When Orange Coast College's Chamber Singers — along with five other choruses from California — took part in a performance of Kirke Mechem's "Songs of the Slave" at Carnegie Hall in New York City on June 24, the atmosphere was electric.
Perhaps it was the fact that OCC's top choir had spent months preparing for the 35-minute cantata, which focuses on Frederick Douglass and communicates a powerful message about freedom, justice and equality. Or perhaps it was the fact that the composer of the stunning piece was sitting in the audience with 40 of his closest family and friends. In any case, it was clear that the singers on stage poured their hearts into the music, and the audience responded in kind.
"We spent two and a half days rehearsing the work in New York, then presented it to a nearly full audience who gave us a lengthy standing ovation afterward," said Director of Choral and Vocal Activities Eliza Rubenstein. "The staff members of Manhattan Concert Productions, the company that organized and produced the performance, said over and over that they'd never seen a festival chorus that was so dedicated and so enthusiastic, and more than a few people told me over the course of the weekend that our OCC students were the nicest group of kids they'd ever met."
Along with the other choruses, OCC's Chamber Singers were joined by soloists Marlissa Hudson (soprano) and Donnie Ray Albert (bass-baritone), as well as the New York City Chamber Orchestra.
"[We] performed this work a year ago, and its gripping music and unforgettable text quickly stamped it in our hearts and minds as a favorite," explained Rubenstein. "The opportunity to bring it to a national stage was one we couldn't resist."
To listen to a downloadable audio track of the performance visit https://mcp.wetransfer.com/downloads/9b372508ff6e9e68c2705a8b8eaadcf020170629215441/5eac98 and click on "Masterworks Festival Chorus."