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The Voice of Orpheus

Volume 8, #2      Spring 2007
       Art: Tom Wentzel         Editor: Ned Mackey

        Spring Has Sprung
    In the Spring a fuller crimson comes
        upon the robin's breast;
    In the Spring the wanton lapwing
        gets himself another crest;
    In the Spring a livelier iris changes
        on the burnish’d dove;
    In the Spring a young man’s fancy
        lightly turns to thoughts of love.

The biological imperative Tennyson cites may operate in older gents as well, but for Sons of Orpheus of all ages such whims vie with preparations for our spring concerts. We are sending our tuxedos out for cleaning, shining our shoes, and limbering up for conquests:

Green Valley Spring Concert, March 25, 2:00 p.m. at the Green Valley Community Church, Esperanza and La Cañada. Free admission, a good will offering during intermission.

Spring Gala, April 1, 3:00 p.m. at the Proscenium Theater on the Pima College West Campus, 2202 W. Anklam. Tickets: $15. $10 for seniors and students. Box office open M-F from 11 to 4. The phone number is 206-6986.

SaddleBrooke Spring Concert, April 22, 3:00 p.m. at the Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 Clubhouse Drive. Tickets: $15 plus a $3.25 fee at www.saddlebrookemvcountryclub.com or at 1-800-818-1000 ($.75 fee), or directly at The Mountain View Clubhouse ($.75 fee). Or at the door.

Ticket Orders
Because we expect a full house for the April 1st Spring Gala, we are pleased to offer our readers tickets by mail via the newsletter. Send your ticket request with a check or cash and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to PO Box 31552, Tucson, AZ 85751. We’ll send you your tickets so you can wave at friends as you walk by the box office line.

Remembering Winter
It was a cold one, wasn’t it? But fine for singing. We began our Christmas season almost as early as Walmart, singing December 1st for a large and appreciative audience at the elegant Desert View Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke. Orpheus Board President Larry Ross and his wife Sonja Rath feted us with a delightful reception after the concert.

We repeated the program two days later with a benefit for the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation at the Valley Presbyterian Church.

We performed six concerts in three nights at the beautiful old Mission San Xavier del Bac with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, organist Janet Tolman, sopranos Erika Burkhart, Rachel Kuhn, and Heather Ribblett; baritone Rodney Glassman, violinist Rebekah Butler, and a brass quartet from the U. of A.

The choir men customarily remain in our lines after the recessional to greet the audience as they pass by us on the way to the parking lot. It’s a most gratifying activity. The boys think it’s a good thing too because it allows them to be first in line for the hot cider and delicious food the Tohono O’odham community serves up to the performers.

The SaddleBrooke and Green Valley programs featured something quite unusual—an opus composed by Bach. Not THAT Bach, or even one of his relatives. Rather P.D.Q. Bach (known to his parents as Peter Schickele), the composer of such works as the cowboy oratorio Oedipus Tex.

We sang P.D.Q. Bach’s Christmas masterpiece “Good King Kong” and accompanied ourselves on kazoos. There is nothing quite so satisfying to singers as an audience sitting in rapt attention, and there is nothing that demands attention (or was it astonishment?) like 38 men playing kazoos.

P.D.Q. Bach’s Intracephalic Flute

To be fair to the Bach family, in the sacred section of these programs we did sing the J.S. Bach/Charles Gounod “Ave Maria” behind soprano Rachel Kuhn.

The Community Food Bank Benefit
The Berger Center was the venue for our final performance prior to the San Xavier concerts. Food City stores advertised the concert and set up bins for their customers. The men collected food and cash in the weeks prior to the concert, and Orpheus Board members collected food and cash at the door.

The ASDB kids held their own food drive for the event. Altogether the concert enriched the Food Bank by 2451 pounds of food and over $1300 in cash.

We shared the stage with students from the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind and with Los Changuitos Feos, a young mariachi band. For us, the highlight of the evening was our singing and signing of “White Christmas,” led by Joe Camarillo. We can’t be sure the deaf kids had the slightest idea about what we were trying to communicate, but we had practiced faithfully and did the best we could.

The Choir Makes the Sports Page
Wildcat forward/center Radenovich was not the only Iván to get his picture in the paper the morning after Arizona’s big win over ASU January 24th. Orpheus bass Iván Berger made it too, smiling, tipping his Stetson to the crowd. Radenovich is pictured going for a rebound; Berger is going for applause.

About our performance, the sports reporter, who obviously also has some musical acumen, wrote, “The UA brought out the A team for the national anthem—Sons of Orpheus, a 30 person male choir whose singers wear tuxedos and jet-black cowboy hats. As usual they nailed the anthem—crisp, clear and manly.”

Orpheus believes the “Star Spangled Banner” ought to be sung crisply and clearly. No syrupy crooning, please! Think about the words. It’s a fight song!

Tongue Twisters
As always, we enjoyed our appearance with the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra in February. We struggle annually with the Russian pronunciation, so it is rewarding when Russian speakers in the orchestra tell us we do it pretty well. I suppose it’s true because they keep inviting us back.

We use transliterations of the Russian texts, so at least we don’t have to learn the Cyrillic alphabet; but try wrapping your tongue around these lines from the beautiful “Padhmaskovniye Vyechera” (Moscow Nights), where a=ah, e=eh, i=ee, i=i in hit, o=oh, u=oo in boot, y= y in yet, zh=s in treasure.

ryech ka dvyizhyetsa i nye dvyizhyetsa
pyesnya slishitsa i nye slishitsa
a rasfyet uzhe fsyo zamyetnyeye

How’d you do? Perhaps you discovered that just because you manage the first dvyizhyetsa or slishitsa, you don’t necessarily bag the second one. And there are sounds that are completely foreign to our ears, one of them a short, guttural slide from uh to ee.

At least we’ll look Russian in our red rubashkas when the Balalaikas join us for a set in our April 1 concert. You’ll think we just got off the boat from Vladivostok.

An Evening of Love Songs
During Valentine’s Day week for the past four years, Rodney Glassman, a former Orpheus singer and Board member, and current Tucson City Council candidate, has put on a lavish show to raise funds for his Glassman Foundation—an organization that contributes generously to the community, especially children. Orpheus has appeared on the program previously, and this year we collaborated with the excellent Southern Arizona Women’s Chorus to do our bit for the cause. Terrie Ashbaugh, the women’s director, created a delightful arrangement of the Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-four,” for the two choirs to sing. It was a piece that seemed to play well with Tucson’s upper crust.

One of our men, a singer with plenty of snow on his roof even before the January 21 storm, asked if we might change the text to “When I’m Seventy-four.” His remark got some laughs, but it was received in silence by those unable to comprehend such a large number and those lost in nostalgia.

David Yetman on Vanished Music
[Editor’s note: Three hundred years ago, at the time William Congreves penned the line “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,” the Jesuits were putting the philosophy into practice. Our intrepid bass, host of KUAT’s The Desert Speaks, discusses this ploy, its outcomes and aftermath.]

Toward the end of the seventeenth century, Jesuit priests undertook a campaign to pacify recalcitrant and suspicious Indians living in the Chaco forests and savannah of Paraguay and eastern Bolivia. The Spanish Crown thought it cheaper and more efficient to have the clerics pacify and Europeanize the natives than to round them up as slaves or send soldiers to kill them all off.

The Jesuits slowly gained acceptance among these previously unreceptive people by attracting their curiosity through music. The priests played as many instruments as possible in the presence of indigenous people and began to teach the natives—especially Guaranís and Chiquitos—to play, and later to sing. The strategy was successful. Before long the missionaries extended the training to painting, sculpture, theater, and instrument making. By the mid-1700s the Indians were producing high quality instruments that made their way into European orchestras. By the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, each mission in the region had two pipe organs, one of them made entirely of native materials, the other with brass or tin pipes.

Most contemporary observers reserved their greatest praise for the natives’ vocal music. Missions were urban centers, often with hundreds of native peoples who formed choirs. The priests trained them in singing the most complex of European choral music, so that each mission had its own orchestra and choir, providing the few visitors who reached the remote missions with music of such transcendent beauty that they could scarcely describe it.

But the Jesuits went beyond the desires of the Crown. Missions were communally owned religious institutions. No private property existed, and the communities were by law off limits to outsiders. They became highly productive agricultural enterprises, but all the revenues were distributed equally among the natives. The mission holdings generated no taxes, and no outsiders were able to profit. Secular Spaniards found the whole idea of communitarianism repulsive. They viewed the missions as impediments to development and resented the Jesuits’ protection of the Indians. Through political machinations they managed to have the Jesuits expelled and the missions abolished. The utopian communities vanished within a few years as Indians were enslaved, died of diseases, or were forced back into the jungles.

In a few restored missions in Bolivia and in a handful of museums, ancient pipe organs, violins, clarinets, and oboes manufactured by Chiquitos are on display. In a few places, the vintage instruments can still be played, and in the backdrop of tropical forests one can envision hundreds of Indians gathered in an orchestra. The voices, chorales, arias, and fugues were permanently silenced.

Grayson Hirst on Il Trovatore
Giuseppe Verdi set about composing his 17th opera, Il Trovatore, in November of 1852. Though the work was probably long pondered, the actual putting of music to paper is said to have taken place in only 28 days. One can hardly believe it. But then the mysteries of so great a genius are not easily fathomed. It is certain that the full score was finished by the 14th of December. Rehearsals began immediately after Christmas.

The eagerness of the Roman public to hear Verdi’s new work was extraordinary. Even though the Tiber had flooded the district around the theater, lines began to form by 8 o'clock in the morning. Despite increased admission prices, the cold, the mud, and water up to the ankles, a great crowd shoved and disputed in order to get places for that evening’s performance. By midday the house was sold out!

The opening of Il Trovatore on January 19, 1853 at the Teatro Apollo received the greatest possible enthusiasm. And yet a few shortsighted critics were harsh: "Bel canto has been ruined, to be replaced by sobs and shouts of rage.” Such critics failed to see that Verdi had turned away from earlier 19th century models toward more modern vocal conquests; that by virtue of his own innate, irrepressible Italian fury, he had burst through the Victorian crinolines, antimacassars and eiderdown and created a late flowering of the Italian romantic tradition possible only to one who had seen beyond it. Heroic singing had been born.

Il Trovatore has enjoyed uninterrupted success from the day of its first performance. Verdi’s remarkable expression of the romantic, hot blooded drama of chivalry began its victorious march throughout the operatic world. Its melodies are more widely known than perhaps those of any other opera. In spite of Enrico Caruso’s famous dictum that all the opera requires is the four greatest singers in the world, and notwithstanding imitation, parody, inadequate singing, and barrel organs, Il Trovatore has survived for a century and a half. That is because it is a work of immense verve, dramatic power, and passionate expression, an explosion of emotional fire. It is the forty-year-old Verdi working at white heat.

Giuseppe Verdi in a studio photograph

More from Grayson
Gifted young students who aspire to a career in music need a place to test their powers and sharpen their skills, and so our choir provides an ongoing showcase for outstanding student musicians and other talented local performers. At our 2007 Gala Spring Concert Orpheus is honored to introduce five young performers worthy of your attention: Tammi Huber, soprano; Chris Hutchinson, tenor; J. Adam Shelton, tenor; Marcus Terrell Smith, baritone; and Rebekah Butler, violinist.

Recruiting Singers for a European Tour
Board president Larry Ross and tour planners within the choir are beginning to build a two week trip for the summer of 2008. They envision the international music competition and festival in Graz, Austria as the keystone. (See www.musicamundi.com). Around this event they’ll arrange concerts with established local choirs to assure full houses and great post-concert parties. As has been the case in each of our three previous European tours, singers and fellow travelers will ride in comfortable coaches, stay in good hotels, and have plenty of time for sightseeing.

By the time our fall newsletter comes out, we’ll have a pretty good idea of a schedule and the costs. We’ll invite our readers to travel with us.

We intend to add a few singers for 2007- 2008 to represent Tucson with the richest sound we can muster. That’s the Orpheus way! For audition information, please contact us at sonsoforpheus.org or by phone to Grayson Hirst at 621-1649.

Profiling Bruce Mortensen
An eleven-year veteran of the choir, Bruce provides us not only a fine tenor voice but a most important nonmusical connection as well: he is our clothier. As a result of his experience in the clothing business and his connection with A Tailor Tuxedo & Bridal, we get good deals on tuxedos and all the bits that go with them; good deals also for other costumes like our cowboy getups: leather vests and string ties. Our Christmassy red satin pocket handkerchiefs are gifts from Bruce, and through his good offices the choir was able to purchase a substantial number of white dinner jackets at an astonishingly good price. It’s true that they had been slightly distressed along the road from manufacturer to consumer, but nothing you can see from the front row.

It was the clothing business that got Bruce into Orpheus in the first place. While fitting Jim Hogan for a tuxedo, Bruce learned that his customer needed it to sing in a men’s choir. Thus we sewed up another tenor.

Dress-up Bruce

Bruce has been interested in music from the days when he was small enough to crawl under the grand piano to listen as his mother taught private lessons in their home in Clinton, Iowa. Music was his inside passion. Outside, he was likely to be found building rafts and floating on them in the barge lanes on the Mississippi. “Nothing as thrilling,” says Bruce, “as bobbing on a raft between two massive moving walls.” His friends may have called him Huck!

Fortunately for Orpheus, music won out. Bruce sang in school choirs, making the Iowa All-State choir as a freshman. Later he sang summer stock in Hello Dolly and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Moving to Nebraska, Bruce discovered that the money was better in the vacuum cleaner business. At age 19, he became the youngest Electrolux manager in the country.

Circumstances kept moving Bruce closer to Tucson. After a stop in Sedona, Bruce made it the rest of the way and has lived here for 26 years. He has two grown sons, Jesse and Derek, and a youngster, Ian, at Catalina Foothills High. A chip off the old block, Ian will be appearing in Sweeny Todd. His dad couldn’t be prouder.

Bruce appreciates the camaraderie of the group, especially as it develops during tours; he is looking forward to July 2008.

Van Honeman, I Presume
Doughty travelers Van and Jean Honeman just returned from a two-week trip to southern Africa, one feature of which was a rafting trip down the Zambezi. Before he left, we reminded Van to stay in the middle of the stream if he fell overboard so as to make it harder for the wildlife to get at him. We love Jean too, but Van hauls our riser trailer so we can’t afford to lose him.

Van is an experienced whitewater guide who has turned over more than once in his day, but never where there were hippos sunning on the banks, licking their chops for a bite of Arizona baked man.

Unrummage Redux
For many years our spring fundraiser was a rummage sale. It was seldom as successful as we needed it be. Often, for one thing, we somehow managed to have it on a nasty day. For another, our softhearted drummers proved incapable of selling items for the ticketed price. One singer, for example, donated, upon the insistence of his wife, a perfectly good mountain bike and tagged it for 90 bucks. It was ridden off the lot for 5. And so it was that the yard sale culture waited feverishly each year for the day of our sale.

We disappointed them in 2006 by holding an Unrummage Sale and offering our men the chance to win a $150 gift certificate from Fleming's Steak House. The men were so grateful for not having to spend a day being duped by crafty garage sale habitués that they came through as though they had just won the lottery. We made a similar prize available to the readers of our newsletter, who responded more than generously, as we hope you will again this year.

We remind you that singing is an expensive enterprise for amateurs. We do receive grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Tucson Pima Arts Council. We sell our CDs and we sing for our supper, but many of our concerts are fundraisers for other organizations. Our annual dues are $120, and we buy or rent our own costumes. We rent auditoriums and rehearsal space, and we pay ASCAP and licensing fees. We pay printing costs for music, programs, and our newsletter. We buy equipment, carry liability insurance, and keep our director, accompanists, recording engineers, and some arrangers and outside soloists clothed and fed.

Here’s how you can help: Write a check
to Orpheus at PO Box 31552, Tucson 85751. For $20 we’ll put a ticket with your name on it in a jar. For $40 you’ll get two tickets, on up as high as you care to go in $20 increments. We’ll announce the winner at the April 1st concert. If you win and you’re not there, we’ll be disappointed, but we’ll mail you your gift certificate.

It gets better! In addition, if you donate $50 we’ll send you either our Cowboy Classics CD or our San Xavier Christmas CD. For $100 you get them both. (We are a 501 (c) 3 org.)

Calling All Boys and Men!
Orpheus and the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus are sponsoring the first annual Boys to Men Choral Festival. Saturday, April 28 is the date for the inaugural event to be led by Dr. Brook Larson, an outstanding choral director from Arizona State University. Maybe we'll teach him "Bear Down, Arizona!" while he's with us!

Registration is at 9:00 a.m. Participants will warm up from 9:30 to 10:00. From 10:00 to noon, singers will rehearse in small-group sessions. After a free lunch, a two-hour rehearsal will finish the task of turning a disparate group of men and boys into a choir ready to sing for the public. The doors will open at 2:30 or thereabouts, and the one-hour concert will begin at 3:00. Sons of Orpheus and the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus will fill out the program.

Men will pay a $10 fee; no charge for boys. Invitations to singers will go out through school and other choral programs, and through media announcements. For more information and a registration form, see www.boyschorus.org/btmcf.html or call 296-6277.

We hope every boy and man who likes to sing will put April 28 on the calendar. It’s going to be a great day. Sing for a lifetime!

Recent CDs:
Christmas at Mission San Xavier del Bac, with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and various soloists.*

Cowboy Classics of the Old West, with the Bill Ganz Western Band.*

Live at the Proscenium, a recording of our 12th annual Spring Concert.

Jim Hogan’s Home in Arizona, with the Bill Ganz Band.

* Available at Borders or on our website: www.sonsoforpheus.org

The Spring Program

Two choruses from Il Trovatore, G. Verdi:

D’amor, sul’ali rosee and Miserere from Act IV.
Tammi Huber, soprano
Christopher Hutchinson, tenor
J. Adam Shelton, tenor

Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie (Anvil Chorus) from Act II.
(Anvilists to be determined at the gym.)

Rainer Maria Rilke/Morten Lauridsen

Bashana Haba ‘ah.
Ehud Manor/Nurit Hirsh

Ave Maria (Meditation de Thaïs).
Jules Massenet, arr. Thomas Wentzel

Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears.
Brendan Graham, arr. John Leavitt.
Jim Hogan and the Lost Chords

Padmaskovniye Vychera (Moscow Nights).
C.Rappaport, arr. Vern Williamsen

Mityelitsa, Russian folk song.
Christopher Hutchinson, tenor

Oy, to Nye Vyecher, Russian folk song.
arr. Mia Gay

Kalinka, Russian folk song.
J. Adam Shelton, tenor


Think on Me.
Mary Queen of Scots, arr. Victor C. Johnson

She Walks in Beauty.
Lord Byron/Earlene Rentz

Danny Deever.
Rudyard Kipling/Walter Damrosch.
Marcus Terrell Smith, baritone

You Raise Me Up.
Brendan Graham/Ralph Løvland

This Is the Moment. From Jekyll and Hyde.
Frank Wilhorn, arr: Ray Tess

In the Still of the Night.
Fred Paris.
Jim Hogan and the Lost Chords

Colorado Trail. American folk song,
arr. Donald Moore

Old Dan Tucker. American folk song,
arr. Douglas L. Ipson

Pianist, Brent Burmeister.
(With Mark Rethman—Anvil Chorus and Old Dan Tucker.)

Read the
Winter 2006 Newsletter
May 2006 Newsletter
January 2006 Newsletter
October 2005 Newsletter
April 2005 Newsletter
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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