Jardín de amores, jardín de amores,
Castigo liviano pudean merecer los amadores.
These words, projected unto me by some of the finest vocal chords at the University, have been ringing in my ears for some days now. Translated into English, the phrase means, “Gardens of love, gardens of love, those who love deserve only a slight penalty.” The piece, “Al tribunal de tu pecho vengo a pedirele Clemencia,” is from a 1967 set of songs called “Indianas” composed by Carlos Guastavino. Despite the language barrier and age of the piece, The Orpheus Singers were able to draw from the late Guastavino and, with their voices, create an impact on their audience. That is certainly something special.
This past Thursday, The Orpheus Singers, an ensemble with the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University, performed their second and final concert of the semester. The Orpheus Singers consist of graduate and undergraduate music majors in voice, choral music education, organ, piano, composition and harp, all of whom are conducted by Dr. Eugene Rogers’s graduate studio of Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts choral conductors.
This performance was called “The Poet Speaks of Love,” as the concert’s repertoire was chosen for each piece’s poetic description of love, ranging from playful and adoring to devoted, enduring and unrequited.
More than that, the performance included pieces from a wide selection of cultures and lingual origins. Director Dr. Eugene Rogers writes, “(t)he program, The Poet Speaks of Love, features a variety of music styles stemming from the diverse cultural background of the selected composers.”
Rogers included pieces extracted from choirs and conductors in America, Argentina, the British Isles, England, Canada, France and Brazil. Rogers also included works from composers both male and female, authors of varying ethnic backgrounds. It was clear that Rogers and his fellowship of conductors took care to truly explore the various perspectives of love in the world. This care made the validity and dedication of the group’s work visible, which has not gone unappreciated.
“The Poet Speaks of Love” was exhilarating, yet haunting. Each piece carried an explicit tone as given by its categorized heading — playful and adoring, passionate, devoted and enduring or unrequited — but each piece also held a more softly-spoken air of chanciness, precariousness.
Conducted by Eric D. Reyes with soprano Adriana Tam, “Nocture” from “Five Short Choral Works” by Adolphus Hailstork is written with a playful flow, inviting a lover to enjoy some of the world’s beauties. And yet the world’s beauties are presented as “the insects with their countless array of sounds,” “the black grass rustling,” “the suns floating (in the sky), each a fiery universe,” “the broad expanse” that is the night sky. All of these images are, to the writer, some of the finer qualities of the universe. But it is not difficult to see the underlying tone of darkness in the described beauty. The Orpheus Singers, so it seemed to me, picked up on the distinct tone, and presented Hailstork’s piece with the underlying grim mood. It was as though each performer knew that love, poetic as it may be, is not always light and certain.
It is always a joy to watch fellow students of the University pursue their interests, and it is even more enjoyable when these students can prescribe a unique message as The Orpheus Singers have done in their final concert of the semester.