Carmina Burana: Tempus est iocundum | It's party time!

Our Big Street Sing, for an open society and against hostility to minorities

Within the framework of the international lesbian and gay choir festival, choirs from Europe and from all over the world will present their colourful programmes. In 2018, we and our guest choirs will make the Munich Gasteig rock with almost 100 events in all its venues. At the same time, we want to take a public stand and be visible as a community in the heart of Munich with our Big Street Sing. We’ll make Various Voices known far beyond the ‘scene’ with a popular, locally-written work that addresses the essence of our humanity. Our friends from the Bavarian Association of Choral Societies, as well as guest choirs, will also be invited to participate.

As well as building bridges beyond our scene, this identity-creating major event is primarily about creating a sense of community among our extremely diverse participants. Whether it's a pop choir or a madrigal ensemble, whether you’re a lesbian from Lisbon or a gay guy from Glasgow, with daily rehearsals for everybody in the Philharmonic Hall (which we will simply turn around: the audience will be on the stage!) we’ll spend four days singing together, getting to know new people, and growing together into one big, united voice.

Thoughts on Orff's Carmina Burana

Tempus est iocundum. Let it rip – it’s now or never! You don’t know what fate has planned for you. Today you’re a king, tomorrow a beggar.
2018. The fight of the community for equal rights has been won. Lesbian and gay couples are allowed to marry and adopt children anywhere in Europe. Nobody looks askance at the two girls smooching in the subway. "Gay" has become a compliment in the playground. The party can begin, let’s have fun!

Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is Bavarian world music, for decades the most performed choral work of all. Solid and grounded one minute – shocking and enigmatic the next. Orff radically ignores the chasm between so-called “popular” and “serious” music, and combines aggressive pop rhythms and catchy melodies with elements of Bavarian folk music and luscious symphonic orchestral sounds, managing to speak to everyone – including those who have little to do with classical music and choral singing.

As a Munich-born Bavarian, Orff was fascinated by the sometimes ironically double-edged, sometimes erotic, sometimes vulgar South German lyricism of the medieval poem collection Carmina Burana (“Songs from Benediktbeuern” – an Abbey about 50 km south of Munich, where the text was discovered  in 1803), which is one of the valuable treasures held by the Bavarian State Library today, stored in the heart of the city in a safe near Odeonsplatz.

The three sections of the composition present three basic facets of the human condition: the ever-returning “spring awakening” of new life (I. Primo vere), wild partying with singing, eating and drinking (II. In Taberna) and, of course, love & sex (III. Cour d'amours). But above all of this reigns the Wheel of Fortune (Fortuna imperatrix mundi, both the overture and the finale of the work), which might end the whole business faster than you can say “LGBTQIA”.

Indeed, can we in Munich even celebrate spring, sing, drink and love, while our lesbian and gay partner choir in Ukraine is being harassed by laws which punish the “propagation of homosexuality”? Is it really so splendid here in supposedly enlightened Central Europe? Can we be certain that what we have achieved will endure? O Fortuna, velut luna, statu variabilis? Are the Trumps, “Pegidas” and “worried parents” of this world, who would like to turn back the clock, really only a noisy but actually insignificant social minority? Fortune rota volvitur?

Carmina Burana takes a stand against a hypocritical society, satirises the hypocrisy of the church which “preaches water while drinking wine”, and stands confidently for a life with both feet in the here and now, “out and proud”. The Carmina Burana is a universal anthem of love and the joy of living, that has lost nothing of its explosive power since its creation almost 800 years ago. The poems were revolutionary at the time they were composed, because they dealt openly with sex and criticised an inhibited and hypocritical society. Unfortunately in 2018 this is still just as necessary!

Tempus est iocundum

Tempus est iocundum, o virgines,
modo congaudete vos iuvenes.

O, o, o, totus floreo!
Iam amore virginali totus ardeo,
novus, novus, novus amor est,
quo pereo.

Mea me confortat promissio,
mea me deportat negatio.
O, o, o etc.

Tempore brumali vir patiens,
animo vernali lasciviens.
O, o, o etc.

Mea mecum ludit virginitas,
mea me detrudit simplicitas.
O, o, o etc.

Veni, domicella, cum gaudio,
veni, veni, pulchra, iam pereo.
O, o, o etc.
It's party time, girls,
and you can join in too, guys.

Oh, oh, oh, I'm bursting out!
I'm burning all over with virgin love!
It's new, new, new love
that I'm dying of!

I'm comforted when you say 'yes',
I'm devastated when you say 'no'.
Oh, oh, oh etc.

In the winter, man is sluggish,
comes the spring, he is horny.
Oh, oh, oh etc.

My virginity makes me curious,
but my shyness holds me back.
Oh, oh, oh etc.

Come, my girl, let’s have fun,
come, come, my beauty, I'm dying for you.
Oh, oh, oh etc.

About the performance

Is it even possible to learn Carmina Burana in four days?

Carmina Burana is catchy, and neither musically nor technically very demanding, which is why it is so often performed by amateur choirs all over the world, including many of our choirs.
Nevertheless, the piece is too extensive to be learned in such a short time, and must be prepared in full or in sections beforehand. The joint rehearsals during the festival are about creating a 3000-strong choir and developing a sense of community – not about learning the music.

How can we manage to rehearse such an extensive work beforehand – in parallel to our own programmes?

Carmina Burana lasts only around an hour, but is very varied in form. There are sections for soloists, and for large and small choirs, as well as orchestral interludes. We hope that all the choirs participating in the festival will join the daily rehearsals and then sing together in the Munich Odeonsplatz. The nine numbers for full choir (printed in bold in the overview) should be rehearsed in advance by all participants: this is not more than 20 minutes of music – including two “hits” (O Fortuna and Tempus est iocundum) which are already known by many. We also hope that as many of you as possible will be ready to learn the whole work. We will be contacting the choirs individually about this. The Munich host choirs and friends will play a key role in the performance, and will sing all the pieces.

As "Steps to Various Voices" we want to initiate rehearsal sessions in several European cities, in which choirs can meet regionally to prepare together. We’re hoping that you will join this initiative.

Are we all capable of performing the piece?

Orff deliberately composed Carmina Burana to be easily singable – that is why it is often performed by school choirs, choral societies, etc. Extreme vocal ranges are generally avoided: the parts are largely in a comfortable middle register. Only a few bars in the first soprano part are vocally challenging, and it will be enough if 1% of our 3000 contributors reach these notes securely. Each choir can focus on the voices to which it can best contribute – for example a lesbian choir with a repertoire for low-pitched voices can concentrate on the multiple alto parts.

What will the performance be like?

We are quite deliberately not planning a closed concert, but an open Big Street Sing in Munich's largest square, the Odeonsplatz. Anyone who knows the piece can come and sing along with us and make a musical sign of LGBT acceptance. The approximately 3000 singers will be spread over the whole square, with a view of a central stage where the orchestra, conductor and soloists will be positioned. The conductor will be visible everywhere on a large screen. To accompany our Carmina Burana we plan to celebrate a street party at the Odeonsplatz, where our guests, the Munich “scene” and food and beverage stalls will also be present.

Music Tutorials

You want to rehearse Carmina Burana at home? Here you find music tutorials.

Download sheet music


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