SOMERS — The Choral Arts Society of Southeastern Wisconsin has joined creative forces with The Studio of Classical Dance Arts to bring audiences here a new, collaborative production they describe as “a boisterous feast for the senses.”

Members of the 65-voice chorus (plus soloists) and dancers from the professional ballet school — along with a local youth choir from Our Musical Life — will all come together on stage at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside March 17 and 18 to present Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

Even those who don’t know its name, or that of its composer, are likely familiar with “Carmina Burana” as it is one of the most widely recognized pieces of music ever written, according to James Schatzman, CAS artistic director. The powerfully percussive choral work, written by Orff in 1936, has been used in commercials selling everything from Old Spice aftershave to Gatorade and York Peppermint Patties. And, to this day, its performance “fills concert halls all over the world, over and over again,” Schatzman said.

“This music has such a strong emotional connection,” he said. “It really hit a nerve when Orff wrote it and continues to hit a nerve today. It goes straight through to your heart.”

Feast for eyes and ears

What sets this “Carmina Burana” presentation apart from many others is its combination of singers and dancers, performing together on stage. While many choruses, including the CAS, have sung it — and some ballet companies have danced it — it is very rare to see it done with oral and visual components together, even though Orff originally intended this work to be a feast for both the ears and eyes, Schatzman said.

“When I saw the Studio’s ‘Nutcracker’ production a couple years ago, and saw how amazingly talented these dancers are, and how gifted Marc (Darling) and Linda (Bennett) are, I had dreamed of doing this with them ever since,” he said.

Darling and Bennett — the Studio’s directors and both former dancers with the Milwaukee Ballet — said they are thrilled to be collaborating with the chorus, and are excited for their dancers to have the opportunity to perform with live musical accompaniment (www.classicaldancearts.com). The power and majesty of 85 voices filling the stage, along with pianos and percussion filling the orchestra pit, will lift their dancers to a whole different level of performance, the couple said.

“They will have a spontaneity and depth to their performing that can only happen with live music,” Darling said.

Our Musical Life

Schatzman said he is also excited to be working with Timothy Keith Griffin and his young singers from Our Musical Life on this production. Our Musical Life is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering and enriching lives through music, in partnership with the Racine Unified School District’s extended learning (www.ourmusicallife.org).

Vivre, an OML satellite choir from Giese Elementary School, will be singing “Carmina Burana” with the CAS. And Schatzman said he enjoys be able to have these young singers be part of a production of this scope and energy.

Orff’s masterwork is a collection of medieval poems set to music that express the joys and sorrows of youth, love and fortune. And, while some lyrics and versions of its performance are geared more toward adults, Bennett and Darling want to assure audiences that this production of “Carmina Burana,” like all of The Studio’s performances, will be age-appropriate.

Along with the dancers and choruses, “Carmina Burana” will feature vocal soloists Nancy Anne Davis (soprano), Walter Boyer (baritone) and Benjamin Horvat (tenor).

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 17, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 18, in the Main Stage Theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, 900 Wood Road, Somers. Seating is reserved and tickets for adults cost $15 in advance and $17 at the door. Seniors pay $12 or $14 and student tickets cost $5. They can be purchased in advance at www.choralartsonline.org or at The Studio of Classical Dance Arts, 2745 Chicory Road.

More information is also available by contacting the CAS via email at admin@choralartsonline.org or by calling 262-634-3250.

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Features Reporter

Lee Roberts is the features writer for The Journal Times, covering a wide range of subjects, from the local arts scene to profiles of interesting people and places in our community. She is also a part-time page editor.

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