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"I have conducted Carmina Burana before but this will be the biggest production thus far.."

Benjamin NortheyConductor - Carmina Burana (2020)

Benjamin Northey, a well known Australian Conductor joins us for Carmina Burana and chats with us about the intricacies of the work.

How would you describe Carmina Burana?

In a word, it’s big!  It calls for a huge chorus and orchestra and well as children’s chorus and vocal soloists.  The scale gives this work enormous power and impact, and that’s before we even get to the music.

What do you love most about Carl Orff’s piece?

I love the directness of Orff’s musical language.  As the work is very driven by the text, Orff keeps the accompanying music quite raw with many repeated sections.  This gives it instant familiarity, much the same as a modern popular song form with verses and choruses being easily recognisable.

Is this the first time you have conducted Carmina Burana?

 I have conducted it before but this will be the biggest production of it thus far.

What’s it like conducting such a big choir?

Conducting choirs is one of the best aspects my role.  The choirs are prepared well in advance and come together during the week of rehearsals.  There is an extraordinary sense of the humanity of a large choir with it’s range of wonderful and diverse humans all contributing to a magical total result.

What is Carmina Burana about?

There isn’t really a storyline running through the Carmina Burana.  It’s more a reflection or commentary on being a human being with all of our wonders and flaws.  As it’s all based on secular medieval poems it does show that despite the tremendous social and technological changes over the past 750 years, people are still confronting the same kinds of questions about our behaviour.  Broad themes of the Carmina Burana are, the pointlessness of our addiction to fortune and wealth, our insignificant place in the universe, the joy of new life and spring and our experiences with a side of life we don’t always feel comfortable talking about – drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.

What is one thing audiences might not know about Carmina Burana?

The structure of the work is based on the structure of the Fortuna Wheel.  The goddess Fortuna spins the wheel and our fates are changed seemingly at random.  We hear this famous setting at the beginning and end of Carmina Burana ‘O Fortuna’.  It has to be experienced live to be fully appreciated!