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Go on a Musical Journey with NJS

When a song becomes a timeless icon in movies and Super Bowl ads, its power is undeniable. Imagine experiencing it live with an 80-piece orchestra and a choir of 230 voices! “O Fortuna,” set to music by German composer Carl Orff in the mid 1930s, has its origins in the 13th century as a medieval Latin poem and was part of a collection known as the Carmina Burana. Nearly 90 years after Orff produced this powerhouse song, conductor Xian Zhang of the New Jersey Symphony carries the tradition, bringing it to a new generation.


On an unseasonably warm March afternoon at the NJPAC in Newark, audience members were swept away as the rapturous sounds of the New Jersey Symphony, paired with the melodic tones and harmonies of the Montclair State University Chorale, made it an evening of splendor. The evening ended with a resounding standing ovation, as seen in this video.



At the performance, concert-goers were treated to the captivating duo of baritone Hugh Russell and soprano Jana McIntyre as the two exchanged dialog. Average Joes like us may have had no idea what they were saying, but we somehow understood what the characters were thinking and what the lovers were wanting. The NJ Symphony did include Latin and English lyrics in the program so one could keep up, but sometimes the language of love needs no translation. 



The New Jersey Symphony performing Carmina Burana - credit Grace Liu Anderson

O Fortuna


The 1991 movie The Doors may have reintroduced the collective world to the iconic song “O Fortuna,” but it’s the conductors like Zhang that are keeping it in the forefront with live performances. Sure, one could argue that a Super Bowl ad might have a similar impact, if not more, but hearing it performed live from a 310-person ensemble is priceless. 


So what is Carmina Burana all about? Orff created the 24-song cantata, with “O Fortuna” (“Oh Fortune”), serving as the prologue and epilogue. The cantata is set in three parts: “Primo Vere” (“In Early Spring”), with youthful, energetic sounds; “In Taberna” (“In the Tavern”), which evokes drunken feasting and debauchery; and “Cour d’Amours” (“Court of Love”), which fills the air with love. The NJ Symphony’s rhythmic percussion with the melodies and harmonies from the Chorale, featuring tenor Andrew Morstein as well as Russell and McIntyre, enrich the sounds of the primeval, visceral music.


Baritone Hugh Russell and soprano Jana McIntyre performing Carmina Burana with the New Jersey Symphony and the Montclair State University Chorale.

In addition to the Doors movie, here are some other places — from the profound to the ridiculous — where the sounds of Carmina Burana are featured:


1. Exclaibur movie clip

2. Glee TV clip

4. The X Factor TV clip

5. Domino’s commercial

6. Flash Mob at a shopping mall

7. G-Force Disney movie clip

10. Gatorade commercial


But wait, there was more


Carmina Burana may have taken center stage, but conductor Xian Zhang and the New Jersey Symphony commenced the performance with the 1933 Dances of Galánta by Zoltán Kodály. The romantic dance suite was inspired by the folk songs Kodály heard in the small town in Hungary where he spent part of his childhood.


The dance suite was followed by the Oboe d'Amore Concerto by J.S. Bach, impeccably played by Andrew Adelson. Interesting to note, Bach wrote more solo music for the oboe than any other composer. Turns out, he had two exceptional oboists as his muses: Caspar Gleditsch and Gottfried Kornagel. Keep in mind, this was over 300 years ago! Now that’s staying power.


Go on a musical journey with the New Jersey Symphony


Whether you’re new to the symphony or a longtime patron, the New Jersey Symphony’s just-released 2024–25 season has something for everyone. The lineup spans a range of classical, holiday, family, and movie concerts. Enjoy the season-opening Gala and Concert with superstar Renée Fleming, bring the whole family to see The Muppet Christmas Carol in concert, relive great classics including Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (“Choral”) and Gustav Holst’s The Planets with stunning HD images from NASA, introduce family and friends to classical music with Discover Mozart & Bach, and so much more.


The Grammy- and Emmy-winning New Jersey Symphony is a statewide organization, presenting mainstage concerts at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, and Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. Subscription offerings are available at all five venues, including same-seat subscriptions and a flexible option of Compose Your Own Series of four or more concerts, which allows patrons to put together their own package of concerts at any venue, concert, or seating section. Subscribers save money compared to buying tickets individually and receive loyalty rewards through subscriber benefits.



Xian Zhang’s 9th Year


Congratulations to Xian Zhang, as this year marks her ninth season as the New Jersey

Symphony Music Director. 


Xian Zhang says, “I look forward to what will be an extraordinary season, full of exciting new experiences as well as exceptional performances of well-known repertoire. This season, we’ll explore the natural world through music, including a thrilling collaboration with superstar soprano Renée Fleming and National Geographic, and performances of Holst’s The Planets with HD images from NASA. I’m also happy to welcome back returning artistic collaborators Nimbus Dance, as they perform not one but two brand-new dances with the Symphony. This season’s repertoire will bring audiences to far-away lands and familiar places, all from the comfort and splendor of the concert hall. I invite our patrons to take a musical journey with us, and together we’ll revel in the artistic ambition of the New Jersey Symphony.”


For New Jersey audiences, Zhang has crafted a season full of beloved masterpieces, bold new works, and brilliant guest artists. In addition to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Gustav Holst’s The Planets, other audience-favorite works on the season include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”), Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, and Igor Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird.


The NJS 2024–25 season features guest artists including pianist Inon Barnatan, saxophonist Steven Banks, violinist Nancy Zhou, pianist Conrad Tao, soprano Renée Fleming, clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and double bassist Xavier Foley.

Zhang has also infused the season with new experiences, including celebrated premieres and other works by living composers as well as several artist debuts. Highlights include Billy Childs’ Saxophone Concerto and Xavier Foley’s Soul Bass. Foley will also present the world premiere of a new work for double bass and orchestra.


Hello Allison Loggins-Hull


Composer Allison Loggins-Hull’s work Can You See? will be presented on a program in February 2025. As the newly-appointed Resident Artistic Partner, she will not only be featured in mainstage New Jersey Symphony programs, she will also work with the artistic leadership team, adding her unique experiences and perspective to the artistic planning process. Loggins-Hull will also participate in the Symphony’s education and community engagement efforts throughout the state of New Jersey.


Allison Loggins-Hull says, “I am thrilled to be joining the New Jersey Symphony’s artistic leadership team. This treasured New Jersey cultural institution has already started on its journey of transforming what classical music can be in my home state. I look forward to being part of a team that propels the Symphony’s artistic ambition and delivery to new heights — crafting memorable musical moments and collaborations through concert experiences and education programs.”


For more information about the New Jersey Symphony, visit www.njsymphony.org or email information@njsymphony.org. Tickets are available for purchase by phone 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476) or on the orchestra's website.


Until next time, peace.


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