Brunswick singers prepare to share the stage with pros


Brunswick High School Choir Director Ashley Albert warms up the school’s chamber choir during their evening rehearsal on September 28, 2022. John Terhune / The time record

Dressed in sweatshirts, flip flops and pajama bottoms, members of the Brunswick High School Chamber Choir looked like sleepy teenagers as they made their way to the music room for rehearsal Wednesday night.

Then they started to sing – in Germanic Latin.

On Sunday afternoon, 41 members of the decorated Brunswick band will join amateur and professional musicians from across the state at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland to perform “Carmina Burana,” a masterpiece by German composer Carl Orff premiered in 1937.

The singers will join James Kennerley, who will begin his transcription of Orff’s work on the famous Kotzschmar organ, one of only two city organs in the United States.

Brunswick Choir director Ashley Albert didn’t hesitate to nominate her band when concert organizers ChoralArt and Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ issued a call for singers last spring.

“I feel like I was one of the first people to respond,” said Albert, who remembers performing “Carmina Burana” in college. “I was like, ‘Absolutely, sign me up.'”

Brunswick chamber choir singers, who must pass a difficult audition to enter the elite group, are used to challenging themselves. But even by their standards, learning all 25 “Carmina Burana” moves in a single month was a tough test.

“It’s such a short time to prepare so much music,” said tenor Sam Caswell, “And it’s all in Germanic Latin. It was crazy.

The singers spent September listening to rehearsal tracks and writing pronunciation tips alongside their music. Although the band practices every other day for 85 minutes during school hours, they had to add extra rehearsals to prepare for Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. concert.

First, the Brunswick Choir will join more than 150 other singers from professional bands and high schools like Scarborough, Katahdin and Almost Isle on Saturday to rehearse with Kennerley and the mighty Kotzschmar organ.

James Kennerley, Portland city organist who plays the Kotzschmar organ at Merrill Auditorium. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I tell people it’s kind of like the Empire State Building,” Kennerley said of the organ, which contains five keyboards, a pedalboard and more than 7,000 pipes. “It’s iconic.”

The instrument’s size and wide range of sound allow organists like Kennerley to capture the sound of 60- or 70-piece orchestras with just their hands and feet, he said. He will open Sunday’s show with a solo rendition of the overture ‘William Tell’, which will introduce guests to the raw power of the organ.

“Pipes are like a surround sound stereo system on steroids,” he said. “When people first hear it, you can tell they’re totally amazed. They’re amazed that something like this could exist.

Although most of Brunswick’s singers are new to organ music, they say they’re excited to join the instrument for stars like “O Fortuna,” which opens and closes “Carmina Burana” and has become a staple in movies. dramas and commercial soundtracks.

“It’s a great piece of music,” said junior Marguerite Benham. “I’ve always wanted to sing this, and I’m going to do it with professionals in this huge auditorium.”

“I don’t think we know yet what lies ahead of us,” added Albert. “I think the organ is gonna blow us all out of the water on that one.”

Tickets for the show are available at

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