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Love, tradition, modern hits — BC concert will have it all

Explore the many facets of love this Friday with the Bakersfield College choirs, which will perform with internationally acclaimed soprano Hila Plitmann.

"The whole concert is about the whole concept of love and how we need that in today's society," said BC choral director Jennifer Garrett.

Garrett said the musical discussion will cut a wide swath.

"Lost love, romantic love, first love, love of country, love of children, love for someone who's sick," Garrett said. "And the last — no one is alone, there's always someone there if you ask."

The program also runs the gamut stylistically and linguistically, with classical works by Brahms, Holst and Gastoli, world music works from Zimbabwe and Colombia, European folk songs and American spirituals.

The centerpiece of all this music is Plitmann's performance of "Five Hebrew Love Songs," with words written by the singer and set to music by her husband, internationally acclaimed composer Eric Whitacre, during their days at The Juilliard School.

"It was a very magical time in our lives; it was kind of the beginning of love," Plittman said.

Plitmann said Whitacre was asked to compose some songs for a concert they were to give with a friend in his hometown in Germany. Whitacre then asked her to write poetry that he could set to music.

She wrote the poems in Hebrew.

"They were kind of sense-memory, little pictures from what he and I had experienced so far," Plitmann said.

"He didn't speak any Hebrew," Plitmann said. "He had been struggling. 'I don't hear their music,' is what he said."

Plitmann said Whitacre finally asked her to read the poems to him, something she said they had "somehow missed" doing.

"He realized that they had a rhyming scheme, which he didn't see because he didn't speak the language," Plitmann said. "Then (the music) just flowed from there."

Plitmann is a Grammy Award-winning singer specializing in new music. She has performed the world premieres of works by David Del Tredici, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Corigliano, Andrea Clearfield, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Norona and Whitacre.

Plitmann will be accompanied by the chamber singers choir and the Synergy Chamber Players.

In addition to "Five Hebrew Love Songs," Plitmann will sing her arrangement of Danny Elfman's "Sally's Song" from the film "Nightmare Before Christmas" and Whitacre's setting of the famed children's book "Goodnight, Moon."

In addition to the concert, BC singers will have the benefit of a master's class with Plitmann at 7 p.m. the evening before. Five students majoring in vocal performance will sing for her in a session that is open to the public. She will also sing and answer questions. Plitmann said her master classes are an explorative journey with the students.

"I don't come with an agenda," Plitmann said. "I try to be very open and receptive and listening to the process and the music."

Never resting on her laurels, Garrett is also including a premiere of choral director emeritus Ron Kean's new arrangement of the "Star-Spangled Banner," which was commissioned by the BC chamber singers, and a wow finish with a performance of "You Will Be Found" from the award-winning musical "Dear Evan Hansen," with help from BC's applied music students and the choirs from the Fairfax School District.

"There's a lot," Garrett said. "My concerts are always big, but this one ... Nobody will be bored in this concert."

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