Carmina Amoris (Songs of Love)

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Photo by Iris Gross Derke

Celebrating 145 years of singing, the Lehigh Choral Arts fall concert features director Steven Sametz’s choral symphony Carmina Amoris; a dynamic masterwork that sets a collection of medieval poems and love letters to music for orchestra, chorus, tenor and soprano soloists. The concert features sopranos Carmen Pelton and Tami Petty, and Grammy-winning tenor William Burden.

If you have not yet heard one of Sametz’ compositions, you may be delighted to experience music that is at one time tender, and another time tumultuous. The singers are put through the wringer in articulation. Often times their syllables turn percussive; somewhat more a sound scape than language. One need look to the text to see how Sametz adapts melody to deliver the delicate nuances of love. But just as you’ve been soothed, the realities of being in love come crashing in with frenetic understanding of the frustrations of relationships. What compels Sametz to write on love with such vigorous complexity?

Sametz’ program note explains, “When I first began to look at medieval Latin texts for Carmina amoris, the epigrams, marginalia, and love letters I found by clerics and nuns from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries were a revelation. The beauty and freshness of the language spoke across the centuries.  In matters of love (longing, desire, lamenting, sleepless wondering, making up and quarreling), it appears not much has changed from the so-called “dark ages” to our own well-illumined era.”

Writing about Sametz’ work in the Choral Journal, Douglas Boyer states, “Reflecting the growing debate on gay civil liberties, [this work] speaks to the struggle that has been inherent for the gay population for centuries.”

To attend any of the performance of this work, whether this weekend or next week in New York, one may walk away with a renewed sense of purpose.

The Choral Arts performs Carmina Amoris and I Have Had Singing in Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center on Friday, November 14th and Saturday November 15th – both at 8pm, or next week at the historic performance in Carnegie Hall on Friday, November 21 at 7pm in honor of Lehigh’s 150th anniversary. To understand the significance of the Carnegie Hall performance, the Lehigh University Communications Office prepared this video:

For deeper look into Sametz’ composition, please visit his website through which he shares the original Latin texts, English translations, and even sound clips of the work. But don’t let this complete online access to his work replace the moment of sharing the life of the work in live performance. To be surrounded by the natural acoustics of the human voice to ear; presented by musicians of the highest caliber in a concert hall built for exactly this connection, is to experience the best quality of sound and spirit.

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