Founded in 1966, Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) is one of the premiere training grounds for young musicians. Located just a mile from the Tanglewood campus, the students have access to the wealth of opportunities not only offered at BUTI but also as part of the relationship with the BSO. BUTI’s Young Artists Vocal Program (YAVP) exposes young singers to a varied six-week program. From private lessons to ensemble coaching to health and wellness, the vocalists thrive in conservatory-based intensive training.
On Saturday, August 3, 2019, BUTI will present the YAVP students in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at 1:30pm at Seiji Ozawa Hall. This free concert is open to the public, and features Orff’s arrangement of the work for vocalists, piano, and percussion. BUTI vocal faculty take on the solo parts, while the chorus comprise the students.
This masterwork allows multiple BUTI departments to collaborate and learn from each other as they prepare one of the most recognized classical music works.
We spoke with the conductor of the BUTI Young Artists Chorus, Katie Woolf (BU’05), about this performance of Carmina Burana and how she is preparing the ensemble.
Give us an overview of the choral curriculum the students take in the summer at BUTI.
The choral curriculum is meant to enhance and reinforce the work that students are doing in their solo songs, academic classes, and opera scenes. As their conductor, I reinforce the vocal technique that they are receiving in private study and help to hone their musicianship skills in ear training, sightreading, and diction.
The Young Artists Vocal Program (YAVP) takes into account choral study, solo vocal coaching, diction, music theory, and ensemble work. Why do you think it’s important for young singers to focus on so many aspects of music and performance?
At YAVP we want to give them a taste of what life could be like if they chose to pursue music in college, as many do. Our curriculum reflects a freshman-year course load at most music schools or conservatories across the country, balancing their solo work with ensemble singing and academic studies.
How did you decide that Carmina Burana would be the right piece to work on with the BUTI Young Artists Vocal Program?
We take into consideration repertoire that will push the students into sophisticated literature, perhaps beyond that of what they receive in their choral programs back home, while still maintaining a balance of that which is appropriate for an adolescent voice. This summer we struck the balance by programming Carmina Burana by Carl Orff.
Carmina is a great balance of dramatic and practical. The tonal harmonic language makes it relatively accessible for singers while the exciting drama of the piece makes it a blast for singers to sing. Moreover, Carmina is familiar to them, which makes the piece a great teaching tool to make them stronger musicians.
Orff intended this piece to be dramatic — I have seen it performed as a fully staged work by both opera and ballet companies. Though we will perform it as a standard concert work (without staging), the drama is rooted in the music which also makes it very accessible and exciting for young singers. [Editor’s note: Its unusual origin story is interestingly told here.]
Orff scored Carmina Burana for orchestra and also for two pianos with percussion. Which version will you perform on August 3 at Ozawa Hall?
We perform the version for two pianos and percussion. This lighter orchestration maintains the integrity of the orchestral version without being quite so taxing on younger voices.
The YAVP voice faculty will be singing the solos and our collaborative piano faculty will be playing the reduction. We are fortunate to be a faculty of professional artist-teachers and we’re looking forward to featuring them on this concert in collaboration with our students.
What makes BUTI special?
Our relationship and proximity to the BSO is the very thing that sets BUTI apart from other high school intensives around the country. Our students have the benefit of valuable instruction in a range of curricula during the day, then hear one of the world’s great orchestras and countless guest artists during the evenings and weekends.
In addition to being the featured performance for the Young Artists Chorus for this summer, we are thrilled to be dedicating the concert to BUTI’s director emerita, Phyllis Hoffman, upon her retirement from Boston University.
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