It’s all about the sea when Masterworks Choral Ensemble performs Saturday

Masterworks Choral Ensemble’s “Songs of the Sea,” set for Saturday, arrived out of alliteration.

Well, at least partly.

Artistic director Gary Witley and his repertoire committee had long considered a concert focused on songs with water themes. This season, the idea was hatched to start each concert’s title with the word “Songs,” beginning with October’s “Songs Macabre.”

That’s where the alliteration came in. “Songs of the Sea” just sounded too good to resist — and that’s true of the individual songs, too.

“There are so many songs about water,” Witley said. “Sometimes we choose a theme without having specific music in mind, and it can be a challenge when I go to look for music. With this theme, I knew I would have many choices.

“The hard part was what to choose out of that.”

Among the choices were sea chanteys, spirituals and Scottish folk songs.

Witley is particularly excited about Eric Whitacre’s “The Seal Lullaby.”“He’s kind of like the rock star of choral composers right now,” Witley said. “He writes really beautiful music — some big showy tunes and some introspective tunes that are just gorgeous. We have done one or two Eric Whitacre tunes in the past.”

He’s planning to project photos of white Arctic seals during the song.

The show also will include the presentation of this year’s Salute to the Arts Award and a performance by violinist Eugene Oh of Auburn.

Oh, 18, is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, won the high school division of Masterworks 2014 Youth Music Competition.

The Salute to the Arts Award is going to frequent collaborators Kathy Dorgan and Colleen Powers for their longtime involvement in Olympia’s theater scene, including their work at Olympia High School and with the Olympia School District Players, which produces an annual show starring district employees and their families. Two of the shows Dorgan and Powers worked on together were chosen as Outstanding Overall Musical by the 5th Avenue Theatre’s high school awards.

“It’s a lovely thing to be honored for doing work that’s so fun,” Dorgan said. “As someone who loves to work behind the scenes and away from the spotlight, I was a little surprised and a little embarrassed when I found out. But after talking with some of the Masterworks folks, I just felt really honored.”

Also among the highlights of Saturday’s program:

• “Alfonsina y el Mar,” sung by Alejandro RuGarcia. The song is a tragic one based on the life of Argentine poet

Alfonsina Storni

, who killed herself by jumping off a cliff into the ocean. It will be the first time Masterworks has had a song sung in another language by a native speaker.

• “To Be Sung on the Water,” by classical composer Samuel Barber. “It’s a very meditative tune,” Witley said.

• “The Pirate Song,” a comical tune that lends itself to some fun. “There’ll be some costume surprises, including some interesting ones for me as the director,” he said. “Let’s just say a hook is involved.”