From the Director

De_Lyser_croppedOur next concerts, “From Broadway to the Met” are now less than a week away! Don’t forget to take advantage of the 10% discount by ordering your tickets in advance! We hope to see you all there! In the meantime, here are some thoughts from David De Lyser on the third set of concerts in his first season as conductor. You can also hear him talk about the concerts by tuning into All Classical 89.9 FM this Thursday at 6pm, where he’ll be interviewed on “Northwest Previews”. Enjoy!

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Greetings from the podium!  Or part of the carpet that just happens to be in front of the choir anyway.

We’ve been quite busy putting the finishing touches on our Opera and Broadway concerts and are quite excited to perform them for you.  Putting this concert together was truly a group effort, as suggestions came from all different parts of the choir – we have full choruses, choruses with solos, solo and small ensemble pieces, a song for just the men and of course one for just the women as well.  The difficult part of programming this concert was figuring out what not to sing and the list of pieces we reluctantly let go is long and varied.  But what remains is some of the best choruses and pieces in the opera and musical theatre genres.  Susan Wladaver-Morgan has once again written some stellar program notes that are on the blog as well, so I won’t duplicate.  What I can tell you is that this won’t be your traditional choir concert.  It is one part cabaret, one part concert and one part show – it will be at times moving and dramatic, and at other times just plain silly – just like the genres from which our program is drawn.  Many members of the choir will step into solo roles and some even into character.  We will sing both Verdi and Wagner, of course, as 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of their births.  Talk about a very good year!  It is this fact, actually, that began the whole idea for this concert.

This is also a return of sorts to musical theatre for me personally, having been away from it for a few years.  In 10th grade I was asked to join the pit orchestra, as they were short a trumpet player.  I reluctantly said yes, and was hooked from the first rehearsal.  The show was Hello Dolly.  I had never been a part of anything like that in my life, and I went on to play in pit orchestras for community, regional and dinner theatres all over the Minneapolis and Chicago area, and then on to become both music director and pit conductor for productions at the University of Wisconsin, where I taught before coming to Portland a few years ago.  In my last year of undergrad, having spent many a show in the pit, I decided to see what it was like on stage for a change and actually went to the actors’ audition.  I expected nothing to come from it, but suddenly found myself playing Elijah J. Whitney (“you know, Wall Street’) in Anything Goes.  While it was a ton of fun (I spent most of the musical pretending to be drunk), my home was really in the pit.  Studying music in undergrad and grad school introduced me to the amazing genre of opera, which I have grown to love equally as well.  The magical melding of music and theatre is just something so far beyond the sum of its parts.  In that regard, preparing this concert has been an amazing amount of fun.  So…what can you expect?

We’ll have a few guest musicians to add to the majesty of our opening piece, the Triumphal March from Verdi’s Aida (though sadly, we could not figure out how to work in an elephant).   From processing soldiers, loyal subjects and priests, we’ll become pilgrims returning home with Wagner’s “Pilgrim’s Chorus” from Tannhäuser.  Under assistant conductor Megan Elliott, we’ll become gossiping neighbors, eager for a good story as we sing Offenbach’s “The Neighbor’s Chorus.”  Under assistant conductor Holly Schauer, we will sing longingly of our homeland in perhaps Verdi’s most famous opera chorus, the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco.  This will be followed by Copland’s equally powerful “Promise of Living” from The Tender Land.  In the midst of a serious identity crisis, the choir at this point will just leave the stage.   Fortunately, Devin Moran will stay behind to sing a beautiful aria from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.   Megan Elliott and Holly Schauer will also return as the Countess and Susanna in one of Mozart’s most famous duets, the “Letter Duet” from The Marriage of Figaro.  We’ll close the first half with two very familiar Verdi choruses, “The Anvil Chorus” from Il trovatore and the ‘Drinking Song” from La traviata, featuring Richard Springer and Kelsey Anderson.

Our second half is all Broadway, starting with the gamblers from Guys and Dolls and moving through classics by George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin that extol the virtues of both Broadway and show business.   And no Broadway program would be complete without some Leonard Bernstein, who in many ways blurred the lines between opera and musical theatre and could put the most touching aria right next to a jazz-influenced Mambo and make it work!  We’ll have a little fun with two of the lighter numbers from West Side Story, and then turn to the touching finale from Candide.  After Megan Elliott sings of the woes of being an alto, the choir will return with a piece that has become such a standard, it’s easy to forget that it started on Broadway,  Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me.  We’ll close the concert with the powerful finale from act I of Les Misérables, One Day More, featuring seven of our choir members in solo roles.  I even get to have a little fun singing the role of bad guy Javert.

So come and join us for some of the best of Opera and Broadway, genres, born respectively in Europe and America, that combine the best of both the theatrical and musical worlds to transport us into some of the greatest stories ever told.