Wednesday, February 17, 2010


On Sunday at two o'clock, Stephen and I will be souls imprisoned in our bodies.


That's the part we, along with upwards of 100 other chorus members, will be playing in a performance of Ordo Virtutum at two o'clock at the First Presbyterian Church at 1200 SW Alder (in Portland).

It's a one-time performance, and when our friend and *impressario* Stephen Marc Beaudoin put out the call for people to sing, we thought it would be a cool experience, so we signed on.

Ordo Virtutum is the oldest known morality play in history, written around 1151 by the mystic and abbess Hildegard von Bingen. I had known of her but was not familiar with her work before this. I've been looking at the music and listening to recordings to get familiar with the little bits that the chorus will be a part of. Really interesting. Really difficult. Because not only is the text mostly just sounds in my ears with no meaning to hang my memory on, the tune itself seems not to have any logic to follow. No time signatures, no rhythms to hold onto. The notes wash up and down like foam on river water: if you try to grasp it, it runs through your fingers.

But as I start to get a little more used to it, a strange, elusive logic starts to appear. Something emerges out of what at first sounds like a randomness of notes. It's a very particular beauty.

Here's a link to a little bit of it.

The words start to emerge kind of in the way that the music's liquid structure does. Sing these sounds over and over and the knowledge, locked away in your brain, of latin and latinlike tongues starts to put bits of understanding to the sounds.

Sunday's performance is being put on by Portland's self-proclaimed "manband" Fourscore - who get to play the part of the devil. I love drama with the devil in it, and I like that they've given him four linked voices. Like he can't be contained in one.

Alright, enough musing. Here's the info off one of Stephen's press releases:


Stephen Marc Beaudoin (“The Beggar’s Opera,” Opera Theater Oregon) stage directs, and the movement and choreography is by Kaj-anne Pepper. Additional cast members include Tim Galloway, Andy McQuery, Maria Karlin, Gigi Urban and Kristen Buhler. First Presbyterian Church organist Jon Stuber is special guest performer, and the entire company will be joined by a special pick-up choir featuring more than 100 local singers from groups including Roxy Consort, Flash Choir and Portland Vocal Consort, as well as students from Lewis and Clark College and Portland State University.

“Ordo Virtutum” is scheduled for one performance only: 2pm on Sunday, February 21, 2010, at First Presbyterian Church, 1200 SW Alder Street. Tickets, $10 for general admission and $8 students/seniors, are available at the door the day of the performance. More information, including directions to First Presbyterian Church, available by calling 503-228-7331

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