FACULTY TUESDAYS CONTINUE FROM AN EMPTY GRUSIN HALL

Next Tuesday’s program offers works by Karol Szymanowski, György Kurtág and Fauré.

By Izzy Fincher Oct. 22 at 5:20 p.m.

CU-Boulder’s Grusin Hall is usually packed on Tuesday nights. Clusters of people gather, chatting and laughing, filling the hall with a pre-concert energy. 

They are here for Faculty Tuesdays, a free concert series featuring CU faculty, which runs from September to March.

Grusin Hall, empty as it now is on Tuesdays

Now on Tuesday nights, Grusin Hall sits mostly empty. But the Faculty Tuesdays series continues through livestreaming. Without an in-person audience, only the performers, a stagehand and the crew of audio technicians remain.

“At CU, we have this wonderful community of people who come to Faculty Tuesdays,” Alejandro Cremaschi, professor of piano pedagogy, says. “I hope that they feel like we are back together after not having live performances for a while. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than not having anything.”

Alejandro Cremaschi (Photo/Larry Harwood)

Cremaschi performed for the first Faculty Tuesdays concert on Sept. 1 with pianist Jéssica Pacheco. Their program featured female composers from the Americas.

Performing safely under social distancing protocols required flexibility. Pacheco and Cremaschi had to play four-hand works on two separate pianos, a challenging experience with fewer visual cues. For the livestream, with up-close cameras and mics rather than a distant live audience, Cremaschi had to tone down his loud announcement voice.

“I am used to speaking from the stage with a voice that projects,” Cremaschi says. “With the microphone, I was yelling so loud that the recording technicians changed the microphone to something that was less live.”

Yet, for Cremaschi, who hadn’t performed live since March at the time, his Faculty Tuesdays livestream was exciting.

“Even though we didn’t have an audience, we play differently when we are doing it for real,” Cremaschi says. “Jéssica loves being on stage, and I love that too. We sound better when we are playing for real. It was nice to have that feeling and energy coming from her. If I had been playing by myself, that would have been really hard.”

David Korevaar (Photo by Matthew Dine)

Pianist David Korevaar is also excited for his upcoming Faculty Tuesdays livestream. He will perform on the Oct. 27 concert, “Signs, Games + Messages,” which will feature works by Karol Szymanowski, György Kurtág and Fauré.

The performance of “Signs, Games + Messages” has been postponed for years. In 2016, Korevaar, David Requiro, Harumi Rhodes and Geraldine Walther, former violist of the Takács Quartet, planned to play this program for Faculty Tuesdays, but that concert fell through. 

Violist Richard O’Neill

Now in 2020, the concert will finally happen with three original collaborators, Korevaar, Requiro and Rhodes, plus Richard O’Neill, the Takács Quartet’s new violist in place of Walther. Korevaar calls it “long postponed, joyful music-making.” 

Korevaar will play on two of the three pieces: Szymanowski’s Mythes, op. 30, and Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, op. 45. Mythes is a virtuosic duet for violin and piano, filled with symbolism, extended tonalities and rich harmonies.

While isolated in Poland during World War I, Szymanowski turned to ancient Greek culture and drama for inspiration. Composed in 1915, Mythes shows this influence in the three movements: “I. La Fontaine d’Aréthuse,” “II. Narcisse” and “III. Dryades et Pan.”

Violinist Harumi Rhodes

“It’s an extraordinarily beautiful piece that isn’t done a lot in public because it is also extraordinarily difficult,” Korevaar says. “It’s a scary score to read, but it’s fun to play with a great musician. I am having a wonderful time.”

Korevaar also looks forward to Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2. The quartet, premiered in 1887, is a somber, complex work, marking a departure from Fauré’s First Piano Quartet, which was pleasantly simple and conventional. Cyclical themes, filled with rhythmic and melodic development, build and return throughout the later work. Aaron Copland described it as “mature work [that] shows the composer less carefree, less happy, more serious, more profound.”

For Korevaar, the rehearsal process has been largely the same as pre-COVID-19, though with increased distance between players. Masks are a bit more of a challenge—without facial expression cues, the musicians must rely on each other’s movements and gestures.

“(In chamber music,) we do a lot with eyes, with body motions, with the sense of breathing, which doesn’t mean we have to see the breathing apparatus,” Korevaar says. “It’s a whole-body thing.”

This will be Korevaar’s third livestream this fall, after a solo livestream and a duo livestream with violinist Charles Wetherbee in mid-October. He is still getting used to the experience. He says he feels more self-critical in front of cameras and misses the live audience’s energy. However, he finds the energy from other musicians makes the livestream more comfortable, and he looks forward to next Tuesday’s performance.

“It’s a new adventure,” Korevaar says. “In a livestream, you don’t have the opportunity to fix stuff, but you get the same self-consciousness about the bloopers. With chamber music, it’s easier because there is mutual energy, and everybody is working together.”

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Signs, Games + Messages
Harumi Rhodes, violin, Richard O’Neill, viola, David Requiro, cello, and David Korevaar, piano
Streamed from CU-Boulder’s Grusin Hall

Karol Szymanowski: Mythes, Op. 30
György Kurtág: Signs, Games and Messages
Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45

7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27, on CU Presents 

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See all remaining Faculty Tuesday performances here.

Boulder Phil season takes flight from Boulder Airport

First concert of an all-online season

By Peter Alexander Oct. 18 at 1 a.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic successfully launched their 2020-21 season of online concerts, “2020-21 Reimagined,” last night (Oct. 17).

Or should I say the season took flight, since the performance was recorded in an airplane hangar at boulder Municipal Airport? The stream, which premiered at 7:30 p.m., will remain available for the next two weeks to people who hold tickets.

Screenshot: The Boulder Philharmonic streaming from the Brungard Aviation hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport

To allow for responsible safety precautions, the program was entirely music for strings—string players can wear masks—and a small ensemble—if too many are spaced too far apart, the players cannot see and hear one another. Music director Michael Butterman lead the group in three pieces: Strum by Jesse Montgomery; the Simple Symphony of Benjamin Britten; and Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons,

In addition to being written for strings, the pieces have another feature in common: like the season, each work has been reimagined in some way. Strum was first written for string quintet, then string quartet, and lastly for string orchestra. Britten mined pieces he wrote as a child for the themes of his Simple Symphony. And post-minimalist composer Richter has created a striking tapestry of music taken from one of the most popular works of the Baroque era, sometimes played as Vivaldi wrote it, sometimes manipulated rhythmically, harmonically, or in other more subtle ways.

Screenshot: Michael Butterman

The performances were what we would expect from the Boulder Phil: all at a professional level, played with commitment and expression. I don’t want to go much beyond that in reviewing the performance, however, since so much of what you hear depends on the equipment you use. Just like a play that is turned into a film, this product represents a separate medium from a live concert, one that that meets the viewer/listener on both the visual and aural levels.

I experienced the concert from a desktop iMac with Logitech Z4 speakers, including a woofer. These are moderately good speakers, certainly much better than what you will hear from built-in sound sources on most desktop or laptop computers, much less tablets or (God forbid!) your smartphone. 

Screenshot: Cellist Charles Lee

I was surprised that the lower pitches came through very well. A short passage by principal cellist Charles Lee was the richest and warmest sounding solo of the program. The sound of the violins, and particularly concertmaster Charles Wetherbee as soloist for Richter/Vivaldi, thinned out as it got higher on the instrument. While not precluding full enjoyment of the music, this does point to the limits of the online concert medium.

A word about the visual presentation: as the Phil’s first online production, I thought the concert was very successful. There were strategically placed cameras giving good visual variety, with closeups of individual players as well as longer shots that made good use of the props available in an airplane hangar (pun intended; I promise, no more aviation jokes).

For the Britten performance, there were closed captions available with information about the piece being played. This was presented as an experiment; I hope it is one that will be repeated with more sophisticated captions. Perhaps a little more explanation of the musical terms would be useful for the many members of the audience who do not have the advantage of years in music school. How many, for example, know the significance of the relative major key? Maybe online music theory lessons will be next.

Screenshot: Closed captions during the online performance

The introductions by Butterman, a conversation between Butterman and Wetherbee, and an introduction to her piece by composer Jesse Montgomery were nice supplements to the performance. Here, the video medium has the advantage over the concert hall: the communication seems more intimate and more personal than in Macky Auditorium.

Montgomery opened the program by introducing her piece, which is, as she said, full of rhythmic drive and clear melodies. Strum is enjoying a run of popularity, likely because it is a well crafted and enjoyable piece to hear, because it can be played by the kind of small ensemble that is easily featured in streaming concert, and—let’s be honest—because as an African-American woman, Montgomery is a composer that orchestras are happy to add to their repertoire in 2020.

Britten’s Simple Symphony—which is not, as Butterman said in spoken program notes, all that simple to play—is infrequently played on symphony programs. It was refreshing to hear it instead of the usual orchestral fare. 

Screenshot: Charles Wetherbee sports the Boulder Phil’s custom face mask

Richter/Vivaldi is both familiar and disorienting. There is much pure Vivaldi, or almost-Vivaldi. But then there are sudden turns, with unexpected harmonies, or most fun to hear, uneven meters. Wetherbee seemed too have mastered his part, although he said it takes extra concentration, because it is often so close to music that is familiar to his fingers.

This concert was definitely up my lonely little alley. I’m the kind of listener who would rather hear something new and unexpected than another familiar classical piece. I am looking forward to both the repertoire, and the visual production of the remainder of the Boulder Phil season. 

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Season listing with links to purchase tickets can be found here.

BOULDER PHIL’S OPENING CONCERT IN SPIRIT OF REIMAGINED SEASON

Program features works by Vivaldi/Richter, Britten and Jesse Montgomery

By Izzy Fincher Oct. 14 at 3 p.m.

A reimagined season for the Boulder Philharmonic will begin with a night of reimagined music, recorded in a hangar at the Boulder Municipal Airport.

The first concert, “Vivaldi Recomposed,” will feature modern composers’ reworkings of iconic compositions and their own works. The concert will be available beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman rehearsing in the Brungard Aviation hanger at Boulder Municipal Airport. Photo by Peter Alexander

“[This concert] is really emblematic of everything we are doing this year,” Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Phil, says. “We have an unusual season that is reimagined, reinvented and adapted.”

The program is centered around Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, a 13-movement work inspired by Vivaldi’s famous set of concertos. Using about one-quarter of Vivaldi’s original material, Richter develops short, iconic motifs through looping and phasing, showing his minimalistic and postmodernist style. The re-composition is “very familiar but with a twist that is new and fresh,” Butterman says.  

“Richter takes the same music, but he rescores it and repeats it with different harmonies and accompaniment,” concertmaster Charles Wetherbee says. “Sometimes he takes blocks of music that we know very well and suddenly throws in a bar of 7/8. That can be really mind-bending. It is very familiar yet completely not.”

Charles Wetherbee. Photo by Peter Alexander

The rest of the program also links to the theme of reimagining. Jesse Montgomery expanded her own composition Strum, originally written for the Catalyst Quartet, to a version for string orchestra. In Strum, the orchestra builds dynamic textures through pizzicato, layered rhythms and ostinatos.

Strum is really attractive. It’s rhythmically driven with just enough tunefulness to be very listenable and fascinating,” Butterman says. 

In his Simple Symphony, Britten expanded eight short themes, which he composed as a child, into a piece for string orchestra. The four movements, “Boisterous Bourrée,” “Playful Pizzicato,” “Sentimental Saraband” and “Frolicsome Finale,” have nostalgic titles, reminiscent of childhood. Simple Symphony is one of Britten’s more conservative works stylistically, showing his early neoclassical influences.

Vivaldi Recomposed was the first concert the Boulder Phil recorded at the airport in late September. After two rehearsals the first day, they had a dress rehearsal and recording session the next day. Over the next two weeks, they recorded five more concerts with equally quick turnaround. 

“You just got through this recording session, but you know you need to be back the next morning with a brand new program that would be recorded in less than 48 hours,” Butterman says. “It was a lot to stay on top of.”

Michael Butterman. Photo by Peter Alexander

“It was not easy to have that many programs in your fingers, in your brain, in your heart,” Wetherbee says. “It takes a lot to assimilate that much all at once and to play it with conviction. It was a very compressed way to work.”

While recording Vivaldi Recomposed, Wetherbee found it challenging to maintain the energy of a live performance without an audience, in the middle of an airport hangar.

“We didn’t have the energy of being in the hall like a live concert,” Wetherbee says. “You hear the audience move around in their seats, applaud or draw their breath in at the end of an exciting movement. When you are playing for cameras, there is none of that energy. 

“I had to guard against the feeling that it is sterile, that you are just in a studio. In a recording, you worry about every note being perfect. In a live performance, you don’t have to worry about every note. You have to worry about the energy and about what you want to say.”

For the Boulder Phil’s first virtual concert, Butterman and Wetherbee hope the audience will enjoy the visual experience, which will be more immersive than a live concert. “I am pretty excited about the visuals,” Butterman says. 

“The setting of the airport with the different camera angles and close ups is going to be fun. Through the use of the cameras, people are going to feel like they are in the mix. I hope they feel that they are drawn into the concert.”

“There’s no way [a virtual concert] replaces the live experience,” Wetherbee adds. “Yet, we are moving toward slightly different art form, to be enjoyed for its own ends.”

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Vivaldi Recomposed
Michael Butterman, conductor
Charles Wetherbee, violin

Jesse Montgomery: Strum
Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

Stream available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17
You may purchase access here.

David Korevaar and Charles Wetherbee keep the musical stream flowing

Solo piano and violin-piano duo programs will be free online

By Peter Alexander Oct. 13 at 11:30 p.m.

It has become a streaming world for musicians and audiences alike. As the summer of COVID turns into fall, pianist David Korevaar and violinist Charles Wetherbee from the CU Boulder College of Music are keeping the stream flowing.

David Korevaar (l) andCharles Wetherbee

Over the summer the duo did a series of four concerts under the auspices of the Snake River Music Festival, and Korevaar did a celebrated series of streamed performances from his home of all 32 piano sonatas and other works by Beethoven. And now they will add new chapters, both Korevaar individually and the two together.

Korevaar will play a solo recital at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct 15, which will be livestreamed from Schmitt Music in Denver. The program will be all works by Black composers from the early 20th century, starting with Cameos by the English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Korevaar will also play three works by African-American composers: In the Bottoms Suite by R. Nathaniel Dett, the Piano Sonata in E minor by Florence Price, and the Spiritual Suite by Margaret Bonds.

The streamed concert by Korevaar and Wetherbee has already been recorded and will be available on Wetherbee’s YouTube channel starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. The works on their joint program are all based on folk sources from different parts of the world, as organized into traditional Western concert forms: Three pieces from Ruralia Hungarica by Ernst von Dohnányi, the Violin Sonata No 3 by George Enescu, Sueños de Chambi by Gabriela Lena Frank, and the Romanian Folk Dances by Béla Bartók.

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David Korevaar. Photo by Matthew Dine

Korevaar’s program comes entirely from outside the canonical European repertoire of concert pianists. “What we’re looking at [during the pandemic] is an opportunity—an opportunity to expand,” Korevaar says. “For me, it’s a beginning of something bigger in terms of my own explorations of repertoire that I don’t know.”

Korevaar finds unique qualities in each of the composers and works on the program. “The Coleridge-Taylor miniatures represent something that’s typical of English music of the period. The pieces are called ‘Cameos,’ and the title gives you a sense of the atmosphere. He wrote a lot of shorter piano pieces, and  these are typical of that. They are charming,”

Dett was  a Canadian-born composer who immigrated to the U.S. “He ends up settling in the South and absorbing the culture, as an outsider,” Korevaar says. “He’s a good composer and a person of amazing curiosity. I’m excited because it’s new to me. I knew his name, I didn’t know his music.

In the Bottoms Suite is probably his best known piano work. The last movement, the ‘Juba Dance,’ was one of his great hits and was arranged for every possible combination.”

As a composer Price was strongly influenced by Dvořák and his visit to America, although her musical roots were in the Black community where she grew up. “The Sonata [uses] spirituals and the music of the Black church that she was very familiar with, putting that into this very European container, the sonata,” Korevaar says. “It’s really interesting.

“Margaret Bonds was a protege of Price [who] ended up being very much associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The piece I’m playing, Spiritual Suite, is a set of fantasy variations on three different spirituals or traditional songs, which she does a beautiful job with.”

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Friday’s duo recital is a continuation of a series of performances that started over the summer as part of the Snake River Festival. In all of their performances this year, Korevaar says, “we’re really trying to work with composers from underrepresented groups.”

Charles Wetherbee (l) and David Korevaar

In this case the composers are slightly better known than in Korevaar’s solo program, although most of the works are not. In fact, all but one—the Bartók Romanian Folk Dances—were new to Wetherbee.

“The program was built around two pieces that I wanted to learn, the Enesco Third Violin Sonata and Sueños de Chambi by Gabriela Lena Frank,” he explains. “Although they are different in many ways, they are both built firmly on the foundation of folk music.

“In the case of the Enescu, [it’s] this Romanian Gypsy style that Enescu grew up playing himself. The musical language, the gestures, the harmony and the mannerisms are drawn from Romanian folk traditions.” 

Wetherbee and Korevaar both find the sonata to be a serious challenge, reflecting the fact that Enesco himself was a virtuoso pianist and violinist.

Frank grew up in Berkeley, Calif., but she often draws on the music of her mother’s native Peru. Her Sueños de Chambi (Dreams of Chambi), subtitled “an Andean photo album,” was inspired by the work of photographer Martín Chambi who documented the customs and festivals of 20th-century Peru.

“What’s very interesting is that [Frank] often has the violin imitate indigenous instruments, including the flutes,” Wetherbee says. “You get some really unusual and beautiful sounds.”

To frame the two major works of the program, Wetherbee and Korevaar selected two collections of shorter pieces that take eastern European folk music—Hungarian in the case of Dohnányi and Romanian in the case of Bartók—and create easily accessible concert music. 

“I do hope that people will not be scared off by works that are all unfamiliar,” Wetherbee says. “ It’s a really beautiful and compelling program.

“These are works that I’d like to play many, many times.”

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6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15
David Korevaar, piano
Livestream from Schmitt Music, Denver

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Cameos
R. Nathaniel Dett: In the Bottoms Suite
Florence Price: Sonata in E Minor
Margaret Bonds: Spiritual Suite

Livestream available at no cost.

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16
David Korevaar, piano, and Charles Wetherbee, violin
Hosted by David Ginder of Colorado Public Radio
Streamed on Wetherbee’s YouTube channel

Ernst von Dohnányi: Three Pieces from Ruralia Hungarica
George Enescu: Violin Sonata No. 3
Gabriela Lena Frank: Sueños de Chambi (Dreams of Chambi)
Bartók: Rumanian Folk Dances

Stream available at no cost.

Longmont Symphony opens virtual fall season Sunday

Concert will introduce new concertmaster and associate concertmaster

By Peter Alexander Oct. 8 at 1:05 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony opens its fall 2020 half season of online concerts, “(Re)Sounding,” Sunday, Oct. 11. Music director Elliot Moore will conduct a program of music for strings, featuring Bach’s popular Concerto in D minor for two violins and orchestra —widely known as the “Bach Double Concerto.”

The soloists will be orchestra’s new concertmaster and associate concertmaster, Benjamin Ehrmentraut and Kina Ono. Other works on the program are three string serenades by Mozart, written when the composer was 16.

Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony Orchestra

Because of limitations imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, Moore says, “I decided to pick music that I felt could be rehearsed and performed in one day. To this end, I’ve picked some of my favorite Mozart divertimenti that I listened to during quarantine. They’re also called his Salzburg symphonies.

“I wanted to also feature our new concertmaster and associate concertmaster as soloists. So they will be performing the Bach Double Violin Concerto.”

The concert will be recorded in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium for later broadcast on the LSO’s YouTube channel and on Longmont’s Public Media (LPM) channel. The recording will be engineered by LPM. The premiere broadcast of the first concert will be shown at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, and will be available for a period of time afterwards.

Benjamin Ehrmantraut

Ehrmantraut, a native of Bismarck, N.D., began musical studies at age 9. He received a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and a master’s degree from CU, Boulder, studying with violinist Károly Schranz, who played second violin tin the Takács Quartet for 43 years. Before moving to Colorado, Ehrmantraut played with the Fargo/Moorhead and Bismarck/Mandan symphony orchestras. 

He currently plays with the Boulder Symphony. Chamber music is another part of his career, including performing in at Dakota Chamber Music in North Dakota, in Vermont at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and in Texas at the Round Top Festival Institute.

Kin Ono

Ono has played in professional orchestras in and near her home state of Minnesota. Since moving to Colorado, she has joined the Boulder Philharmonic, Boulder Symphony and the Cheyenne Symphony. In Minnesota she has performed at the Ordway Music Theater and Concert Hall, Orpheum Theater, Target Center, and Xcel Energy Center, and placed first in the 2016 Schubert Club Competition. She is currently a master’s of student at CU, Boulder. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, where she studied with Sally O’Reilly.

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Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Benjamin Ehrmantraut and Kina Ono, violins
4 p.m. Sunday, Oc. 11—online only

J.S. Bach: Concerto in D minor for two violins and orchestra, S1043 (“Double Violin Concerto”)
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K136 (“Salzburg Symphony No. 1”)
Divertimento in B-flat major, K137 (“Salzburg Symphony No. 2”)
Divertimento in F major, K138 (“Salzburg Symphony No. 3”)

Other concerts of the fall 2020 half season

“Los Angeles to Longmont”
Caroline Campbell, violin
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

“Seattle to Longmont”
Nathan Lee, piano
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25

Handel’s Messiah, Solo Sections
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With four vocal soloists to be named later
Handel: Messiah solo pieces
“Hallelujah” Chorus
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13

Half-season subscriptions and access to individual concert streams may be purchased here

PRO MUSICA COLORADO’S 2020-2021 SEASON FOCUSES ON HEALING, DIVERSITY

The hybrid season will offer livestream and limited in-person tickets.

By Izzy Fincher Oct. 7 at 4:50 p.m.

Amidst the turmoil of 2020, we can turn to music for comfort.

“Music has such a capacity to heal,” Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of Pro Musica Colorado, says. “It has the capacity to comfort. It has the capacity to connect us, to remind us of our humanity, and to remind us of who we are.”

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra with conductor Cynthia Katasarelis

Katsarelis planned Pro Musica’s 2020-2021 season in response to the grief and suffering of 2020, hoping to offer comfort and healing to the audience through music.

“Usually we program a year or more in advance,” Katsarelis says. “But now with this season we can respond to what is going on in the world. We decided this season needed works that were healing, comforting and joyful discoveries.”

Cynthia Katsarelis. Photo by Glenn Ross

Katsarelis’ original plans for the season dissolved mid-summer. To comply with COVID-19 social distancing requirements, she had to find repertoire for strings without winds or vocalists. This reduced her options and forced her to look for local soloists on short notice. At that time, she also decided to offer the season as both a virtual and limited in-person experience.

The December program, originally planned to be Handel’s Messiah with the Boulder Chorale, was scrapped in favor of an all-strings program and a new soloist—Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony. Katsarelis decided to open the concert with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Novellette No. 1 for string orchestra, a lesser-known work for musical discovery, before moving to familiar works by Vivaldi, Corelli and Dvořák to heal.

For February’s concert, “Rainbow Valentine,” Katsarelis also wanted to begin the program with new discoveries. First, Pro Musica will premiere a new work by Jordan Holloway, the winner of CU-Boulder’s Composition Competition. Then they will play Joseph Bologne’s Violin Concerto No. 9 with soloist Harumi Rhodes, the second violinist of the Takács Quartet, and finish with the comforting Serenade for String Orchestra by Tchaikovsky.

Katsarelis is most excited for the Bologne violin concerto and feels grateful that Rhodes agreed to perform it on short notice. “This violin concerto is swashbuckling,” she says. 

Harumi Rhodes. Photo by
Michael Barnes

“Harumi sets the room on fire when she opens her violin case, let alone when the bow comes to the string. The combination of this swashbuckling concerto and Harumi will be electric. It will pass through the internet to all those tuned in.”

For the final concert in May, aptly named “Springtime,” Pro Musica will collaborate with Nicolò Spera, director of CU’s classical guitar program, on a concerto (currently TBA). The program will also include Carter Pann’s Three Secrets in Maine and  the chamber version of Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Katsarelis feels the works by Pann and Copland are distinctly American and will offer familiar sounds as the season’s final comforting gesture. 

Appalachian Spring is such a quintessential American piece,” she says. “It’s a good piece to play at this time. It’s a piece that reminds us who we are. It is an American work that speaks to the best of American culture.”

For those listening to concerts virtually, Katsarelis recommends working on a high-quality audio setup.

“People might want to get in touch with their inner audiophile,” Katsarelis says. “If they haven’t experimented with connecting their computer to decent speakers, now is the time. It would really enhance the listening experience.”

Beyond the three concerts, Pro Musica will also stay engaged with the Boulder community, particularly in local elementary schools, during the season. They will collaborate with Boulder MUSE, a non-profit organization that provides free music lessons for underprivileged children. Pro Musica’s string quartet will perform music by diverse composers, especially composers of color, from their previous season for young musicians at Columbine Elementary School and University Hill Elementary School. 

For Pro Musica, issues of diversity and representation have always been important. Since their conception in 2007, Pro Musica has aimed to share “new voices from ethnically and racially diverse cultures,” according to their mission statement. This perspective is important with 2020’s focus on diversity. This season includes works by two black composers, Coleridge-Taylor and Bologne.

For Katsarelis, diversity in classical music is personally important. She is currently the only female conductor of a professional orchestra in Colorado.

“This is something I have done my entire career, going back to the mid-1990s,” she says. “It’s not new for me or for Pro Musica. We have been presenting music by female composers, composers of color and underrepresented voices. We have a mission of bringing forward voices that have been silenced unjustly. 

“Artistic grounds alone are enough to bring this music forward. This is great music that has a lot to say to us and can really speak to our hearts.”

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Pro Musica Colorado
2020-2021 Season
Limited tickets available for live performances
Live-stream tickets available for Saturday night of each program

Holiday Moods
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Novellette No. 1
Corelli: Christmas Concerto
Vivaldi: “Fall” and “Winter” from The Four Seasons
Dvořák: Serenade for Strings

*7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield 
3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Rainbow Valentine
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Harumi Rhodes, violin

Jordan Holloway (CU Composition Competition winner): World Premiere
Joseph Bologne: Violin Concerto No. 9
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for String Orchestra

*7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14,Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder

Springtime
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Nicolò Spera, classical guitar

Carter Pann: Three Secrets in Maine
Concerto TBA
Copland: Appalachian Spring (chamber version)

*7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 1, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
2 p.m. Sunday, May 2, Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder.

*Livestreamed concerts

Purchase individual in-person or livestream tickets or 2020-21 season subscriptions for Pro Musica Colorado here.

Takács Quartet returns to the stage of an empty Grusin Hall Oct. 4

Performance with Ivalas Quartet will be available online to prior Takács subscribers

By Peter Alexander Oct. 2 at 3:20 p.m.

The Takács Quartet will be entering familiar territory Sunday (Oct. 4) when they step onstage in Grusin Music Hall for one of their campus concerts.

Takács Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton

But there won’t be an audience in the hall. The concert, and one scheduled for Nov. 1, will be streamed live for prior Takács season ticket holders. The concert will feature the Takács Quartet playing alone; the Ivalas Quartet, the current graduate quartet-in-residence at CU, playing alone; and the Takács and Ivalas players joining together as a string octet.

This will be only the Takács’s second campus concert since Richard O’Neill joined the quartet as violist, replacing the retired Geraldine Walther.

The program opens with the Takács playing Five Fantasiestücke, op. 5, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a piece they have not played before. The Ivalas Quartet will play several short numbers: Strum by Jessie Montgomery; An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon; and two movements from Daniel Bernard Roumain’s String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks.” Concluding the program will be a string octet arrangement of Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras No.9.

The most notable feature of the program is the ethnic and racial diversity of the composers: African-English—Coleridge-Taylor; African-American—Montgomery and Simon; Haitian-American—Roumain; and Spanish-Brazilian— Villa-Lobos.

Ivalas Quartet

In this regard, the program also reflects the diversity of the Ivalas Quartet. One violinist is of mixed Danish/German and Ethiopian heritage and grew up in Des Moines, Iowa; the other violinist has American and French-Caribbean/African ancestors and grew up in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma; the cellist is Venezuelan; and the violist is from Southern California but has an Argentinian mother.

Members of the Takács Quartet are busy working to pull the program together, but first violinist Ed Dusinberre shared his thoughts by email. “This has been a time of reflection for us,” he wrote. “Over the summer we’ve been exploring works such as Coleridge Taylor’s extraordinary Fantasiestücke that to our shame we didn’t know previously.

“We always like to showcase our graduate quartet in different ways throughout their residency here. We can’t wait to play the Villa Lobos together and to hear Ivalas perform a variety of wonderful works that they feel passionately about.”

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Not widely known today, Coleridge-Taylor was prominent in English musical life early in the last century. Known in the U.S. as “The African Mahler,” he had several successful tours of the U.S. before he died at 37.

In his program notes, Simon wrote that A Cry from the Grave, written in 2015, “is an artistic reflection dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.”

Roumain’s String Quartet No. 5 is dedicated to Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus set off the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1956. Roumain, whose Haitian parents lived through the Civil Right movement in the U.S, wrote that he created the quartet “as a musical portrait of Rosa Parks’ struggle, survival and legacy. The music is a direct reflection of a dignified resistance.”

The Bachianas brasileiras are a series of nine suites by Villa-Lobos written for varying performance media. Each work aims to join Baroque compositional techniques to Brazilian musical material. Most of then are not well known in this country, although No. 5, for soprano and eight cellos, has achieved widespread popularity with classical audiences. The ninth of the series was originally written for chorus and string orchestra, and will be performed in an arrangement for string octet.

Grusin Hall

Performing into an empty hall might seem discomfiting, but Dusinberre says it is not that difficult for the players. “Of course it is an adjustment but compared with the challenges most people face during the pandemic, we feel very fortunate to have projects to work on at all,” he wrote. “We have become experienced at recording CDs over the years and to creating performance energy without a present audience.

“We hope our audience are staying safe. We are extremely grateful to CU Presents in being both sensible and innovative to find means by which we can still communicate with our loyal audience here.”

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Takacs and Ivalas string quartets
Full program

Takács Quartet. Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Five Fantasiestücke, op. 5 
I. Prelude 
II. Serenade
III. Humoresque 
IV. Minuet
V. Dance 

Takács Quartet 

Jessie Montgomery: Strum
Carlos Simon: An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave 
Daniel Bernard Roumain: String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks”
I. “I made up my mind not to move.” 
II. Klap Ur Handz 

Ivalas Quartet 

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Bachianas brasileiras No.9, W449, arranged for string octet
I. Preludio, Vagaroso e Mistico 
II. Fuga (Pouco apressando) 

Takács Quartet and Ivalas Quartet 

The shared Takács/Ivalas concert will be live streamed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, and will remain available through 11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. A second all-Mendelssohn program by the Takács alone will be live streamed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, and will be available through 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9. These performance will be available online only to prior Takács subscribers. A decision is pending on Takács Quartet performance arrangements for the spring.
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NOTE: Subhead changed 10/3 to include Ivalas Quartet.

Thomas Steenland dreams of a world without mp3

The story behind Boulder-based label Starkland 

By Izzy Fincher Oct. 1

“New music always stood out to me. I gravitated toward it,” Thomas Steenland says.

After 43 years in new music, the appeal hasn’t faded for Steenland. With his Boulder-based label Starkland, he continues to release genre-defying, innovative new music for adventurous listeners.

Thomas Steenland

Steenland established himself in Colorado’s new music industry in the 1970s. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he took over Owl Recording, Inc., a new-music label founded in 1976. Owl, the brainchild of Steenland’s professor Cecil Effinger, was one of the United States’ first major non-profit labels, a revolutionary idea in the music industry. Freed from industry norms, Owl pursued their mission of releasing new music LPs of “high artistic, educational or historical worth not otherwise available” with Steenland at the helm. 

After 15 years at Owl, Steenland’s entrepreneurial spirit grew restless, as he saw Owl’s legacy fade when CDs began to eclipse LPs. He decided to revamp Owl’s mission to meet technological advancements. This led to the creation of his own label in 1991, based in Boulder, which released CDs exclusively. 

“I think a label can be based anywhere,” Steenland says. “But I was here in Boulder and had connections that evolved out of my experience with Owl. It was an easy transition from running that label to forming my own label.”

He decided to name his label Starkland, a play on his last name Steenland (which means “stone land” in Dutch).

“I have always loved the word stark, and I wanted it to indicate that it was edgy music,” Steenland says. “It wasn’t easy listening, new-age music.”

The word stark certainly embodied the label’s mission. Stark means utter and sheer, suggesting an absolute commitment to new music. Stark means severe, harsh and sharp, suggesting the tendency of new music to challenge expectations. Stark also means desolate and barren, perhaps a nod to unexplored musical territory and the sparsely populated landscape of the new music industry.

Original album of Dockstader’s Apocalypse

Starkland’s first release, a reissue of composer Tod Dockstader’s LPs on CD, sat at the intersection of unexplored musical and technological territory. The CD reissue presented the audio, especially the bass, with greater depth and authenticity than the original LPs released 25 years earlier. The reissue garnered attention and rave reviews from critics.

From there, Starkland grew, releasing music by cutting edge composers including Paul Dresher, Jay Cloidt and Guy Klucevsek. Later, Steenland experimented with new audio techniques, notably surround sound in the 2000 release Immersion, which featured 13 experimental electroacoustic commissions.

Nothing was too extreme for Starkland, not even Elliott Sharps’ 2015 album The Boreal, a turbulent auditory experiment.

“I can’t say I have rejected anything because it’s too extreme,” Steenland admits. “There would be other reasons. Elliott Sharp’s album is very challenging to listen to. You have to be in the right frame of mind. But he’s a big name, and that album got over 30 reviews. He has fans, but it’s not easy listening.”

In the digital music age, Steenland has been forced again to adapt to technological advancements, this time unwillingly, as CDs fade away like Owl’s LPs, eclipsed by mp3 and digital streaming services.

“The big change is how music is presented and sold to the public,” Steenland says. “I made the transition from LPs to CDs and now from CDs to digital, but the music is a constant. I really enjoyed CDs because the sound was significantly better than LPs. Now CDs are going away, and it’s becoming a digital world.”

Steenland is not a fan of this new “digital world.” Frustrated by low quality audio, he dismisses millennials’ listening habits.

“People are more interested in convenience than quality,” Steenland says. “On Spotify or SoundCloud, the quality is really low. It’s a very different experience for the listener. Spotify’s data rate is about one-seventh of what a CD is. They are throwing away six-sevenths of the music. That’s discouraging when you worked really hard to make a beautiful sounding master tape.”

In the future, he believes 5G wireless will eliminate the need for mp3 by expanding current limits on storage capacity and data rate.

“I think if 5G comes in, that is incredibly faster,” Steenland says. “It can stream high resolution video in real time. That would mean it can also stream high resolution audio. Hopefully then mp3 will go away, and we can go back to listening to CD or even better quality.”

Amidst the pandemic, he admits little has changed for Starkland, as the label focuses on chamber music releases. Musicians do their own recordings in home studios or in a socially-distanced studio setting. The only issue is promotion, such as Starkland’s recent release of Danielle Buonaiuto’s Marfa Songs, a “problem everyone faces” in the 2020 recording industry, he says.

“When COVID-19 came in, Danielle could not have a release party in New York City. That was really unfortunate. [A release party] gives critics more reason to pay attention to the album. It’s a problem. It’s disappointing, but what can you do?”

Instead in 2020, Steenland chooses to focus on what he can control. So he continues his 40-year mission of releasing new music and pursuing the highest-quality sound, meanwhile dreaming of a day when mp3 goes away.

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You may access the full Starkland catalogs here.

Longmont Symphony’s virtual fall season celebrates orchestra’s return

“(Re)Sounding! 2020 Reimagined” opens Oct. 11 with Bach and Mozart

By Peter Alexander Sept. 29 at 12:45 p.m.

Elliot Moore is more than ready to get back to work.

The conductor of the Longmont Symphony designed the orchestra’s fall season to celebrate playing together again after COVID forced the suspension of the last season in April. “It’s been a very long pause for us,” he says. “It’s been a very long pause for every single orchestra across the country, across the world really, and we wanted to have a celebration that our sounds continue.”

Longmont Symphony conductor Elliot Moore

In that spirit, the LSO is calling the fall half-season “(Re)Sounding: 2020 Reimagined.” There will be two concerts featuring a small orchestra—cut down to observe safe distancing—and two programs featuring guest artists.

The orchestra was on the brink of canceling the rest of 2020, but “I kept thinking about how we could do (a fall season),” Moore says. “There’s so many constraints now, so the idea that I had was to have bookends that are the orchestra—but it has to be obviously a very small orchestra. That already is a large constraint.

Violinist Caroline Campbell

“And in the middle of our fall season, I wanted to showcase soloists that would enhance the season, and who even though they’re in their homes and not in Longmont, would still be a draw for our audience. To that end I picked an incredible violinist named Caroline Campbell, who is the go-to violinist for many artists including Barbara Streisand and Andrea Bocelli. She has had videos on YouTube with 34 million views.”

For the other guest artist, Moore selected pianist Nathan Lee, who won the Young Concert Artists International Audition at 15. Still in his teens, he is a musical ambassador to younger audiences. “He is just a beautifully thoughtful, poetic musician and pianist,” Moore says. “I thought not only would he be a draw for our patrons, but also that may be a way to get him virtually in the schools to talk with students.”

Following each solo performance, there will be a live Q&A session with the guest artist, speaking from their home, with Moore serving as moderator from Longmont.

Pianist Nathan Lee. Photo by Chris Lee.

Both LSO performances will be recorded in the Longmont Museum in advance of the online broadcast. The orchestra will play music by Bach on Mozart on Sunday, Oct. 11, including Bach’s Concerto for two violins, featuring the LSO’s new concertmaster and associate concertmaster, Benjamin Ehrmantraut and Kina Ono. The opposite bookend, Sunday, Dec. 13, will be a holiday program with music from Handel’s Messiah with four solo singers performing solo pieces, and joining together for the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

“I think that it’s imperative that we give [the audience] not only a good sound quality, but also a good visual quality,” Moore says. Having worked on streamed performances by the Detroit Symphony, he is working with the cameramen in planning the streams. “We’re talking about different shots, different camera angles and even more than that,” he says. 

“I’m also speaking with someone who’s going to be our host, so we can have a curated experience. These are all new things for us, but I have full confidence in the staff of the Longmont Symphony, and with our collaborators from Longmont Public Media, who are working so beautifully with us to bring all of this to life.”

Both individual concert and fall season virtual tickets are available from the LSO Web page. Each virtual ticket allows the holder to view the performance at their convenience, starting at the listed performance times. Each performance will be available for a period of time after the premiere.

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(Re)Sounding: 2020 Reimagined
Longmont Symphony
(Streamed performances; admission through the LSO Web page)

Bach “Double” and Mozart “Salzburg symphonies”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Benjamin Ehrmantraut and Kina Ono, violins

J.S. Bach: Concerto for two violins and orchestra, BWV1043
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K136
Divertimento in B-flat major, K137
Divertimento in F major, K138

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11

“Los Angeles to Longmont”
Caroline Campbell, violin
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

“Seattle to Longmont”
Nathan Lee, piano
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25

Handel’s Messiah, Solo Sections
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With four vocal soloists to be named later

Handel: Messiah solo pieces
“Hallelujah” Chorus

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13

STARKLAND’S NEW RELEASES: FEARLESS, AUTHENTIC AND EXPERIMENTAL

Boulder’s new music label has added three albums to its catalog

By Izzy Fincher Sept. 24 at 1:15 pm.

Boulder-based label Starkland recently issued three CDs that explore contemporary music’s different personalities. Listeners who favor the familiar should begin with Danielle Buonaiuto’s aesthetically pleasing Marfa Songs, while adventurous listeners should dive headfirst into Kathleen Supové‘s bold Eye to Ivory and then Instruments of Happiness’ The Happiness Handbook

Instruments of Happiness: The Happiness Handbook Music by Scott Godin, Tim Brady, Jordan Nobles, Maxime McKinley, Gordon Fitzell and Emily Hall, performed by Instruments of Happiness. Starkland ST-232

Instruments of Happiness’ new release The Happiness Handbook explores eclectic guitar sounds, wandering through diverse textures and colors. 

The guitar collective Instruments of Happiness is led by Tim Brady, an innovative Canadian guitarist and composer. Since 1988, Brady has released 24 CDs. Instruments of Happiness is a diverse ensemble of electric guitarists that exists in three sizes: the original quartet, a chamber orchestra, and a 100-piece ensemble. Their second studio album The Happiness Handbook, which features music by Canadian composers, received Global Music Award’s Gold Medal in 2019 and Prix Opus in Quebec in 2020. 

The opening track, Scott Godin’s “Martlandia,” pays homage to British composer Steven Martland, who combined European minimalism with British aesthetics. After a convincing imitation of a Haydn string quartet, the electric guitars emerge with a minimalistic melody that after eight minutes peaks with light distortion. 

Meandering through different aural textures, the next four tracks at times lack cohesiveness. Brady’s “Equal But Opposite Reaction” begins with an ambient, foreboding texture, randomly exploding into riffs. Jordan Noble’s “Deep Field” sounds like bluesy improvisations wandered into a science fiction soundtrack. Maxime McKinley’s “Reflects de Francesca Woodman” opens with effervescent harmonics that later fall into distorted hard rock riffs. Gordon Fitzell’s “Bomb Crater Garden” emulates scraping space noises, rocket beeps and robotic bird sounds, with no clear direction.

But the final work, Emily Hall’s “The Happiness Handbook,” finds a sense of cohesion and definitive personality. In five movements, Hall constructs a minimalistic texture, underpinned by ambient noise, as rapid slurs, distortion, warbles, slides, harmonics and beeps fade in and out above. Intensity builds through the movements, and a direction emerges, until finally the last movement hints at a melody. Guitars strike bluesy chords and repeated notes amidst an echoey reverb, bringing a satisfying closure to the 15-minute adventure. 

The Happiness Handbook shows an expertise and mastery of electric guitar. The guitar collective can emulate nearly any natural sound and weave multi-layered textures with ease. At times, the tracks might seem aimless, but perhaps Instruments of Happiness is more focused on the journey than a clear destination—the first step toward happiness.

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Kathleen Supové: Eye to Ivory. Music by Mary Ellen Childs, Guy Barash, Nick Didkovsky, Randall Woolf and Dafna Naphtali, performed by Kathleen Supové, piano. Starkland ST-233

Kathleen Supové’s Eye to Ivory is an unforgettable album. It evokes overpowering visceral reactions, from confusion to fear to embarrassment, and leaves a pervasive sense of unease. My advice is don’t listen to it at night or when you are home alone.

Supové knows how to push musical boundaries. As a young pianist, she won top prizes in the Gaudeamus International Competition for her interpretations of contemporary music. In the Exploding Piano, her ongoing solo concert series, she has championed many contemporary composers, including Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski and Louis Andriessen. Her work earned her the prestigious ASCAP John Cage Award in 2012. On her newest project Eye to Ivory, she continues to stretch the limits of piano repertoire. 

The album begins eerily with the title track “Eye to Ivory” by Mary Ellen Childs. Housed in the piano’s lowest register, the opening notes blend together into a low hum, building to an angry crescendo. It is grimy and hazy with lots of pedal. Sometimes sharp high notes float in, fighting against the dark low sounds. The piece lacks clear direction—it is a collage of developing textures, all with the undercurrent of unease.

Guy Barash’s “Talkback IV” creates aural confusion. Static and garbled piano sounds bounce between the left and the right speakers. At times, the sounds seem to be coming from all directions, even bouncing straight through the listener’s brain.

With the next two tracks, “Rama Broom” and “In the Privacy of My Own Home,” the creepiness sets in. “Rama Broom,” composed by Nick Didkovsky, is an unsettling mind-twister. Using a homicidal fantasy text, Didkovsky introduces syllables out of order, leaving the listener to decode the threatening text. It’s like a drawn-out childhood nightmare. 

“In the Privacy of My Own Home” shows the different sides of laughter. It gets weird pretty fast. Supové’s husband Randall Woolf created the composition by mixing live piano with samples of Supové’s laughs during Abbot and Costello’s skit “Who’s on First?” The composition captures laughter in the contexts of humor, sadness, intimacy and insanity. At first, it’s interesting, but by the third or fourth movement, it’s unbearably awkward, creepy and a bit too personal. 

The final track, Dafna Naphtali’s “Landmine,” is a slight respite, though certainly not conventional. The composition seamlessly blends the acoustic piano performance with real-time processing. The music feels otherworldly, as if a conventional piano performance has been interrupted by space noise.

Eye to Ivory is emotionally challenging to listen to. At times, it’s not even aesthetically pleasing, but that doesn’t seem to be its goal anyway. Instead, the album succeeds where it counts—in its commitment to being fearless and memorable. 

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Danielle Buonaiuto: Marfa Songs. Music by James Young, Cecilia Livingston, Natalie Draper and Douglas Buchanan, performed by Danielle Buonaiuto, soprano, and John Wilson, piano. Starkland ST-234

Danielle Buonaiuto’s Marfa Songs is a conservative contrast to Eye to Ivory. With only soprano voice and piano, the album is beautifully raw and authentic. 

Buonaiuto is known for promoting contemporary art songs and chamber music. She has received grants from the Peabody Institute and New Music USA. In 2018, she received the Brooklyn Arts Council grant to launch ChamberQUEER, a LGBTQ+ chamber music series in Brooklyn, New York. She has been a founding member of several contemporary music ensembles, including REXDuo and the Lunar Ensemble. 

The final three tracks are the highlight of the album—Douglas Buchanan’s “Psalm 23,” “The Skye Boat Song” and “Loch Lomond.” Buchanan transports traditional Scottish folk melodies into the 21st century with colorful harmonies and dissonance. These tracks are a delight for adventurous Celtic music aficionados. 

“Psalm 23” and “Loch Lomond” stay true to the original Celtic tunes, though with reimagined harmonies. The simple melodies show off Buonaiuto’s delicate touch and vocal control. “Loch Lomond” mostly resides within her rich mid-range, building to a sparkling, mournful ending, as she laments “me and my true love will never meet again / on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”

“The Skye Boat Song” is more romantic and experimental. Pianist John Wilson’s Debussy-esque arpeggios undulate like waves beneath free, improvisatory vocals. In the chorus, the ornamented vocals of “Speed, Bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing” seems to sway in the wind before taking flight.

James Young’s “Marfa Songs” are another notable work on the album. With nine movements in 14 minutes, “Marfa Songs” celebrates Young’s youth on the great plains of West Texas. The lyrics come from Anthony Madrid’spoetry collection I am your slave, now do what I say.

This work is more unpredictable and volatile than the Celtic tunes. At times, it sounds like an operatic, Wild-West version of Bernstein’s West Side Story.

”Heathen” sets the violent scene of western settlement, as Buonaiuto begs a  “war-weary general” to “call back your army, invincible army / show mercy to the heathen people.” The violent theme continues in ”Rope” and “Dragon,” before exploring love and heartbreak in “Mattress,” the jazzy lament ”Rival” and the cruel, mocking “Olympus.” “Olympus” is particularly aggressive, as Buonaiuto leaps to the top of her range, nearly screaming the word “Olympus.” Then the set waxes reflective on love and life with “Forgiveness,” “Ghost” and the eerie lullaby “Saguaro.”

Buonaiuto’s vocal and stylistic flexibility on Marfa Songs is impressive. From delicate Celtic folk songs to energetic western songs, Buonaiuto proves her profound vocal control—she can sing nearly anything convincingly and beautifully.

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All Starkland recordings may be purchased through the label’s Webpage.