The Voice of Orpheus

Volume 5, #3 ____ April 2004
Art: Bob Swaim ____ Editor: Ned Mackey

Spring Concert Information
We'll present our annual Gala Spring Concerts May 15th at 7:30 p.m. and May 16th at 3:00 p.m., both performances at Pima College's Proscenium Theater, west campus, 2200 W. Anklam Rd. General admission tickets are $15; $10 for seniors and students. You can inquire about this year's program by calling Grayson Hirst at 621-1649. Please call the box office, 206-6986, to order tickets. Or get them at the door or from choir members.

Our friends from the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra will perform with us as usual, and we'll add another colorful group Tucson's award-winning El Mariachi Tapatio, about whom more on a following page. Our audiences will be the first to hear music arranged for men's choir and mariachis. Be ready to hang on tight!

A Program Note from Grayson Hirst
We'll sing two opera choruses for you this spring, opening the program with a rollicking sailors' chorus from Wagner's Der Fliegende Holländer. The other is from Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco, which received its premiere at La Scala, Milan, March 9th, 1842. The second scene of Act III takes place on the banks of the Euphrates River. Hebrew captives in chains are at forced labor. They sing of their lost fatherland, lamenting captivity in Babylon. Va, pensiero, sull' ali dorate had to be repeated at the premiere. From that moment on, the 29-year-old Verdi became closely identified with the Risorgimento, Italy's great national revival and movement toward unification. Verdi

The Italian people, suffering at the time under Austrian occupation, identified themselves with the enslaved Hebrews and virtually adopted Va, pensiero as their national hymn.

Nearly 60 years later, as their beloved 87-year-old maestro lay dying in his suite at the Grand Hotel, the Milanese scattered straw for blocks around to muffle the clatter of carriages and horses' hooves. In accordance with his wishes, Giuseppe Verdi's funeral was extremely simple, but at a second funeral, one month after his death, as the cortčge was escorted through the thronging, black-draped streets of Milan to the final resting place, one of the great and rare moments in history took place as people and music became one. Without plan, by some inexplicable inspiration, there suddenly arose from out of the monstrous soul of the multitude--200,000 strong--the chorus from the third act of Nabucco that almost six decades earlier had become the voice of consolation and hope for the conquered and divided Italian people.


Beautiful Syllables
Sergei Rachmaninoff and Wilbur Chenoweth wrote choral numbers without words, unless you count ah. Rachmaninoff gave us only ah, but the more eloquent Chenoweth, perhaps because he was an English speaker, added hm, oo, oh, and doo-oom. These pieces charm the ear. We are looking forward to singing them for you. The Chenoweth "Vocalise" requires a soloist, and we are pleased to have the lovely voice of soprano Rachel Kuhn soaring above us.

Back in the Saddle Again David
David Harrington has returned to the choir after some time off for surgery. He'll don his Stetson and sing the solo in "Cool Water" in our cowboy section. We're as happy to have him back as his KUAT listeners are.

Speaking of David
In 2002 Orpheus was invited to compete in the international Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. The men's choirs had to include Randall Thompson's stirring "The Last Words of David" in their program. We had just begun to work on it when the organizers of the event changed their minds and sent us a different test piece. Now we have taken up "David" again and are eager to show you why it's the kind of song that might be selected to demonstrate the power and richness of men's choral music.

Forecast: More Thompson. Some Frost
We return to our 1999-2000 repertoire for two songs from Randall Thompson's Frostiana, a suite written for seven Robert Frost poems and commissioned by the people of Amherst, Massachusetts for their bicentennial in 1959. We'll sing "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," and "The Road not Taken." We are pleased to bring you these pieces again not only because we love to sing them, but because Thompson has given our superb pianist, Brent Burmeister, a real chance to shine.

Frost was present at the premiere. The story goes that he stood up at the finish and yelled, "Sing that again!" The following tale from the editor's 1961 notebook might cause one to wonder if Frost's request was because he liked it or because he couldn't hear it.

Driving Robert Frost

Being tall is not all bad. Sure, you hit your head a lot, and people are always asking you to get something breakable down from high places or rescue a cat. But my height served me well once. During my senior year at the University of Arizona, one of my professors asked me to carry the English department banner in the Founders Day parade. Academically I was completely unimposing; it was my frame alone that suited me to fly the banner in the solemn procession. Not long after, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts summoned me to his office and asked me to pick up Robert Frost at the airport and bring him to a luncheon at the Tucson Country Club. "Why me?" I stammered. "Because we think Robert would appreciate having a student be part of the weekend's activity," he answered. 'We'll take over after you get him to lunch. You do own a car don't you?" I replied that I did but asked again (hoping I had distinguished myself in some way yet to be revealed) why I had been selected for this lofty task. "Don't be coy! I saw you carrying the English banner on Founders Day," he said.

I had just a couple of days to get my battered vehicle into shape to bear the great man. There was much to be done. I thought he'd be more comfortable if I stuffed the innards back into the rent in the seat and taped it shut, and that he might be more likely to appreciate the view if I pinned up the headliner that hung in a festoon over the passenger-side window. A wash and wax, and I was ready to go.

In those days passengers deplaned down a stairway and were met out on the tarmac. Frost appeared without looking around to see who would meet him, and he didn't seem too thrilled that it turned out to be me. I introduced myself and reached out to shake his hand. Without speaking, he reached back to give me his garment bag. He was wearing a threadbare, tight blue suit and tattered canvas boat shoes, one of which exposed the tip of a toenail. "New England frugality," I told myself and started feeling better about my car.

I deposited his bag in the trunk and got him seated. I admit I was disappointed that he didn't say anything about the wax job, but then he didn't say anything at all, all the way back into town. Turned out he was very hard of hearing. His longest reply to my feverish efforts at conversation was little more than a grunt. And I had prepared such perfect questions--ones calculated to flatter him and at the same time elicit lnformation that might be useful for a paper. We finished the ride in silence. I thought back to the dean's office. Had that been a snigger I heard as I stepped out into the hall?

Frost's reading took place the following evening. I got to the auditorium early for a good seat, but I couldn't work up any excitement. The glamor was gone. As I waited I vowed never to give another famous person a ride. The lights dimmed. After a brief introduction the curtain came up, and Robert Frost walked onto the stage, his white hair gleaming as he seated himself in an easy chair center stage. He picked up a book from the table beside him and, when the applause finally died, said, "Good evening. I want to say some of my poems to you." I can't begin to express the magic of the rest of it. He read to us in his low, flat, New England voice, each syllable crisp as an apple with "every fleck of russet showing clear." It was over before anyone wanted it to be, and no amount of applause could bring him back. There was a reception for him afterward, but I didn't go. I went home, got out my Frost collection, and read the "Witch of Coös'' and the "Pauper Witch of Grafton" straight through for chills, then "Brown's Descent" for an antidote. I read aloud, but heard Frost's voice all the while. Even today I don't read him by myself. Couldn't if I tried.

N. M.

El Mariachi Tapatio
This group of twelve excellent musicians, led by their founder Alberto Ranjel Jr., will take the stage with us for three pieces arranged for mariachi and men's choir by the elder of Alberto's sons, both of whom perform with the band. Everyone who has seen Tapatio at Las Cazuelitas restaurant or at other venues around town will attest to the skill and vitality with which these players perform their huapangos, sones Jalicenses, corridos, and boleros.

Although Tapatio is principally a performing group, Alberto is equally proud of the educational service Tapatio provides throughout the state. In residencies arranged through the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Tapatio teaches student groups traditional songs and the history, evolution, and culture of the mariachi genre.

Alberto has played a trumpet for 40 years and mariachi music for 25. He reports that he came from the old school and learned his craft by ear. The advent of mariachi conferences and the appearance of written music have given him a more scholarly approach. The younger members of Tapatio, including Alberto's two sons, have come from structured backgrounds where written music is integral to their training.

Orpheus hopes that Tapatio will be able to join us in Italy for our concert tour this summer. They are raising funds to that end and have $14,000 in their tour account. They need another $27,000. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to account # 9065666639.

Mariachi Tapatio already has international experience, having performed in Japan in 1997 at the Okayama International Music Festival and in 1998 and 1999 for the Encuentro de Mariachi Y Charreria in Guadalajara.

From Mark Aquilano
When asked to write a translation of "Somos Novios," a traditional song arranged for mariachi and men's choir by Alberto Ranjel III, second tenor Mark Aquilano responded thus:

"Here is what I came up with. The general rule I followed was to 'keep the register.' My impression of the original text is that is that the young lovers are campesinos who express themselves plainly--the Spanish is very unadorned."

We are sweethearts, deeply in love,
And so we reach the greatest thing
in the world.
We love each other, we kiss each other
As sweethearts do.
And sometimes, without rhyme or reason,
We even make each other angry.

We are sweethearts
We keep a clean and pure affection.
Like all sweethearts we seek a secret
To speak our love, to give the sweetest
To evoke the color of the cherry blossoms.

To say it simply,
We are sweethearts, just sweethearts,
Always sweethearts, we are sweethearts.

We'll do it in Spanish, of course, but it's always helpful for singers to have a clear idea about what the words mean, although in this case the music itself is so expressive that even an "English-only" speaker would guess it's a love song.

Mark also prepared an English version of "Tiritomba," a delightful Neapolitan folk song arranged for the choir by baritone Mike Fraser. So, our director works diligently to be sure our foreign language diction is crisp and correct. Mark lets us know what the heck we are singing.

In the evening I went to the shore
To meet a pretty little gal,
White and red and curly-haired,
Full of life and cheer.

She was pretty, more than pretty,
She looked like the star of love.
She was the nail that
Knows how to pierce the heart.

I watch her and she laughs,
I speak to her and she responds.
I was a man who had
Walked into the waves of love.

A Special for Our Readers
If you send in your Gala Spring Concert ticket request by April 23rd, the price drops to $13 general admission; $8 for seniors and students. An order of 10 or more knocks off another dollar per ticket. Clip the coupon and mail your order to

Sons of Orpheus
PO Box 31552
Tucson, AZ 85751
Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Early Bird Tickets

Saturday, May 15th, 7:30
Please send me tickets @ $13 per.
Please send me tickets @ $8 per.
Total $______
Sunday, May 16th, 3:00
Please send me tickets @ $13 per.
Please send me tickets @ $8 per.
Total $____
Minus another dollar per ticket for an order of 10 or more.
Total Total $____
Please make checks payable to Sons of Orpheus.
Include self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Profiling Jim Campbell
AKA Wildcat Kelly for his solo role in our rendition of "Don't Fence Me In," Jim brings audiences to tears when he sings of Kelly "a settin' by the sheriff's side" pleading: "Oh, give me land, lots o' land under starry skies above." Jim Campbell

Jim is one of the founding members of Orpheus. Thirteen years ago when Grayson Hirst was stealing singers out of church choirs to put his dream together, Jim happened to be in Tucson to help a daughter build her house. The fourth man to volunteer, he is the only one of the original group of eighteen still singing with the choir. Jim has seen approximately 150 men come and go since the choir's inception. He has seen the number of singers rise into the 50s, and concerts rise from one the first year, to two the second, to more than two dozen in the choir's thirteenth year.

After high school in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Jim passed up a scholarship that wasn't quite enough to keep him alive through college. After a year shoveling coal on the railroad, he joined the Army Air Corps to take advantage of the GI Bill and to fulfill an interest that had begun when he was a kid and liked to ride his bike out to see the mail plane land.

In 1942 Jim was 20 and training as a B-24 pilot. Two years later he was flying combat missions out of Italy. His first mission was over Sopron, Hungary, one of the concert stops on our tour of Germany, Austria, and Hungary in 2000. For Jim this venue meant something quite different from what it meant to the rest of us. As the choir was traveling through an Austrian town, Jim remarked that he had lost his navigator on a mission over the rail yards there. Jim's last mission, April 25th of 1945, was a harrowing one too. He lost two engines and landed a plane with a 128 extra holes in it.

His military career over, Jim spent several months as a ranch hand in Musselshell, Montana. After that he signed up for the GI Bill (he spent all but 28 cents of it) and began his education in architecture at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. That's where he met Gerri, the love of his life. She was training for a career in dietetics, a course of study that came in handy as she fed their eight children.

From 1955 to 1987 Jim practiced in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He won some awards from the American Institute of Architecture, but his favorite project, the one he's proudest of, was the home he built for his family.

The Campbells moved to Tucson in 1991. Jim designed and built a straw bale home for two, and a large greenhouse where he enjoys his flowers and studies the effects of various lighting. He says, "Gerri gets most of the credit for any claim to fame I might have had." But it's Orpheus that lets him be Wildcat Kelly.

A News Maker
Bass Gary Smyth was minding his own business at his bank last month when one of the tellers cried out, "I've been robbed." Gary looked out the door to see a figure hurrying to a car in the parking lot. He followed stealthily to get a took at the culprit's license plate but found it covered with a piece of paper. What's a guy going to do? Jump into his truck and follow at a safe distance white talking to a 911 operator!

The robber stopped briefly at a mall to remove a disguise. Gary stopped too and pretended to take a nap. The tracking continued for what seemed way too long to Gary. He had other fish to fry and began to entertain the idea of a citizen's arrest. He was practicing his forefinger/thumb six-shooter simulation and deciding between "Make my day" and "'Reach for the sky" when the police showed up. Way to go, Gary!

Outdoor Collectables, April 24
We are not having a rummage sale this year. Instead, we are having a flea market, a term that connotes classier junk and fewer ragged, paint-stained T-shirts. The location is the Hogan School of Real Estate, 4023 E. Grant Road.

We'll be ready to go bright and early. Come by and contribute a family heirloom to our cause, or buy treasure.

Thanks, Dear Readers...
Readers of this newsletter contributed generously to a fund the choir established for two partial scholarships for this summer's concert tour. The traveling choir is grateful for your help, especially the two singers who will benefit directly.

and Northminster Presbyterian Church,
where we rehearse on Saturday mornings. We'll thank the congregation with a free concert April 25th at four O'clock. General public is welcome. Northminster is at 2450 E. Fort Lowell.

Board Member Barbara Katz
Barbara learned about Sons of Orpheus through her friend Larry Ross, the president of the Orpheus board. She went with him to a couple of our concerts and liked us! So Larry, a consummate board builder, invited her to observe one of the meetings. Before she could think of a good excuse, she had accepted a nomination; and because she had made the mistake of being seen taking notes, she was elected secretary/ treasurer at the following meeting.

At age 10 Barbara began serious piano lessons. She continued her study through prep school and at the University of Michigan where she majored in Music Lit., minored in piano, and was elected to Mu Phi Epsilon, the national music honorary society. After college she postponed her desire to teach, going to work instead for Barron's Weekly. She married, and accompanied her husband during his military service in Germany, where the first of their three children was born. Twelve years later she returned to Barron's as executive secretary to the Editor and Publisher.

Barbara has served on the board of her Temple in Greenwich, Connecticut and on the advisory committee for UA Presents. She lives in SaddleBrooke and enjoys travel, music, cooking, and reading.

Italian Concert Venues
The following is compiled from the report of Iván Berger, concert organizer:

We will travel from Milan to Lecco on Lake Como and be met by our host choir, Coro Grigna, at our hotel the evening of June 21st for a get-acquainted toast. On the 23rd we will be joined by the Male Choir of the City of Vimercate for a joint concert.

On the 25th we will travel to the Alta Pusteria in the Dolomites for the seventh annual International Choir Festival. Here we will present two concerts and participate in choir marches through the towns in the area. Final arrangements have not been sent to us, but we expect to sing in the Mahler Concert Hall in the splendid Grand Hotel Dobbiaco. We depart on the 27th for Padova.

While in Padova we will visit Venice, and many of us will go to the Arena di Verona, a 2000-year-old coliseum amphitheater, to watch a performance of Verdi's Aida.

Our tour continues to Florence on June 30th where we will sing at the Festival at the Piazza di Santo Spirito. We with also make side trips to Lucca and Pisa.

July 3rd we will travel to Rome via Siena. We'll participate in the 33rd annual Rome Festival on the 6th and return to Tucson the following day, composing our memories during the flight home.

Read the
February 2004 Newsletter
October 2003 Newsletter
May 2003 Newsletter
February 2003 Newsletter
September 2002 Newsletter

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