2007

Fas et nefas ambulant

pene passu pari;
prodigus non redimit
vitium avari;
virtus temperantia
quadam singulari
debet medium
ad utrumque vitium
caute contemplari.

I just heard the most amazing concert- the Berkeley Chamber Chorus' performance of the Carmina Burana (not the Carl Orff version; rather, an attempted recreation of the medieval neumes). This codex of miscellaneous poems and songs, written by student monks in a melange of ecclesiastical Latin and Old German, ranges over the whole sphere of the 13th-century cosmos without denying the reality of either the sacred or the profane. (There's something genuinely Catholic in that.)

I was truly impressed with how the Chamber Chorus prepared and staged it, respecting the dramatic range of the text: here a proto-Cavalier carpe diem song (sung with a wink), there the woe of Mary at the Crucifixion (a heart-stopping lament, surrounded with reverence), there a melodrama of the Fall (the text was in places as thin as the typical opera libretto, so the overwrought staging was fitting- in a particularly fine touch, God raised two fingers of his right hand in the Pantocrator pose each time He spoke).

But best of all was the music- there's something still unearthly about chant, something more immediate and more moving than all the artificial orchestration of classical music, and the Chamber Chorus was flowing and expressive with it. I confess, as always, that I don't know much about music, but I was just floored by this concert.

You, dear Reader, have one more chance to catch this performance if you live in the Bay Area. They'll sing at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco, Sunday at 7, for free. (Also, the University Chorus will be doing the Carl Orff version for free tomorrow at 3 PM on campus, in Hertz Hall.) If you can go, I say you should.

Otherwise, as Cato said, Ambula cum bonis!

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