Ars Nova Singers’ Shared Visions 2 brings together visual art, poetry, music

“A Celebration of Colorado Artistry,” April 26 and 27

By Peter Alexander April 24, 2019 at 2:15 p.m.

Works of art can inspire other works of art. A poem may inspire a composer to write songs or choral music with the poem as the text. Operas and films are often based on literary works.

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Ars Nova Singers

Paintings can also inspire music—think for example of Mussorgsky’s great piano piece, best known in various orchestral versions, Pictures at an Exhibition. Debussy’s La Mer was inspired in part by Hokusai’s painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” and there are other examples.

Thomas Edward Morgan, director of Ars Nova Singers, has decided to help the inspirational process along while adding another layer with a project titled “A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2,” which culminates this weekend in two concerts by Ars Nova (Friday in Cherry Hills Village, Saturday in Boulder; details below).

This is the second iteration of Shared Visions, which Morgan and Ars Nova first presented in 2016. The process of getting from one artwork to another was the same both times: Colorado visual artists were invited to submit artworks for consideration; Colorado poets were then asked to write a new poem inspired by one or more of the artworks; and Colorado composers were invited to choose one of the resulting poems to set for chorus to be premiered by Ars Nova.

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“Synapse Tapestry” by John Bonath, one of the artworks included in Shared Visions 2, 2019

For the current project, Ars Nova assembled an online gallery of 24 artworks by eight visual artists in the summer of 2018. Eight poets viewed the gallery and used the images as a basis for poetry. The resulting 47 poems were gathered into an anthology of poems and images of the artworks, and Ars Nova then commissioned four composers—Paul Fowler, Leanna Kirchoff, Jeff Nytch, and Morgan—to select poems from the anthology to be set as new works for chorus.

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“Healing Grace—Lungs” by Grace Gee, one of the artworks in Shared Visions 2

The poets whose work they selected to set are Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (two works), Erin Robertson and Christine Weeber. The visual artists who inspired the poems are John Bonath. Elizabeth Woody, Grace Gee and Kimmerjae Macarus.

“It was so successful when we did it three years ago that we decided that we would do it again in about three years,” Morgan says. “It takes a couple of years to pull it together.”

The rules for the composer were to write a piece for mixed chorus, either a capella (unaccompanied), or with a single solo instrument other than piano. As it turned out, all the pieces this year are for voices alone.

Morgan says the four pieces are quite different. “They come from different aesthetic places,” he says. “All of our composers have done really interesting stuff with these texts.

“The last time we did this project it was just the energy of these people meeting. It really is unique to see the chain of inspiration, and see (the artists) connect on a human level because the painters and visual artists are having their works sung to them.”

Sometimes, Morgan says, the connections made through the project reach beyond the initial collaborations and performance. “It has opened up some connections for some of (the artists) already,” he says. “I know that Paul Fowler and Rosemary Trommer have done a couple of other projects together since the last one.

“We had one poet, Karen Robertson, who was so taken with the project (this year) that she wrote a poem for each visual art piece in the gallery, and another poet, Rosemary Trommer, wrote 14 poems.

“Getting that level of engagement out of our literary artists was really quite gratifying.”

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Ars Nova Singers

“A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions”
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, director

Paul Fowler: Synapse (poem by Rosemerrry Wahtola Trommer; visual art by John Bonath)
Leanna Kirchoff: Holy Water (poem by Erin Robertson; visual art by Elizabeth Woody)
Jefffrey Nytch: Thank You Letter to My Lungs (poem by Rosemerrry Wahtola Trommer; visual art by Grace Gee)
Thomas Edward Morgan: Heart Vessels (poem by Christine Weeber; granite sculpture by Kimmerjae Macarus)

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder

Tickets: April 26; April 27

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