Renowned vocalists, young musicians join forces in Carmina Burana

The 100-voice York University Concert Choir, directed by Lisette Canton, brings Carl Orff’s riveting song cycle Carmina Burana to life in two concert performances, April 3 and 4, in the intimate setting of York’s McLaughlin Performance Hall.

Carmen Burana soloists

Above: From left, Lesley Andrew, Albert Greer, Benjamin Butterfield and Daniel Lichti

The young singers – all York University students – will be joined by guest soloists soprano Lesley Andrew, tenors Albert Greer (on Sunday) and Benjamin Butterfield (on Monday), and bass-baritone Daniel Lichti.

Carmina Burana means “songs of Beuren” and is based on a collection of irreverent Latin and German poems of the 13th-century. Authorship is attributed to medieval minstrels and defrocked monks and clerics from a Benedictine abbey in Bavaria. The poems comprise religious, political, moral, erotic, Bacchic and satirical verses – or more colloquially: wine, women and love. Orff set these poems to music in 1937.

The concerts will take place Sunday and Monday, April 3-4, at 7:30pm in the McLaughlin Performance Hall, 050 McLaughlin College. Admission is $10 and $5 for students and seniors. For more information, call ext. 55186.

Lisette Canton

Right: Lisette Canton, director of the York University Concert Choir

A spectacular fusion of medieval and modern, the music of Carmina Burana is very accessible. Film enthusiasts will recognize it instantly from John Boorman’s 1981 swashbuckler Excalibur and Oliver Stone’s The Doors, as well as countless TV commercials.

Carmina Burana’s large and colorful orchestration leans heavily on the percussion section. Fulfilling this demanding role at York will be pianists George Brough and Neil Martinez and the York Percussion Ensemble featuring music students Michael Davidson, Jack Cenkowski, Lorie Wolf, Michael Tucker and Eric Feigen under the direction of John Brownell.

The director of Carmina Burana, Lisette Canton joined the faculty in York’s Music Department last summer. A well-known choral and orchestral conductor, she has recorded for CBC radio and television and served on the national jury of the CBC/Radio-Canada Choral Competition for Amateur Choirs in 2004. She is the founder and artistic director of the internationally-acclaimed Ottawa Bach Choir, and has guest-conducted for numerous ensembles in Canada and the United States.

About the guest soloists

Tenor Benjamin Butterfield enjoys an international career as one of Canada’s most sought-after artists, with a long list of concert and opera credits. He has performed to critical acclaim throughout North America and Europe and most recently in Israel and New Zealand. A popular recording artist, Butterfield has made many recordings of the music of Bach, Britten, Schütz and Haydn (CBC, Koch, Marquis) with the American Bach Soloists, the Aldeburgh Connection and Tafelmusik, and most recently with the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra singing French and German opera arias.

Bass-baritone Daniel Lichti is one of Canada’s finest concert and oratorio singers, appearing frequently as soloist with major North American symphonic, choral and concert organizations. He has also been heard throughout Europe, Japan, the United Kingdom and Argentina. His operatic credits include performances at Teatro Dell’Opera di Roma and L’Opéra de Montréal. His discography includes Songs of Hugo Wolf, two discs of Bach cantatas and the Mass in B Minor with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Sony’s The Gift of Messiah, and recordings of lieder by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms with pianist Janina Fialkowska.

Canadian tenor Albert Greer has appeared throughout Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia as the Evangelist in Bach’s Passion; the title role of Britten’s Saint Nicholas; and several premiers including Heirs Through Hope by Robert Fleming (1968), Lustro by R. Murray Schafer (1973) and La Tourangelle by Istvan Anhalt (1975). His recording credits include La Tourangelle, Songs and Arias with pianist George Brough, works by Morawetz and Somers, and the solo role in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s recording of Willan’s An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts. A long-time instructor in York University’s Music Department, he also has a long list of conducting credits.

Canadian soprano Lesley Andrew enjoys an active career as a concert, opera and oratorio singer. She has performed at the Shenandoah Bach Festival, Brott Summer Music Festival, Guelph Spring Festival, Stratford Festival and with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, to name just a few. Her recordings include Celebrating Rodgers with Daniel Lichti, Love…Look Away with the Lesley Andrew Trio, and a solo CD titled Dream a Little Dream.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, communications officer in the Faculty of Fine Arts.