“Carmina Burana,” a musical work composed by Carl Orff in 1935 and 1936, is based on 24 poems from a much larger collection of 254 poems and dramatic texts mostly from the 11th or 12th century, with some from the 13th century as well. The Kaua`i Chorale, under the direction of Lois Ricciardi, will perform the Orff musical work — alongside the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Chorus conducted by Juliet Hiu and the KCC Wind Symphony conducted by Sarah Tochiki.
The performance will take place twice: on Saturday, May 5 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 6 at 4 p.m. at the Kaua`i Community College Performing Arts Center.
What grabs Ricciardi about “Carmina Burana” — its translation is “Songs from Beuern” — is that “It’s a very dynamic, exciting piece,” says Ricciardi. “It’s been used in hundreds of films and television commercials, including a Marine Corps commercial.
“It is not a calm piece,” she continues. “There is certainly exuberant action — the opening number has a pulse to it; it’s fortune and fate churning.
“It’s like the first couple of notes of Jaws — when you hear it, you know it’s Jaws. It creates this feeling of wheels churning and life moving.”
Because the original poems and the 24 that Orff set to music can be, let’s say, a bit risqué, Ricciardi says, “We’re trying to scale it down to PG. The themes are fortune and fate, love, drinking, gambling — it’s a passionate piece.”
The best-known movement of the work opens and closes the performance. It is the popular one Ricciardi mentions and is titled “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” —”O Fortuna.”
The notion of taking on “Carmina Burana” was one whose time had come, says Ricciardi, who had first done the work as an accompanist while in New York.
“It had been on my mind to do it for many years,” she says.
She googled sheetmusicplus.com to see if it was available, what the cost would be, and then went on YouTube to see what performances had been uploaded there.
And within a week, Sarah Tochiki of the KCC Wind Symphony called Ricciardi and asked if she’d consider doing it.
“I got the chills,” says Ricciardi. “I thought, ‘This was really meant to be.’”
At least one chorale member, Kay Koike, has a personal connection to this piece that’s over nine centuries old.
“I’d seen and heard it decades ago in the Bonn, Germany Marktplatz for the first time,” she says. “Then, while visiting good friends in the Lake Starnberg-Munich area last June, I learned that the source of the original medieval language had been kept in the monastery’s library in Benediktbueren. Then we stumbled upon the Carl Orff Museum in Diessen.”
Koike says a guide gave her materials to share with the Kaua`i Chorale and asked her to share a photo of the concert.
In fact, she’ll hand-carry the photo this June as she returns to attend a wedding in Starnberg.
Ricciardi, always up for a challenge, is looking forward to the Kaua`i premiere of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and the ambitious undertaking of having three independent groups working as one.
As she moves through her 23rd non-contiguous year of directing the Kaua`i Chorale — there was a break of five years in there somewhere — Ricciardi says this piece ranks high in her career.
“It would be up there with my top three — Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Handel’s “Messiah,” she says.
Tickets are $10/advance; $12/door; $5/students and are are available at the following locations: Aloha ‘n Paradise, Waimea; Talk Story Bookstore, Hanapepe; Kalaheo Café, Kalaheo; Scotty’s Music, Kalaheo; Pictures Plus, Kukui Grove Center, Lihu`e; Zack’s Frozen Yogurt, Coconut Marketplace; Lappert’s Ice Cream, Princeville and Po`ipu; Kaua`i Music and Sound, Kapa`a; Pono Market, Kapa`a; and North Shore Pharmacy, Kilauea.