1st Orlando Sings Festival Honors Pulse Victims and Black Songwriters – Orlando Sentinel

The first festival of Orlando sings will have both dark and uplifting moments. The new professional choral organization, which presented its first concert in November, will now launch the Orlando Sings Choral Festival.

A series of three concerts, starting on May 26, the festival will pay tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016; honoring both historical and contemporary black composers; and top it all off with a concert at Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

“We hope a festival here will be exciting and reinforce Orlando’s growing reputation as a hub for choral music,” said Artistic and Executive Director Andrew Minear.

The organization includes two ensembles, the Solaria Singers — made up of professional singers based in Central Florida — and the largest 80-member symphony choir, which bolsters the pros with volunteers after “rigorous” auditioning, Minear said.

The Solaria Singers kick off the festival with a performance May 26 at the Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center in downtown Orlando.

This concert will pay tribute to black composers, many of whom have failed to get their due from the musical establishment.

“We are committed to playing music that represents the diversity of our community,” Minear said. “There is a whole treasure trove of music that has largely gone undiscovered” by mainstream music listeners.

The program will include a selection of spirituals, but will also showcase other forms of musical expression by black composers. Among the historical figures whose music will be heard: R. Nathaniel Dett and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Contemporary composers, including Zanaida Robles and André Thomas, will also be featured.

The Solaria Singers will be joined by famed Master Singers from Jones High School in Orlando, led by Andrea Green.

Minear and the student choir hope to build bridges that will create a more diverse arts scene for the future.

“Part of the philosophy of bringing high school singers on stage is to activate those relationships,” he said. “Hopefully some of these singers will become professional adult singers.”

The second concert of the festival will be part of the Pulse Remembrance Week events, and representatives of the One Pulse Foundation will hold a reflection before the start of the concert.

The Orlando Sings Symphonic Chorus will perform Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem on June 9 at First United Methodist Church in Orlando, accompanied by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and organist Michael Ging.

“It’s one of the most ravishing choral works ever written,” said Minear, explaining that the composer’s use of Gregorian chant makes the piece both contemporary and timeless.

Also on the program, “Tse Go La (On the threshold of this life)” by Andrea Clearfield. It is inspired by the work that Clearfield and ethnomusicologist Katey Blumenthal did in a remote region of the Himalayas in Nepal, bordering Tibet, where they documented and recorded indigenous music.

“Tse Go La ‘takes a journey from birth’ to passing from this life to the next,” Minear said. “Although it’s not a requiem, it’s an appropriate way to reflect on our lives and our humanity.”

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The final concert, June 11 at Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center, will feature Eric Whitacre’s “The Sacred Veil,” accompanied by piano and cello.

“The stunning acoustics of this room will bring such a level of clarity” to the music, Minear said.

The cello, played by David Bjella, represents the veil itself – the bridge between this world and the hereafter.

In ‘The Sacred Veil’, poet/lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri tells a story of life, love and heartbreak based on the loss of his wife, Julie, to ovarian cancer at the age of 36. years in 2005.

“It’s a powerful story of love and loss and ultimately of comfort and acceptance,” said Minear, whose wife also died of cancer. “This work is deeply personal. I believe everyone in the audience will be moved, a significant healing for anyone who has suffered a loss.

The program will close with Shawn Kirchner’s “Heavenly Home,” three songs of faith and hope that will create “an exciting and uplifting finale,” Minear said.

  • When or: May 26 at the Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center, 445 S. Magnolia Ave. in Orlando; June 9 at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, 142 E. Jackson St. in Orlando; June 11 at the Steinmetz Hall of the arts center.
  • Tickets: Tickets start at $39 for the first two performances and $29 for the final show. Customers interested in attending all three concerts can benefit from a discount by first purchasing a ticket for the second concert (with Duruflé’s Requiem). Orlando Sings will then send a discount code which will take 25% off the ticket price for the other two concerts.
  • Information: OrlandoSings.org

Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts, facebook.com/matthew.j.palm or write to me at mpalm@orlandosentinel.com. Want more theater and arts news and reviews? Go to orlandosentinel.com/arts. For more fun things, follow @fun.things.orlando on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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