Beginning in the 16th century, the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri church in Rome achieved notoriety for a unique style of musical religious service. In an effort to instill moral musical entertainment, St. Philip Neri instituted services which included two musical acts separated by a sermon. With a name derived from the church where it originated and the and Latin verb, orare, meaning “to pray”, these performances came to be known as oratorios.
No longer restricted to religious services, oratorios are substantial musical compositions, interlacing the varied talents of an orchestra, choir, and multiple soloists into a singular production. In contrast to operas, oratorios are focused on the music and performed in concert form without the use of costumes or scenery.
As a part of the Distinguished Artist Series, the United States Naval Academy (USNA) is proud to present the 47th Annual Spring Oratorio with a spectacular evening performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Orff’s oratorio, written in 1936, is based upon 24 of the 254 poems and dramatic texts found in the anonymous 13th century Carmina Burana manuscript. Describing an exuberant and earthy celebration of fate and fortune, this five-section oratorio is mostly performed in Latin, with several movements sung in Old French and Middle High German.
One of the 21st centuries most frequently performed choral works, audiences may also recognize the music from Carmina Burana from popular culture. The dramatic effect Orff’s oratorio creates has been used to enhance the movie-going experience as background music in films such as Glory, The Hunt for Red October, The Doors, and The General’s Daughter. A selection from the composition was even featured in an Old Spice advertisement.
For this season’s Spring Oratorio, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra will join the critically acclaimed USNA Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs. Both the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs are highly acclaimed music organizations representing the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps with honor, pride, and distinction. Frequently traveling abroad separately and together, as a co-ed glee club, both have appeared at high-profile events, such as The Kennedy Center Honors and Christmas in Washington, as well as at the Vatican and for the State Funeral for President George H. W. Bush. In March, the USNA Glee Clubs traveled through Florida and Virginia for their Spring Break Concert Tour before finally returning to the Yard for the Spring Tour “Home” Concert.
Founded in 1962, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra is in its 58th year as a performing arts organization and features 70 professional musicians. The orchestra’s mission is to “produce, present and promote memorable symphonic music that increases awareness, enjoyment, and appreciation of music for all ages throughout the region”.
This year marks the Distinguished Artists Series’ 29th season. First held in 1991 with the opening of Alumni Hall, the majority of productions continue to be performed in the Alumni Hall venue. Senior leadership at the USNA enthusiastically provides support for the arts through the Distinguished Artists Series. Through continued sponsorship of this program, Midshipmen are exposed to and involved with the arts as a method to broaden and enhance their education.
The Spring Oratorio performance that was scheduled for Friday, April 17, 2020 will be cancelled due to COVID-19.
Those interested in supporting fine arts, the Brigade of Midshipmen, and the ongoing efforts of the Distinguished Artists Series may also inquire about becoming season subscribers.