I’ve been attending music concerts in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district for longer than my memory allows – at least 45 years.
So I have a lot of context when I state that Monday’s performance of O Fortuna from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana was the most inspired, awesome and stirring performance I’ve ever heard from a group of students, in any era, in this school system or any other.
It was performed by the Heights High Symphony and the A Capella Choir and Singers at Reaching Musical Heights – a once-every-four-years showcase of the school district’s musical talent. The event is held at Severance Hall; it is big, and glorious and it makes you proud of the kids, the schools and the community that supports them.
If you missed it, then clear your calendar in April 2015; you deserve to be entertained (and you will be) by this grand display of what kids – our kids – can do.
If you don’t recognize the name of the piece, O Fortuna, you’d know it if you heard it. It’s big and bombastic – tutti all the way, to borrow a phrase from P.D.Q. Bach. The piece has been used in so many movies and commercials that it’s a cliche. Notable is how easily the music filled the concert hall; it was crisp and precise and so exceptionally musical. I can only imagine how it felt to sit on the stage and be part of making such music. Adrenaline in a choir robe. The musicians looked like they knew, even during the performance, that each of them was making a cut for his or her lifetime highlight real.
I suspect O Fortuna wasn’t the hardest piece performed at the event; that honor might go to the symphony’s performance of the complex Buckaroo Holiday movement of Aaron Copland’s Rodeo; or to the choir’s version of Elijah Rock – which literally brought tears to my eyes.
Of course, that was the end of the concert; much earlier, 140 kids in the Elementary Honor Choir – representing the district’s 7 elementary schools – also made me tear up with a bubbly, joyous song called “On the Stage” – a show-stealing little number about show stealing.
I could go on, but if you really want to hear more, you should buy the DVD that will soon be available at Reaching Heights – the non-profit organization that exists to mobilize support for public schools, and the organizer of Reaching Musical Heights.
But here’s the point: If you think public schools are going downhill; or that they’re failing to teach and inspire our children; or that they don’t serve the community, then I can prove you wrong. But for that, you’ll have to buy the DVD too.