Orff Carmina Burana at the Hackney Empire

“The opening movement sent shivers down our spines”

“I loved it ‘specially when the drums came crashing in,”

“Pure theatre”

“The performance was most enjoyable, the atmosphere electric and the choir fantastic”

Click here for press release

At the end of the concert the Hackney Empire resounded to applause at a triumph of a performance.

There were particularly loud cheers for the children from John Scurr School who sang their choral parts magnificently.

photos: David Radford

The audience of over 1000 listened rapt to the quiet passages and admired the beautiful solo singing; they tapped their feet to the boisterous drinking songs, and laughed as the countertenor acted out the song of the dying swan; and they were stunned at the climax of the piece, the orchestra at full blast, and the choir singing with all their might.

Autumn Concert
Sunday November 7th 2004 at 3:00 pm
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E flat
Orff: Carmina Burana
Susanna Andersson – Soprano, David Bates – Countertenor, Christian Immler – Baritone
Mark Shanahan – Musical Director
the Forest Philharmonic
children from the John Scurr school

In 1936 the Bavarian Musician Carl Orff decided to make a dramatic cantata out of a selection of 22 songs previously published as the Carmina Burana, literally “Songs of Beuren”.  The songs were based on a 13th century collection of troubadour songs which was rediscovered in the Monastery of Beuren in 1803.  The medieval lyrics were  ideally suited to Orff’s idiosyncratic neo-archaic style, in which the Middle Ages meet Stravinsky.


The cantata begins and ends with a hymn to the goddess Fortuna whose fickleness controls the lives of men and women. The music ranges from the hypnotic to the manically wild.   The Jewel-like simplicity of Ecce Gratum, gives way to the aphrodisiac crooning of “Chume, Chum geselle min”, then to the unsettling falsetto of “Estuans interius” and the surreal wackiness of “Cignus ustus cantat” (in which a roasting swan bemoans it’s fate), then to the inebriated driving rhythms of “In Taberna”, and so on through a Kaleidescope of contrasting styles until the steady tread of “O Fortuna” brings us full circle.

Carmina Burana has seeped into our popular culture; “O Fortuna” in particular has powered along behind adverts for Guinness, Old Spice, Reebok and Spicy Pringles, opened Ozzy Osbournes’s stage show, and is a track on Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album

© John Ayto 2004

“The opening movement sent shivers down our spines”, said Jonathan Walthoe.

Philip Lowenberg aged six said “I loved it ‘specially when the drums came crashing in,” while Paul Lowenberg said “the best Hackney Singers concert I’ve been to”.

“The performance was most enjoyable, the atmosphere electric and the choir fantastic”, said Yvonne Mitchell

“The last time I heard Carmina Burana was at the Proms and Hackney singers performance was equal to that!” said Nella Hope.

“Lively piece, impressive venue, good concert – what more can I say?” said Andrew Johnston

“The soprano brought tears to my eyes both times she sang the Dulcissima – tingle factor 10!”  said Wendy Savile, alto in the choir.

Mark Shanahan, who has been musical director of the choir since 1998, and the Forest Philharmonic orchestra since 1991, said after the show:

“The children gave the performance of the piece its newness and uniqueness.  They inspired everyone by the way they sang out to the audience.

“Carmina Burana is a dramatic and colourful piece of music, with vocal fireworks from soloists and choir, and with full orchestra and a massive percussion section, it uses every dynamic range and timbre.  It has a marvellous quicksilver, ever-changing vitality and brilliance, and all the musicians brought it to life.”

Leader of the Forest Philharmonic, John Crawford, said: “There was a wonderful atmosphere, and the venue is impressive.  It was great to be part of a team putting on this dramatic music.”

Andrew Storey, rehearsal pianist for the choir for 12 years, and one of the two pianists in the orchestra, said: “It was pure theatre, with a stunning variety of textures throughout the piece