Carmina Burana, a Washington Ballet masterpiece, is a powerful and exciting post-modern interpretation of Carl Orff’s raucous retelling of 24 medieval poems. (Photo by media4artists, Theo Kossenas)
The Arlington Children’s Chorus had the honor of performing alongside the Cathedral Choral Society in The Washington Ballet’s Carmina Burana at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts April 13-17, 2016.
Under the tutelage of ACC Artistic Director Kevin Carr, the choristers performed beautifully, rising to the challenge of doing seven shows over the course of five days.
The ACC has been fortunate to have been selected to perform at the Kennedy Center many times over the past decade, usually in the pit with the sensational Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, but Carmina Burana was a rare treat for the children – they got to perform two songs onstage and in costume!
“The children were perfect,” said ACC Artistic Director Kevin Carr. “At one point during a performance, the conductor motioned for the choristers to begin singing at the wrong time, but they realized the mistake immediately. Later backstage, the conductor expressed his joy and gratitude that our singers had done the right thing. He asked them how they knew that they shouldn’t start singing and they replied, ‘we trained and practiced, so we would do well,’ and they did just that,” Carr recounted with pride.
ACC choristers had the amazing opportunity to perform two songs onstage and in costume during the Washington Ballet’s Carmina Burana April 13-17, 2016. (Photo by media4artists, Theo Kossenas)
In her review of the performance, Washington Post Dance Critic Sarah L. Kaufman noted that “departures and beginnings” were on everyone’s mind with “The Washington Ballet’s Artistic Director Septime Webre stepping down in July and American Ballet Theatre’s Julie Kent replacing him.”
Indeed, the ACC choristers were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Webre, who has led The Washington Ballet for some 17 years, tripling its budget, expanding its outreach program, and engaging the talents of top-notch choreographers.
In Carmina Burana, which hasn’t been performed by the company in more than a decade, The Washington Ballet’s talented dancers were accompanied by live musicians; vocal soloists Melissa Wimbish, Timothy Augustin, and Stephen Combs; the Cathedral Choral Society; and the ACC – all conducted by Dr. J. Reilly Lewis, founding conductor of the Washington Bach Consort and music director of the Cathedral Choral Society.
“Opportunities like this don’t come along everyday and we were definitely blessed to be in the right place at the right time,” said ACC Board of Directors President Colleen Holland. “Our choristers got a first-hand look at the behind-the-scenes life of professional dancers, singers, and musicians. They learned so much about what it takes to be on the stage, particularly all the hard work, time, and dedication it takes to pull together a production like this at a world-class venue such as the Kennedy Center,” Holland continued, adding, “Musically our kids were amazing!”
Behind the scenes at the Kennedy Center, Septime Weber, artistic director of The Washington Ballet, instructs the ACC choristers during the technical rehearsal. (Photo courtesy of ACC)
In addition to the thrill of performing live onstage in such an incredible production, the ACC children learned about all the hard work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes during the technical rehearsal on Tuesday, April 12, and the dress rehearsal on April 13 prior to the show’s opening later that evening.
“The exposure we gained from this event will hopefully open even more doors for the ACC and our wonderful choristers,” Holland said.
Haley Armstrong, an 11-year-old Bel Canto who has been a member of the ACC since 2014, couldn’t agree more. “I learned so much and really loved working with all the other singers and dancers. It was such an exciting experience … I wish we could do performances like this every week!”