In its 35 years of performing, Masterworks Choral Ensemble has enlivened many a concert with a bit of humor.
One notable example was in December 2013, when the choir performed “The Hallelujah Chorus” with the help of a group of monks who performed the song silently with the help of signs.
But the group has never performed a full evening of funny works — till now. Masterworks opens its season Saturday with “Nothing’s Sacred: Humor in Music.”
“We’ve been a choir now for 35 years, and one of the challenges is what can we do that’s new and fresh,” said artistic director Gary Witley.
“It’s really a great way to begin our 35th season,” said Sally Alhadeff, who sings alto in the choir and handles marketing. “It’s playful and funny and irreverent, and just downright good fun.”
Witley was inspired by the ensemble’s success with the humorous numbers he often includes in concerts — and by the example of the Seattle Men’s Chorus, well known for such antics as reworking the lyrics of a popular holiday tune to create “It’s the Most Fattening Time of the Year” or performing skits dressed in drag as Madonna or members of ABBA.
Years ago, Witley attended a workshop with Dennis Coleman, the men’s chorus’s director.
“He said that in every concert, you should laugh, you should cry, you should feel joyful, you should feel sad,” Witley said. “He said it’s his mission to run through all of the emotions in any concert.
“We’ve included humor in most of our concerts,” he said. “I thought it would be interesting do an evening of all humorous music.”
Saturday’s concert does include one serious number, “Variations on a Theme by Rossini,” performed by flutist Greta Forslund, a 14-year-old freshman at Timberline High School. Forslund won the middle-school level of Masterworks 2015 Youth Music Competition.
Witley was careful about what kind of humor he chose for the concert.
“We decided to steer away from political humor and humor that is demeaning,” he said. “We’re lampooning the conventions of choral music, and we are singing a lot of songs that are just fun or silly.
“No one has to worry about being offended.”
A few examples:
▪ “Puttin’ on the Ritz” will be performed in the style of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein.”
“We’ll have our own Dr. Frankenstein on stage who introduces the creature, and that leads into the song,” Witley said. “They’ll be dancing with canes and top hats, and the choir will be singing behind them.”
▪ The women’s chorus will sing a number called “Concerto for Singing Chickens and Piano.” “The entire text is ‘bagawk,’ ” he said. “It’s a hoot.” (Or a cluck?)
▪ “The Answers” is Alhadeff’s favorite. She woke up singing it Saturday morning, she said. “It starts out, ‘When did the world begin and how? I asked a lamb, a goat, a cow,’ ” she said. “We make these great oinks and bleats and etc.
“It sounds so sweet and so reverent, and then you start listening to the words and it reveals itself in a very fun way.”
“Fun” might be the theme of the season. Though there’ll be plenty of serious music, particularly in April’s 35th anniversary concert, which will focus on classics for choir and orchestra, every concert will include some special touches.
“Every concert is a celebration of some kind,” Witley said. “Each one has an extra-special something.”
NOTHING’S SACRED: HUMOR IN MUSIC
What: Masterworks Choral Ensemble opens its 35th season with a concert that stays on the lighter side and promises not to offend. The program also will include a performance by flutist Greta Forslund, a winner of the Masterworks 2015 Youth Music Competition at the middle-school level.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
Tickets: $22; $16 for students, seniors and military; $10 for youths 14 and younger.
REMAINDER OF THE SEASON
Dec. 5: “Mistletunes and Songflakes,” preceded by a silent auction beginning at 6 p.m.
March 12: Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival, hosted by Straighter Road, last year’s Pacific Northwest champions.
April 12: “35th Anniversary Concert,” focusing on choral and orchestral masterpieces and accompanied by an orchestra.
June 18: “Pop Icons,” featuring tunes by Billy Joel, Carole King and more.
Season tickets: $106; $89 for students, seniors and military. Without the Harmony Sweepstakes: $82, $70 for students, seniors and military.