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The Voice of Orpheus

Volume 6, #3 ____ April 2005
Art: Tom Wentzel ____ Editor: Ned Mackey

Spring Has Sprung!
We'll present our annual Gala Spring Concerts Saturday May 14th at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday May 15th at 3:00 p.m., both performances at Pima College's Proscenium Theater, west campus, 2200 W. Anklam Rd. General admission is $15; $10 for seniors and students. Please call the box office, 205-6986, to order tickets. Or get them at the door or from choir members. (See the Early Bird Special coupon .)

Be sure you're in your seats early with your legs tucked beneath you to avoid being run over by the choir as we process to "Freudig Begrüssen wir die edle Halle" (Entrance of the Guests into the Wartburg Hall of Song) from Act II, sc. 4 of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser. We'll follow it with another rouser, Charles Gounod's "Choer des Soldats" (Soldiers' Chorus) from Act IV of Faust.

We'll give you (and ourselves) a breather with three love songs: "If Music Be the Food of Love," "In the Gloaming," and "Love, Could I Only Tell Thee;" after which our friends from the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra will take the stage while we rush off for a costume change.

Get your stop watches out as Steve Abramson chases Danny Kaye's world record for Kurt Weill's "Tchaikovsky" from Lady in the Dark. (Stage Manager Mia Hansen will have a fire extinguisher at the ready in case the piano or Steve's teeth catch fire.) After the wreckage is cleared, Ivan Berger, Jeff Dunn, and Jim Hogan will dance and sing Cole Porter's "Siberia" from Silk Stockings.

We'll return in our red rubashkas looking as though we had just come in from the steppe to sing a Ukrainian Cossack march "Marusya Raz Dva," "Hymn to Red October" from The Hunt for Red October; and Mia Gay's "Medley," an arrangement of songs from Fiddler on the Roof that will take us to intermission.

A Program Note from Grayson Hirst
In the summer of 1933 Adolf Hitler's Third Reich opened Börgermoor, the first of fifteen concentration camps in Germany's northwest Emsland region. Börgermoor, a "protective custody" camp whose main purpose was the exploitation of prisoners as laborers, held four thousand prisoners--members of German workers parties and unions, socialist and communist militants, Social Democrats, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies, Jews, dissenting clergy, and homosexuals. Members of the SS and Storm Troopers ran the camps, assisted by "normal" criminals who were transferred there from maximum-security prisons. Börgermoor was marked by a militarized daily routine and particularly brutal conditions. Guards humiliated and harassed the prisoners, and marched them, exhausted and starving, out to the moors every morning to the wetlands to extract peat from the marshy soil.

Although camp rules banned the singing of traditional leftist songs, a group of prisoners in Camp I secretly set about assembling a new one: Die Moorsoldaten (Peat Bog Soldiers). Their intention was to raise the morale of the prisoners in the two-hour march to and from their struggles out on the moor. The words were provided by a miner named Johann Essert (1896-1971) and an actor and theater director, Wolfgang Langhoff (1901-1966). A white-collar worker, Rudi Goguel (1908-1976), composed the melody.

What emerged from their collective effort was nothing less than one of the most important antifascist protest songs of the 20th century, an extraordinary song of defiance, strength and unbroken will. Börgermoor became the birthplace of a revolutionary document of great significance, a song that stands as an international emblem of spiritual resistance to Nazi oppression.

Die Moorsoldaten was first performed by prisoners in August 1933 during a Zirkus Konzentrazoni--a cabaret presentation at a "cultural evening" in the camp. Sixteen prisoners with spades on their shoulders marched onto a makeshift stage singing the song. Rudi Goguel conducted the Prisonersquoir with a broken spade handle.

At first, the guards were unable to detect anything Communist or Socialist in the text, nor any political implications. Nevertheless, camouflaged in this revolutionary song were coded references to the downfall of Nazism. The prisoners must have given special emphasis to the words "Ewig kann's nicht Winter sein" (it cannot be winter forever) and "Heimat, du bist wieder mein" (homeland, you're mine at last) and "nicht mehr mit dem Spaten" "no more with our spades).

Jean Kralik Drawing

Two days later the camp commandant forbid the singing of the song. Even though it was verboten, Die Moorsoldaten made its way out of Börgermoor, carrying its terrible coded message of what National Socialism really was and what the Nazi terror held in store for humanity, a message pre-World War II was not yet ready to receive.

The Second Half
Along with Die Moorsoldaten we'll sing Zog Nit Keynmol, a song in the same vein by Hirsh Glick. The first line translates, "Never say you are walking your last road." These somber pieces are thrilling to sing. We keep in mind the depth of their meaning and do our best to transmit the feeling to you.

We'll stay in a mostly quiet mode for Ralph Vaughn Williams' "The Turtle Dove," "Sye Ninye Blogoslovyitye Ghóspoda" (Behold Now, Bless the Lord) which our San Xavier audiences enjoyed, "In Remembrance" from Requiem by Eleanor Daley, and Mata del Anima Sola (Tree of the Lonely Soul).

Then it's Katie, bar the door! We'll give you a wonderful arrangement of "Home on the Range," followed by "The Story of 26 Men" from the TV program you may have watched back in the days when a bent coat hanger sufficed for an antenna. We'll back Jo Anderson when she confesses her desire to be a cowboy's sweetheart, and close with Marty Robbins' "El Paso," which dazzled the Hit Parade set in 1960. After you've heard it, try to keep from whistling it as you walk out the door.

It's going to be a fine program. We hope you'll be there and bring friends!

Making Arrangements
Orpheus is fortunate to have several members who arrange a good deal of our music. It's a task requiring an ear for that distinctive sound of a men's choir, and musical expertise to turn works into music that sounds as though it should have been written for us in the first place.

You'll see Vern Williamsen's name in the program four times, Maurice Hill's twice, and Mike Fraser's and Tom Wentzel's once each. We are proud of our brothers who "personalize" so much of our music for us.

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 14th, 7:30 p.m.

Please send me __ tickets @ $13 per.
Please send me __ tickets @ $8 per.

Total $__

Sunday, May 15th, 3:00 p.m.

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.

From the Bookshelf
The ancient myth makers tell us that Orpheus was able to charm nature itself with song. The first of Rainer Maria Rilke's, Sonnets to Orpheus describes Orpheus "constructing" an understanding of the beauty of music, even in the ears of forest animals:

Tree arising! 0 pure ascendance!
Orpheus Sings! Towering tree within the ear!
Everywhere stillness, yet in this abeyance:
seeds of change and new beginnings near.

Creatures of silence emerged from the clear
unfettered forest, from den, from lairs.
Not from shyness, this silence of theirs;
nor from any hint of fear,

simply from listening. Brutal shriek and roar
dwindled in their hearts. Where stood a mere
hut to house the passions of the ear,

constructed of longing darkly drear,
haphazardly wrought from front to rear,
you built them a temple at listening's core.

    -translation by Robert Hunter, 1993

Now, Orpheus sings for sophisticated audiences to decorate the temple.

A Sales Pitch
The envelope you find in this issue is one we hope to see again! We exist by the dues we pay, grants from the Tucson/Pima Arts Council and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, our rummage sale, and the sale of advertising space in our Spring Gala Concert program. We sell CDs and tickets to our performances, and we ask, once a year, for donations through our newsletter.

Volunteerism would be our middle name if we had one. Just ask Van Honeman who stores our risers and hauls them to concerts in the trailer your donations helped us purchase. Or Mike Fraser and Tom Wentzel who keep our books straight to the penny. But we pay our director, our accompanists and arrangers, we buy sheet music and pay ASCAP fees. We pay for the printing and mailing of our newsletter. We rent rehearsal space and concert halls, and we pay a big bill to copy music and print programs. Liability insurance is another major item.

We have earmarked this year's donations to purchase amplified speakers for the Kurzweil keyboard your donations helped us buy several years ago. In venues without a piano, we have been using second tenor Jim Hogan's guitar amplifiers. We thank Jim for his generosity, but we really need something beefier. Two high-quality 120 watt speakers will cost about $1000. That's just $1.62 per addressee on our mailing list. But don't you know that some will forget? So we hope you'll make up the difference with your contribution.

We are a 501 (c) 3 organization. Your generosity is tax deductible.

We invite our on-line readers to donate too. Our address is PO Box 31552, Tucson AZ 85751.

Thanks and Farewell to Bob Swaim
The man whose name graced this newsletter's masthead for the past five-plus years next to the word "Art" has headed in other directions. We will miss his voice, his wit, his dedication, and his drawing.

The caricatures on the following page appeared in the previous 16 issues of the "Voice of Orpheus." Even without a context for the drawings, our readers will doubtless be able to determine something about the personalities or pastimes of the various choir members Bob drew for us. We wish him all the best.

[Swaim Art]

Profiling Tom Wentzel
When the choir ascends the risers and turns to sing the chorus from Tannhäuser, look for the guy who might be a professional wrestler got up like an Orthodox priest. "Boris, the Bulgarian Bone Breaker." That's Tom. But as leader of the sometimes obstreperous basses, he has never applied a choke hold or swung a metal folding chair. He leads with a gentle hand.

Indeed, there is nothing menacing about Tom's hirsute appearance, and it is interesting to note that he does not seek attention by it; rather he would be seen as entirely ordinary. "So," he says, "like Walt Whitman, 'I contradict myself.'"

But there is nothing ordinary about Tom. Even his birth in South China, 47 years ago, marks him as extraordinary; although somewhat less so because it was only South China, Maine. Tom graduated in physics from Bates College in Lewiston, bought his first car, and headed for Tucson in search of an MA and a Ph.D. because two Bates physics professors had touted the U. of A. Added to that were visions from back issues of "Arizona Highways." Tom recalls arriving in Tucson during monsoon season and finding it considerably wetter and browner than advertised. [Tom Wentzel]

As is so often the case with people who are good in math, music was important to Tom early in life. Although he didn't begin formal piano lessons until he was 11, he had climbed many a piano stool well before then. At Bates he sang in the college choir and in the select Collegium Musicum. He also became interested in Shape Note singing, recently made known to the world by Nicole Kidman and a small choir in On Cold Mountain.

Tom has other artistic interests as well. Recently he and his wife, Cindy Meier, produced Chekhov's The Seagull for the Tucson Art Theater. Cindy directed, and Tom took tickets, played selections from Satie and Chopin off stage for a touch of realism, howled an off-stage dog for an extra touch, and sold bottled water and Toll House cookies at intermission.

Yet another of Tom's interests is cartooning. He has produced drawings for the Arizona Daily Wildcat and for the text book University Physics. You can find some of his work online at http://personal.riverusers.com/~cindym

Tom's professional career began at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory prior to the completion of his Ph.D. There he analyzed Voyager II spacecraft data to determine the chemical makeup of the atmosphere of Neptune. Later, following an interest in computer programming begun in high school, he worked at the U. of A. as a data manager. Recently he was the senior data manager for the Arizona Smokers' Helpline. Currently he freelances in computer support and database development.

Apart from his duties as bass section leader, he is the choir's financial secretary and the pianist for baritone/bass sectional rehearsals. He is an accomplished arranger as well, as you will hear in the beautiful "Mata del Anima Sola."

Although Tom has run the Colorado with other rafters, and led hiking groups, he is fond of facing nature alone, daring tricky footing and snakes for the sake of solitude. We suspect he has music running through his head all the while, and we're thankful for it.

Board Member Jo Anne Anderson
The fact that Jo uses the mirror in the ladies room to check the tilt of her hat is all that keeps her from being one of us. She's our traveling companion, our mother confessor, and our superior sister. In short, our pal.

Jo Anne Anderson In 1996 Jo undertook lessons with Grayson Hirst. They worked on some show tunes, but she was afraid to ask him to hear what she liked to do best--yodel. Finally she got up the nerve and sprang it on him. "He about fell out of his chair," she remembers. When Grayson got his breath back, he said, "Have I got a spot for you!" He was right. She's a hit with audiences every time she steps onto the stage in one of her fancy cowgirl get-ups. When she starts to yodel, smiles light up the darkness beyond the footlights.

The yodel came naturally to Jo. From the time she was a kid driving a tractor on the family farm in Atwater, Minnesota, she found yodeling the best way to keep herself company over the growl of the engine.

Jo does a great deal for us off stage too. One of her best efforts was to wangle us two Christmas concerts at the White House in 1998. Once she made up her mind that we ought to sing there, she started working through Congressman Ed Pastor's office to get us an invitation. She sent our tapes and kept up the pressure. The singers knew nothing about this, and Grayson knew only that she was working on an invitation. The invitation came, just as she knew it would!

We needed a venue for an extra Christmas concert to prepare for the White House, so Jo got us one at the Berger Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind, where her husband Ed had been a student and a teacher. That arrangement has grown into an enduring association with ASDB, the Tucson Food Bank, and Albertsons-OSCO.

The Andersons are the proud parents of Jennifer, an actress in television's "Star Trek: Enterprise"; and Lisa, the pastry chef at the Jerome Hotel in Aspen. As a board member, Jo seeks to present Orpheus as a "sophisticated, fun-loving group of volunteers; a classy outfit." It is her desire to find ways to keep the choir stable and growing. Way to go, Jo!

New Fish
Our recruiting nets brought in an unusually rich haul this year. New singers are first tenor Sergio Castro-Reino; second tenors, John Hayes, Mike O'Sullivan, and Carl Russell; baritones Bill Couchman and Ken Harris; and basses Barry Blatt and John Shackelford. The choir is 49 strong going into the end of the season. If you are a singer who has been waiting for someone to cast the bait, consider it done. Call Grayson Hirst at 621-1649. He'll get you on the list for next season.

Twenty-five concerts a year are not enough for some men. So, Orpheus has spawned some new fry who are known variously as the Dry River Singers, the Town Team, or the Flying Squad. They do small gigs under the leadership of Maurice Hill, our first-tenor section leader. They might be just the ticket for an entertainment you'd like to schedule. Call Maurice at 740-0038.

Rummage Sale!

The date: April 23rd. The time: 8:00 to noon. The location: Northminster Presbyterian Church on the southwest corner of Ft. Lowell and Tucson Blvd. Northminster has graciously loaned us a nice space on the Ft. Lowell side. Plenty of parking. We know we'll have a good crowd, but we need some good stuff to sell. Good stuff, please. We'll pick up. Call Matt Perri at 624-9145 to make arrangements.

To thank Northminster we'll present a free concert at the church
the following day, Sunday, April 24th at 3.00 p.m.

Everyone welcome

Read the
January 2005 Newsletter
October 2004 Newsletter
April 2004 Newsletter
February 2004 Newsletter
October 2003 Newsletter
May 2003 Newsletter
February 2003 Newsletter
September 2002 Newsletter

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