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May 6, 2005

Making music, one concert at a time

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
As music teacher Sara Josey drives down a road, listening to a new CD, her husband, sitting beside her, concentrates on the music to discern who the singers are. Suddenly he exclaims, "Oh my goodness, it's us!"

Josey and her husband have sung in choral groups everywhere they've lived since their marriage. Josey has sung at the recently opened Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, in addition to being part of the London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, where she was recorded years ago. Later, a CD of her singing was distributed in the United States and eventually played, years later, in Josey's car.

Musical beginnings

As a kindergartener, Josey learned how to play the piano, which coupled with her passion for singing to secure a firm musical background for her to build upon. And build she did. Josey soon began singing in her elementary chorus and eventually became the choral director at her high school, since her teacher never showed up for class.

After high school, Josey pursued a double major in Organ Performance and Music education from Ohio Wesleyan University and later a master's degree in Liturgical Music from the Catholic University of America. Her choral director skills once again came to use when she directed a choir full of middle-schoolers in the 1970s, at one point directing 101 seventh graders.

Josey's first "true" experience with singing in a choir came when she auditioned for the Maryland All-State Choir. "It made me realize what it's like to be in a good choir," she says. Since then, Josey has sung in choral groups in D.C. and Maryland and has performed at prestigious halls such as the Kennedy Center.

In the 1970s, Josey moved to London, where she lived for several years and sang for the London Choral Society, the London Philharmonic Society and the Royal Choral Society. However, Josey's best experience in a London choral group was when she was part of the "high-caliber" London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, where she recorded with musical greats such as Leonard Bernstein, Richard Hickox, André Previn and Herbert von Karajan.

Carmina Burana

In London, Josey recorded Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" under the direction of conductor André Previn and later bought the re-release of the CD in America. The piece is sung in German, Latin and French and was created centuries ago in a monastery. "This music was written by dirty old monks," she jokes about the allusions to drinking and sex in the piece.

On May 21, 119 other choral members and Josey, who sings alto in the National Philharmonic Chorale, will be singing "Camina Burana" and two other pieces at the Strathmore Hall.

So far, Josey and the other choral members have performed two concerts at the Strathmore Hall, for which she auditioned after reading a newspaper ad. The chorus rehearses every Monday and Tuesday for concerts, and though the rehearsing is tiring and working with diction in foreign languages is hard, Josey finds that the final product runs smoothly. "It's a really good feeling, because you know it's wonderful music," she says.

English teacher Edamarie Mattei, who attended the April second Mozart concert where Josey sang, agrees. To her, the choir was "imposing" and powerful. "I brought my three children, and they were able to enjoy [the concert] – it was powerful enough to engage a six-year-old," she says, laughing. "Now that's saying something."

However, Josey admits that though the choral group has gotten off to a fairly good start, it hasn't always been problem-free. "It's a big choral work, with lots of separate rehearsals, and then a joint choir and orchestra rehearsal," she explains. In one performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a small triangle percussion was louder than the choir itself.

Eventually, after experimenting, the choir and percussion were adjusted to match the acoustics of the hall. And though such problems arise every once in a while, Josey feels that being part of a choir is a very rejuvenating experience. "Even though you spend hours going over the same intervals, dynamics – you know – it's rewarding in the end," she states with a smile of satisfaction.

Watch Josey and the rest of the national philharmonic Society perform Zhou's "The Future of Fire," Larsen's "Song-Dances to the Light" and Orff's "Carmina Burana" on May 21 at the Strathmore Music Center.

Click here to hear a clip of "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.

Click here to hear a clip of "Auf Dem Anger" from Carmina Burana.



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  • mimi on May 6, 2005 at 10:58 PM
    nice article varun, and go ms.josey~
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