When the Columbus Symphony Orchestra performs Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring Suite” and Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” on Saturday night, the stage will be packed.
Combined choruses from Columbus State University, Auburn University and Voice of the Valley (children’s chorus) will have 170 singers on stage. Along with the CSO, that’s about 250 people on the RiverCenter’s Bill Heard Theatre stage.
Constantina Tsolainou, the CSU Paul S. and Jean R. Amos Faculty Chair and Director of Choral Activities, said the music for the performance is challenging and so are the logistics of the concert. Tsolainou’s duties included blending voices from both universities and stage placement for the singers.
The top row of the risers behind the orchestra will be 10 feet high, she said.
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The German-Latin and Italian-Latin lyrics also posed pronunciation challenges.
Two university choruses
Tsolainou is thrilled about the collaboration between CSU and Auburn University. It helps that she knows William Powell, the director of choral activities. She came to Columbus in 2006 and Powell was hired in Auburn in 2001. It’s the first time they’ve been able to collaborate, though they’ve discussed it for years.
When CSO conductor and music director George Del Gobbo approached Tsolainou about doing “Carmina Burana,” she told him flat out that she couldn’t do it without more singers.
That’s when she called Powell, who immediately agreed.
He’s bringing 53 students to Columbus.
“It’s a wonderful collaboration,” Tsolainou said.
“We are all excited,” Powell said. “We’ve had a good experience doing this, singing together.”
Del Gobbo has worked with the CSU Choral Union and the Auburn University choir but a rehearsal on Tuesday night was the first time he’d worked with the combined chorus.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I think it will be great.”
Elizabeth Parker, director of Voices of the Valley, will bring 28 children to the concert.
“The students are very focused, and love the score of ‘Carmina Burana’,” Parker said. “They are captivated by listening to the music.”
They are very excited to be singing with “the big kids.”
William McLain, 21, a junior radio, TV and film major and music minor from Auburn, is thrilled to be performing with the symphony at RiverCenter.
“We’re all excited,” he said. “This is a big collaboration.”
He will be singing in the bass section.
CSU sophomore Tavia Parson, a 19-year-old music major, is also excited.
“It’s going to be great,” she said at Tuesday’s rehearsal Tuesday. “It’s a very exciting experience.”
She described practicing as challenging and with another rehearsal set for tonight, the work isn’t yet over.
At tonight’s rehearsal, CSU and Auburn choruses will be joined by the Voice of the Valley children’s choir and the CSO.
April Jacobs, 29, has more to worry about than just singing. The graduate student in the Schwob School of Music is tasked with making sure the CSU Choral Union students and community singers are in the right places for Saturday’s performance.
“I think it’s going to be the kind of experience in college that will make me say, ‘I’m in the right place and this is why I do what I do.’”
Pete Sanders-Nesbitt is one of the second altos in the CSU Choral Union, which blends the voices of CSU students and community singers.Sanders-Nesbitt is one of the community singers.
Now in her fourth season with the Choral Union, she met Tsolainou at a summer music camp years ago.
“I met her at the worship and music workshop at Montreat, N.C. I didn’t know she was coming (to CSU) and she was just here,” Sanders-Nesbitt said.
Sanders-Nesbitt said she didn’t have to audition, she has has “to be ready to work.”
And the work is very challenging, she said. “It does help to have musical training. Music was my major in college.”
Steve Valentini, a frequent performer on the Springer Opera House stage, is used to singing show tunes.
He laughs when he says he hasn’t sung classical music since he was in high school and doesn’t want to say how long ago that was.
Since he quit his smoking habit, Valentini says singing in the Choral Union “keeps my voice in shape.”