Brunswick High School Choir Director Ashley Albert warms up the school’s chamber choir at their evening rehearsal on Sept. 28, 2022. John Terhune / The Times Record

Clad in sweatshirts, flip flops and pajama pants, the members of the Brunswick High School chamber choir looked like sleepy teenagers as they shuffled into the music room for rehearsal Wednesday evening.

Then they started singing – in Germanic Latin.

On Sunday afternoon, 41 members of the decorated Brunswick group will join amateur and professional musicians from across the state at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium to perform “Carmina Burana,” a masterwork by German composer Carl Orff first performed in 1937.

The singers will join James Kennerley, who will debut his transcription of Orff’s work on the famous Kotzschmar Organ, one of just two municipal organs in the United States.

Brunswick Choir Director Ashley Albert didn’t hesitate to volunteer her group when concert organizers ChoralArt and Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ put out a call for singers last spring.

“I feel like I was one of the first people to answer,” said Albert, who remembers performing “Carmina Burana” as a college student. “I was like, ‘Absolutely, sign me up.’”


Brunswick’s chamber choir singers, who must pass a difficult audition process to get into the elite group, are used to challenging themselves. But even by their standards, learning “Carmina Burana’s” 25 movements in a single month has been a difficult test.

“It’s such a small amount of time to prepare so much music,” said tenor Sam Caswell, “And it’s all in Germanic Latin. It’s been crazy.”

The singers have spent the month of September listening to practice tracks on repeat and writing pronunciation tips in the margins of their music. Though the group practices every other day for 85 minutes during school hours, they’ve needed to tack on extra rehearsals to prepare for Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. concert.

First, the Brunswick choir will join forces Saturday with over 150 other singers from professional groups and high schools like Scarborough, Katahdin and Presque Isle to rehearse with Kennerley and the mighty Kotzschmar Organ.

James Kennerley, municipal organist in Portland who plays the Kotzschmar Organ at Merrill Auditorium. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I tell people it’s a bit like the Empire State Building,” Kennerley said of the organ, which contains five keyboards, one pedalboard and over 7,000 pipes. “It’s iconic.”

The instrument’s size and vast array of sounds allows organists like Kennerley to capture the sound of 60- or 70-piece orchestras with just his hands and feet, he said. He’ll open Sunday’s show with a solo performance of the “William Tell” overture, which will introduce guests to the organ’s raw power.


“The pipes are like a surround sound stereo system on steroids,” he said. “When people hear it for the first time, you can just see that they’re totally amazed. They’re flabbergasted that something like this can exist.”

Though most of Brunswick’s singers are new to organ music, they say they’re excited to join the instrument for showstoppers like “O Fortuna,” which opens and closes “Carmina Burana” and has become a staple on dramatic film and commercial soundtracks.

“This is a grand piece of music,” said junior Marguerite Benham. “I’ve always wanted to sing this, and I’m getting to do it with professionals in this huge auditorium.”

“I don’t think we know what we’re in for yet,” Albert added. “I think the organ is going to blow us all out of the water on that one.”

Tickets for the show are available at

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