Concert all about ‘Revolution’
Operatic soloists Susan Kane and Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos gave spirited performances.
It was up to the Selective 70-voice Bakersfield High Concert Choir to interpret selections from De Lisle, Gossec and Spontini for the listening audience.
If you do not think getting up at 7 a.m. to take a bus from Van Nuys to Bakersfield to hear opera is something you would do, then you probably do not have the same motivation that drives high school Academic Decathlon teams. October 21 was the date of the annual Academic Decathlon Concert held at Rabobank Convention Center. It started at 10 a.m. Birmingham Community Charter High School senior Angel Portales was one of those, along with his team, who made the early morning bus trek from Van Nuys to Bakersfield to learn by listening.
“Opera is exhilarating,” Portales said. “When the singers want to make a heroic point, it sounds heroic. I like hearing the sounds of the symphony orchestra instruments, too. But more than that, this was a great experience to hear live what we will be tested on in the music portion of the Academic Decathlon later this school year.”
Make no mistake, this was not a rock concert — not with the title, “Music of the French Revolution.” Approximately 100 student teams from all over California came to hear what was “hot” in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the stringed instrument of choice was more likely to be a violin instead of a guitar. Speaking of hot, those were hot times, to hear Guest Conductor/lecturer Jerome Kleinsasser tell it. There was a revolution going on in France and people were losing their heads over it.
“Funeral marches were not uncommon in the Revolution but until about 1790 they were not well known,” Kleinsasser told his audience as he led into a performance by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. “Composer Francois Joseph Gossec changed all that. His “Marche Lugubre” became a standard at funerals for such famous figures as Rousseau and Voltaire. Listen to it’s almost lack of melody and long pauses and imagine how it chilled those who heard it and filled them with religious terror.”
Vocal and instrumental numbers selected from the United States Academic Decathlon music CD and study guide were performed by the Symphony with operatic contributions from guest performers such as Gabriel Reoyo-Reyes, Susan Kane and the Selective 70-voice Bakersfield High School Concert Choir. The concert also featured a harpsichord solo by Justin Yeh.
Sponsored by the Kern County Academic Decathlon Association, Kern County Superintendent of Schools and the Symphony, it is perhaps the only venue in California where students can hear live concert performances of selections they will be tested on in the music portion of regional Academic Decathlon competitions held in February. The Kern County Academic Decathlon takes place on Feb. 6 at Bakersfield College.
It was a concert of firsts for Mira Monte High School English teacher Amanda Des Lauriers — her first as the Academic Decathlon coach and the first appearance by her school in only its second year of existence.
“This event is absolutely amazing,” Des Lauriers said. “I was a competitor when I first attended at age 16. I can tell you the music is incredible, and watching the lyrics performed gives you a visual picture to connect with a voice. When they are tested on the music at the decathlon regional, they will only have a half hour to answer questions based on 10 second audio clips. So, the more you are exposed to in a concert such as this, the more you are likely to remember.”
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