In Memory of Carl Orff

By Heather McLaughlin, VOSA Newsletter May 1982

Our mentor, Carl Orff, died on 29th March 1982. We take some time in this issue to remember and pay tribute to a brilliant composer and educator.

In January 1978 while doing the Special Course in Salzburg, I was fortunate enough to see Carl Orff in person. He gave a performance of his arrangement of a Bavarian folk tale … “Die Bernauerin” I think it was called and I was overcome with admiration for this man who at the age of 82 could perform a speech drama with such energy and fire. The folk tale was in a German dialect so strong that many of the German-speaking students could not understand it, but the speech rhythms held us all spellbound. Yet perhaps the most amazing thing was to see this frail-looking old man sitting at a bare wooden table with the book open in front of him, and using his hands on the table creating exciting accompanying rhythms against the words he spoke. I had certainly never seen anyone play a table before, and the speed his hands moved and the complex rhythms they produced will always stick in my memory.

I was privileged indeed to see for myself the musical energy of such a great man, and could certainly understand the reasons why the educational ideas as well as the musical compositions of Carl Orff have become well known all over the world. Even at 82 the life and fire of this man were clearly evident.