Carmina Burana – Drink, Sex and Medieval Monks

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

In the next academic year, my Girlfriend’s school will be performing Carmina Burana and I’m really looking forward to it. Since seeing the choir perform Handel’s Messiah last year, I’m sure the performance will be not only dramatic but evocative.

But is it right for an all-boys choir and orchaestra to be performing Carmina Burana?

Why the hesitance you may ask. Well read on…

The BBCs h2g2 has a great write up on Carmina Burana, which begins:

It is not often that the little old ladies of the choral society scream since Fate strikes down the strong man, everyone weep with me!, or when they are in a more cheerful mood, My virginity makes me frisky, my simplicity holds me back. Oh, Oh, Oh, I am completely coming to life. All this while the men strain their dinner jackets singing a bawdy drinking song. However, this is Carmina Burana, one of the most popular works for choir and orchestra of the 20th Century.

But Carmina Burana is not all dramatic chanting – there is plenty of lyrical and gentle playing and singing, merry dances and of course the aforementioned drink and sex. The work lasts about an hour in performance and requires baritone, tenor and soprano solo singers as well as a boys’ chorus, an adult chorus and a massive orchestra.

UK residents will be familiar with the opening and closing music of Carmina Burana. The ‘O Fortuna’ chorus with its dramatic chanting against orchestral backing was used for many years in television advertising for a well-known brand of aftershave lotion (Old Spice). And, since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there is more than a hint of the same chorus in the sound track of the film The Fellowship of the Ring, particularly to accompany the Black Riders.

You can read more about Carmina Burana on the BBC website.

About h2g2

h2g2 is an unconventional guide to life, the universe and everything, an encyclopaedic project where entries are written by people from all over the world. h2g2 was launched in April 1999, and the BBC took over the running of the site in February 2001 as part of our drive to develop new and innovative online services.

The Guide is written by visitors to the website and already it has thousands of entries on all sorts of subjects. The result is a living, breathing guide that’s constantly being updated and revised, driven forward by the very people who use it.

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