'Carmina Burana' concludes Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2015-16 season with big blowout

Media Contact:
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., April 27, 2016 – Composer Carl Orff isn’t a household name, nor is his most famous work, “Carmina Burana,” necessarily a well-known title.

But it’s likely you’ve heard its opening chorus, “O Fortuna” in movies such as “Jackass,” “Cheaper By the Dozen,” “Natural Born Killers” or “Excalibur.” Or in any number of TV commercials that have made it one of the best-known works of classical music among those who’ve never been to a symphony orchestra concert.

Grand Rapids Symphony closes its 2015-16 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical season with Orff’s cantata on Friday and Saturday, May 13-14 in DeVos Performance Hall. Performances are at 8 p.m.

Tickets start at $18 for adults, $5 for students. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451. Tickets also are available online at GRSymphony.org.

GRS Music Advisor Larry Rachleff leads the orchestra plus the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and Youth Chorus in the performance of “Carmina Burana” that will feature about 300 musicians on stage.

The program of mid-20th century music also includes Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety.” Pianist Kirill Gerstein, a laureate of Kalamazoo’s Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, returns as soloist in the 35-minute work for piano soloist and orchestra.

The concerts that conclude the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical season are presented in partnership with the 2016 Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. Kirill Gerstein’s appearance is sponsored in collaboration with The Gilmore and the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

“Carmina Burana,” which translates as “Songs from Beuern,” was composed in the 1930s. But the German composer set to music medieval texts on life and love, as well as the pleasures of feasting, drinking, gambling and wenching, written by monks who lived between the 11th and 13th century.

One of the most frequently performed works in the choral/orchestral repertoire, “Carmina Burana” last was presented by the Grand Rapids Symphony in November 2010.

Vocal soloists for this production are soprano Andriana Chuchman, tenor Donald George and baritone Hugh Russell, singing a work that’s taxing for all three soloists, each of whom has to sing above and beyond the standard vocal range for their respective voices in the cantata that lasts one hour.

Orff intended for his cantata to be staged with dancing and visual arts, sometimes worthy of a PG-13 rating. But performances of the popular work usually are given in concert settings.

Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 “The Age of Anxiety,” composed in 1948, was inspired by an 80-page poem of the same title by W.H. Auden that tells the story of four lonely strangers who meet in a wartime New York City bar and spend the evening discussing the human condition in general and their own lives in particular. The 80-page poem, written in 1947, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Kirill Gerstein is the recipient of the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award, a prize worth $300,000, awarded every four years to a pianist deemed capable of sustaining a major, international career as a concert artist. The prize is awarded in a secret, behind-the-scenes process, similar to the MacArthur Foundation’s so-called “Genius Grants.” No one apart from the actual award winners ever knows that he or she was under consideration for the Gilmore Award. 

Gerstein, who previously was awarded a Gilmore Young Artist Award in 2002, also won First Prize the year before at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. In 2010, he was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. 

Gerstein last appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in March 2012.


Tickets start $18 and are available at the GRS box office, weekdays 9 am-5 pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10 am - 6 pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased through Ticketmaster at 800.982.2787, online at GRSymphony.org or in person at Ticketmaster outlets at select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. 

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival and provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s website, GRSymphony.org.

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.