WSU's choirs to perform in Winter Choirfest

On Feb. 12, the Weber State University Concert Choir and WSU Chamber Choir will perform in the annual Winter Choirfest.

The WSU Concert Choir, which consists of nearly 80 students, will perform three sections from the cantata “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff. The WSU Chamber Choir, which has about 30 members, will perform a medley from George Gershwin’s 1935 opera, “Porgy and Bess.”

The choirs will also perform several traditional Irish pieces and gospel music, and will preview some of the numbers in the upcoming WSU Opera Scenes.

Both choirs are under the direction of Mark Henderson, professor of choral education.

“We think of ourselves as a living museum of music of the last 300-400 years,” Henderson said.

Carly Peterson, a member of both WSU choirs, said the variety of the music can pose some challenges.

“The variety of the music chosen is always broad. There is always a huge variety — different tempos, different styles. . . . Changing from a full opera tone to . . . a jazz-style tone is very difficult.”

“Porgy and Bess” has many jazz elements. Some of the songs, including one of the pieces the Chamber Choir will perform, titled “Summertime,” are now considered jazz standards.

Despite the difficulties, Peterson said she enjoys the piece.

“’Porgy and Bess’ is really engaging for the audience; it has many dramatic components to it,” she said. “It’s really fun and upbeat.”

Another piece being performed at Winter Choirfest is “In Flanders Fields.” The song borrows its text from the war poem written by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae.

“I love . . . ‘(In) Flanders Fields’ for its ghostly dynamics and droning harmonies,” said Austin Toney, a senior in the WSU music program. “Audience members should listen for the close harmonies and the shimmer of the choir as a whole.”

Henderson said his favorite piece of those being performed is Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

“‘Carmina Burana’ is one of my all-time favorite pieces,” he said. “It’s one of the pieces that convinced me to . . . become a musician. First time I saw it . . . it completely blew me away.”

The first of three sections of “Carmina Burana” to be performed at Wednesday’s performance is “O Fortuna,” which translates from Latin to “O Fortune.” This piece has been replicated and spoofed many times in television and movies. “You know this piece, whether or not you know you know it,” Henderson said.

The second section of “Carmina Burana” is “Floret Silva,” which translates to “The Forest Flowers.” The third and final selection is “Blanziflor et Helna,” which translates to “Blancheflour and Helen.”

All three selections from “Carmina Burana” are for full choirs with no solos. “A complete choir has a fuller tone,” Peterson said. “The sound is broader. It just sounds better. It’s difficult to make more voices blend, but it’s also worth it for the sound.”

Winter Choirfest is a one-night event that will be held in the Austad Auditorium of the Val A. Browning Center on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $6 with student or military ID and $7 for other adults at or 801-626-7000.