Musical artists we lost in 2021

Remembering those we lost over the past year

By Peter Alexander Dec. 30 at 2:15 p.m.

Below is my annual remembrance of musicians that we the living lost over the past year. Let us take a moment to feel gratitude for each one who touched us individually and collectively over their lives and careers. This list is of course not compprehensive. As always, it is quite personal. I may not include those whom you will miss most, and if so I invite you to add your own memories in the comments. 

Gerry Marsden

Jan. 3: Gerry Marsden, lead singer, guitarist and founder of Gerry & the Pacemakers, a Merseybeat group that was created in Liverpool, UK, in the 1950s and disbanded in 1966, and whose version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” became the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club, 78

Jan. 6: Osian Ellis, Welsh harpist with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Melos Ensemble, who had a close musical partnership with Benjamin Britten, 92

Jan. 14: Elijah Moshinsky, celebrated Australian opera director who staged many productions at the Royal Opera House in London, as well as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Scottish Opera, Opera Australia, Teatro all Scala and the Wiener Staatsoper, among others, 75

Sammy Nestico

Jan. 17: Phil Spector, renowned music producer who developed the “wall of sound,” producer of recordings by the Ronettes, Ike & Tina Tuner, and the Beatles “Let It Be” album; while serving a 19-year sentence for murder, 81

Jan. 17: Sammy Nestico, prolific American composer and arranger for Count Basie, the U.S. Air Force and Marine bands in Washington, D.C., and trombonist for the Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa and other big bands, 96

Mary Wilson

Feb. 8: Mary Wilson, founding member and linchpin of The Supremes, one of the greatest and most influential of the Motown groups, from their first hit in 1963 and in all of their 12 No. 1 hits, 76

Feb. 9: Chick Corea, a virtuoso keyboard player who had great impact on the world of jazz, through both his creativity and his enjoyment of performing, and who worked with jazz artists from Stan Getz to Miles Davis before forming his own electric band, “Return to Forever,” 79

March 2: Bunny Wailer, born Neville Livingston, one of the original members of the esteemed and highly influential Wailers trio with Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, with whom he grew up as a near-stepbrother, and who won the Grammy for best Reggae Album three times, 73

Bunny Wailer

March 9: James Levine, one of the most admired conductors of the late 20th and early 21st centuries who over a 47-year tenure built the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera into one of the world’s best, until he was sidelined by health issues and fired after a long history of sexual improprieties caught up with him; loved by opera singers and Met audiences alike; also music director of the Chicago Symphony’s Ravinia Festival 1973–93, the Munich Philharmonic 1999–2004, and the Boston Symphony 2004–11; followed by accounts of abuse of younger men dating back to his student years, he was suspended and then fired by the Met when those accounts became public and subject to investigation, 77

March 13: Kenneth Cooper, harpsichordist and musical scholar, founder of the Berkshire Bach Ensemble, known for performing Baroque music with flair and creativity, 79

Christa Ludwig

April 7: Wayne Peterson, composer, professional jazz musician and professor of composition at San Francisco State University for more than 30 years who won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in composition, sparking a controversy because the Pulitzer committee had rejected the recommendation of the music jury, 93

April 24: Christa Ludwig, German mezzo-soprano known for both insightful opera and intimate art-song performances; loved by her fans and often called the greatest mezzo of her time, her diverse roles included Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, 93

April 26: Al Schmitt, multiple Grammy-winning recording engineer who produced recordings by Jefferson Airplane, Al Jarreau and Eddie Fischer, among others, and recorded Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Diana Krall, and other artists over a span of 60 years, 91

Martin Bookspan

April 28: Paul Kellogg, a creative and imaginative opera impresario who led the Glimmerglass Opera from 1979—with no previous administrative experience—until 2006, and later the New York City Opera from 1996 until 2007, 84

April 29: Martin Bookspan, the voice of radio broadcasts of the Boston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and announcer for “Live from Lincoln Center,” also an announcer for a soap opera and the author of books on music, among other careers, 94

Gianna Rolandi

June 20: Gianna Rolandi, American coloratura soprano known for her performances as Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and the title roles of Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, among other roles, during a career mostly centered on the New York City Opera, 68

June 20: Jeanne Lamon, violinist and for 33 years director of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra of Toronto, which became an international center for Baroque performance and brought their multi-media performance “Tales of Two Cities: the Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House” to Macky Auditorium in March 2019, 71

June 21: Mimi Stern-Wolfe, for many years a fixture of musical life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan who presented an annual concert of music by composers lost to AIDS, the founder of Downtown Music Productions, which presented concerts of music by women, music of the Holocaust, and other performances exploring lesser known realms, 84

June 26: Frederic Rzewski, composer of 36 variations on the Chilean protest song The People United will Never be Defeated, one of the great piano pieces of the past century, and himself a virtuoso pianist, known for his leftwing political convictions as well as his numerous musical works, 83

Frederic Rzewski

July 1: Louis Andriessen, Dutch composer influenced by Stravinsky, American minimalism and bebop, whose output included film music, two operas and other stage works, and what he called “big symphonic works . . . using the materials of the vernacular,” 82

July 9: Gil Wechsler, the first resident lighting designer at the Metropolitan Opera whose lighting designs were featured in more than 100 Met productions from 1977 until 1996, including some of the most lavish shows in the company’s history, 79

Jean Kraft. Photo by Douglas Merriam

July 15: Jean Kraft, American mezzo-soprano who sang 784 performances at the Metropolitan Opera from 1970 to 1989, including 11 telecasts and more than 75 radio broadcasts, in addition to performances at the Santa Fe Opera, Central City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera and Vienna State Opera, 94

July 17: Graham Vick, British opera director known for his efforts to reach new audiences, through diverse casting and use of non-traditional performing spaces, and his founding of Birmingham Opera, where he gave performances in English and kept ticket prices low, but who also directed productions at Glyndebourne, the Met, and other major houses, 67

July 20: Jerry Granelli, jazz drummer from Halifax, Nova Scotia , who was the last surviving member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio that recorded the music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and who as a session drummer played with jazz artists including Bill Evans and Bill Frisell, and also with Sly Stone, the Kingston Trio and the Grateful Dead, 80

Igor Oistrakh

Aug. 14: Igor Oistrakh, Russian violinist who performed and recorded extensively in the West throughout the Cold War, a member of the Oistrakh violin dynasty along with his father, David, and son, Valery, 90

August 14: Hugh Wood, British composer of symphonic, chamber and vocal works, largely unknown outside Great Britain, where he was well respected and received many commissions, 89

August 14: R. Murray Schafer, Canadian composer known for his concept of the soundscape and a leader in the field of acoustic ecology, founder of the World Soundscape Project, 88

August 21: Don Everly, the last surviving member of the Everly Brothers vocal duo who hit peak teen stardom in the late 1950s with hits including “Wake Up Little Susie” and ”Cathy’s Clown,” but were eclipsed in the early ‘60s by the Beatles and the other mega-groups of that decade, leading to a dramatic onstage breakup in 1973, 84

August 24: Charlie Watts, for more than 50 years the solid, un-flamboyant and jazz-inflected drummer of the Rolling Stones, who as a trained graphic artist also designed some of the Stone’s album covers, 80

Charlie Watts

Sept. 2: Mikis Theodorakis, Greek composer known internationally for his film music, including scores for Zorba the Greek, Z and Serpico, who also fought a war of resistance against the Greek military junta that took power in 1967, leading to his arrest and temporary banishment from Greece, 96

Paddy Maloney

Sept. 30: Carlisle Floyd, composer-librettist from the South best known for his opera Susannah, which transferred the Biblical tale of Susannah and the elders to Tennessee, and other operatic tales of Americana, long time faculty member at Florida State University in Tallahassee, 95

Oct. 1: Raymond Gniewek, concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 43 years, a position to which he was appointed in 1957 at the age of 25, and who was instrumental in the orchestra’s rise to a first-class ensemble, 89

Oct. 12: Paddy Maloney, Irish musician, composer and producer, founder of the traditional Irish folk group The Chieftains, noted as a player of the uilleann pipes and the tin whistle, whose career spanned nearly 60 years and included collaborations with musicians as diverse as Sir James Galway, Chet Atkins, Mick Jagger, Sinéad O’Connor, and Van Morrison, 83

Edita Gruberova

Oct. 18: Edita Gruberova, Slovak-born coloratura soprano who debuted at the Wiener Staatsoper in 1970 as the Queen of the Night, a role in which she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1977; also known for other coloratura roles during a career that lasted until 2001 with performances at Gyndebourne, the Bayerische Staatsoper, and La Scala, 74

Oct. 21: Bernard Haitink, chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra for 27 years who also conducted the London Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Dresden Staatkapelle, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, among others, at Glyndebourne and other opera companies, and made more than 450 recordings, 92

Slide Hampton

Nov. 11: Graeme Edge, drummer and co-founder of The Moody Blues who fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll as a boy, author of many of the group’s “Spoken word poems” attached to songs including “Knights in White Satin,” one of the songs for which they were best known, 80.

Nov. 20: Slide Hampton, jazz trombonist, composer ,arranger and Grammy-award winner who started playing trombone in his father’s band, then played with Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson, among others, and led “The World of Trombones,” a band of up to nine trombones and a drummer; 89

Stephen Sondheim

November 26: Stephen Sondheim, one of the very few genuine titans of the Broadway stage of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, composer and lyricist who learned at the feet of family friend Oscar Hammerstein, broke onto Broadway with lyrics for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959) and then pointed to his future path writing music and lyrics for the Tony-Award winning A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962); in the following decades he provided music and lyrics for an astonishingly varied series of shows, including Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987); in the course of this career he collaborated with some of Broadway’s best, including director Hal Prince, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and playwright/director/librettist James Lapine; 91

NOTE: Links to performances have been added after the original posting of this article.

Boulder Opera presents a family show about a misbehaving child

Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges will be at the Dairy Center Dec. 17–19

By Peter Alexander Dec. 14 at 10:15 p.m.

You cannot accuse the Boulder Opera Company of a lack of ambition.

Dianela Acosta

The small company under the direction of Dianela Acosta has presented such staples of the repertoire as Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Mascagni‘s Cavalleria rusticana and Puccini’s La Bohème, as well as operatic rarities by César Cui and Xavier Montsalvatge. That’s in addition to free opera in the park at Boulder‘s Bandshell, concert performances of arias, and outreach to local schools.

All on a small budget, which means the numbers of singers and other musicians, and the extent of the scenery must all be limited. Boulder Opera’s sets and costumes are generally bare bones, and the accompaniment may be only a piano, or piano with a handful of instruments. 

Acosta doesn’t let those limitations stop her. “If I had any hesitation, I wouldn’t have done anything,” she says. She and the crew always find a way to convey the story, and the singers she hires are young professionals whose skill and dedication overcome the musical obstacles. For 10 years Boulder Opera has been reaching a growing audience.

Their next production aimed at families is only about 50 minutes in length, but it is one of the most challenging works yet: Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges (The child and the spells), about a child who misbehaves badly but provides a lesson about kindness and forgiveness. Performances will be Dec. 17 and 19 in the Grace Gamm Theater at the Dairy Arts Center (details below).

The libretto by renowned French writer Colette tells the story of a child who throws a temper tantrum, tearing pages from his schoolbooks and wallpaper from the walls, breaking china and kicking the furniture. The scene suddenly transforms to the garden outside, where animals and objects gang up for revenge, until the child performs a simple act of kindness and is forgiven.

“Finding a subject that was kid-friendly was one of our goals,” Acosta says. “There is this message of kindness at the end. It’s the idea of unconditional love. He is a child and you have to forgive him once he comes out of his tantrum.”

The cast of Boulder Opera’s production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortiléges. Jenna Clark (center) sings the role of Lenfant.

The score lists more than 20 different singing characters plus a chorus, and it calls for plenty of stage magic—a fire that comes to life, singing furniture, dishes, cats, squirrels, frogs, a dragonfly and a tree, characters from the torn wallpaper and the ripped book, and the transformation of the child’s room into a garden. Here, this must all be done by a cast of 10 and without extensive stage machinery. Costumes are expressive but not elaborate, to keep the changes fast and simple.

L’Enfant et les sortilèges is not done often because of the large cast and the scenery changes,” Acosta says. “As a small company it was a daunting project, but not only have we double cast”—that is, most singers perform more than one role—”most of the characters are also singing in the ensemble. We have a great creative team. Everyone has been very organized and they put their heads together to accomplish it.”

Acosta has been working mostly behind the scenes, so a lot of the challenges fell on the shoulders of stage director Dana Kinney. “You would think with a short production it wouldn’t be so complicated,” she says. “But there are so many characters, all the props, all the costume changes—a lot definitely goes into this production.”

Dana Kinney

While the stage at the Dairy has limited technical resources, Kinney found a silver lining to that, too. “Much as I would love to have a fly-in set of the room into this magical garden, there’s so much happening on stage, (this production) actually gives the audience a chance to focus on the action.”

She said the greatest challenge was a scene where a math teacher and numbers rise out of a book the child has ripped apart. “The music is so active that the action onstage (is) very active as well. That is probably a three-minute scene that took three hours to stage! It’s like the chaos of the child’s head while doing math homework is played out in real life.”

Her favorite scene may be one between two cats, who sing meeows but no real words. “A scene like that is the easiest, because you don’t have to think about the text,” she says. “You can create your own story, and that’s a fun thing to work on. (The singers) are doing all the cat mannerisms, on the floor, and they’re taking complete ownership. It has a lot of playfulness.”

For all of the challenges created by Ravel’s opera, Kinney has enjoyed working with the cast. “I’ve been fortunate to work with this group,” she says. “Everything I threw their way, they committed to 100 percent. They have tried everything while also incorporating their own vision of the characters.

“This is going to be a really, really fun production!”

# # # # #

Maurice Ravel: L’enfant et les sortilèges (The child and the spells)
Boulder Opera Company
Steven Aguiló-Arbues, conductor; Dana Kinney, stage director
Maggie Hinchcliffe, piano
Performed in French with English titles

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, and Saturday, Dec. 18
1 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19

Grace Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center
NOTE: The Diary Arts Center requires masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra celebrates the Holidays with music and chocolate

Principal cello and principal clarinet will be featured soloists Dec. 11

By Peter Alexander Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.

There are lots of Christmas concerts in Boulder this time of year, but only one is offering chocolate along with the music.

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra has paired with Boulder’s Piece, Love & Chocolate for their concert Saturday (7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church), and while the program does not feature a single carol, who can turn down the sweets?

The occasion for the chocolates is the performance of Symphonic Chocolates by Maxime Goulet, a piece that suggests—requires?—a specific kind of chocolate with each of its four movements. For the rest of the program, conductor Bahman Saless wanted to feature members of the BCO as soloists.

Joseph Howe

“It’s really important to support our principal musicians,” he says. “We had planned during the COVID year to do two pieces (featuring BCO players). I decided that in the spirit of the orchestra being a family that it would be appropriate to do both of them on the same night.”

The two solo pieces will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, played by principal cellist Joseph Howe, and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, played by principal clarinetist Kellan Toohey. For the former, Saless points out, Howe and the BCO will perform the original version, which is not often heard today.

The cellist who played the premiere and the score’s dedicatee, Wilhelm Fitzhagen, considered the Variations to be ”his” piece. He changed the order of the variations and cut Tchaikovsky’s final variation, all without consulting the composer. Tchaikovksy reportedly hated the changes, but didn’t challenge them, and ever since it has been Fitzhagen’s revised version that has usually been performed.

The original version “is hard to get now” Saless says. “We had to get it from somewhere else—it’s out of print.” Nevertheless, some scholars and performers prefer the original version, because the order of the variations seems to follow a more logical musical development.

Allan Toohey

Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was one of the composer’s very last completed pieces, composed shortly before his death in 1791. It was written for Anton Stadler, a personal friend of the composer and one of the very first virtuoso clarinet players. He performed on an instrument that had an extended range, making it possible to play a few notes lower than the modern instrument. It also had a very primitive fingering system with only a few keys, making it remarkable that the piece could be played at all. Today it is regarded as the first great solo piece for the instrument and is often played for professional clarinet auditions. 

But back to the chocolates! Goulet describes his Symphonic Chocolates as “a work meant to accompany a chocolate tasting . . . an orchestral suite in four short movements in which each movement evokes a different flavor of chocolate.” The four flavors are described musically, and “the audience is invited to eat four small chocolates while each movement of the corresponding flavor is being played.”

The four movements and their descriptions in Goulet’s program notes are: “1. Caramel Chocolate: A long lyrical melody supported by a rich and enveloping sonority; 2. Dark Chocolate: An intense habanera of desire and seduction, spiced up with a dissonant bitterness; 3. Mint Chocolate: A delicate freshness with icy cold sonorities; 4. Coffee-infused Chocolate: An espresso tempo with a Brazilian flavor.”

Maxime Goulet

For the BCO performance, Boulder’s Piece, Love and & Chocolate will provide a box of four small chocolates of the described varieties which can be purchased with the tickets to the concert. The chocolates will be given out at the concert to ticket holders who purchased them.

If you don’t recognize the name, Goulet is active both as a composer of concert music and of music for video games. He was staff composer for Gameloft 2007–13, and has written the music for games including “Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade,” “The Amazing Spider Man” 1 and 2, “Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front” and “Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War.”

# # # # #

“A Gift of Music:” Celebrating the Season with BCO Stars
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor

  • Maxime Goulet: Symphonic Chocolates
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme (original version)
    Joseph Howe, cello
  • Mozart: Concerto in A for clarinet and orchestra
    Kellan Toohey, clarinet

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec.11
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church
TICKETS (admission and the chocolates may be purchased separately)
NOTE: See BCO COVID policies on their home page

Faculty Tuesday: ‘Odysseys from Nicaragua to New Hampshire’

Contemporary song cycles by Gabriela Lena Frank and Herschel Garfein will be performed Dec. 7

By Izzy Fincher Dec. 3 at 1:55 p.m.

The genre of song cycles, popularized by Schubert in the early 19th century, is traditionally associated with tenor and piano. However, there is also a rich history of baritone song cycles by classical and contemporary composers, including Beethoven, Verdi, Ravel, Ralph Vaughn Williams and Benjamin Britten. 

Baritone Andrew Garland

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7, baritone Andrew Garland will perform two contemporary song cycles for “Odysseys from Nicaragua to New Hampshire,” a concert for CU’s “Faculty Tuesdays” series. The program features Gabriela Lena Frank’s Cantos de Cifar y el Mar Dulce (Songs of Cifar and the sweet sea) with pianist Jeremy Reger and the baritone premiere of Herschel Garfein’s Mortality Mansions with pianist David Korevaar. 

Frank, a Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer, is known for her multicultural influences, combining Latin American musical styles with Western classical music. This reflects her diverse background, growing up in California with parents of mixed Peruvian/Chinese and Lithuanian/Jewish ancestry, as well her creative travels throughout Latin America. 

Her song cycle Cantos de Cifar y el Mar Dulce is an odyssey from Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America. Set to poems by Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra, it tells the story of the harp-playing sailor Cifar, who travels around Lake Nicaragua.

Gabriela Lena Frank

“The poetry is very simple and direct, yet deep and meaningful,” Garland says. “There’s definitely magic realism in there.”

The eight-song cycle lasting 30 minutes is a work in progress, which Frank plans to expand to 70 minutes with soprano and then orchestrate with guitars and marimbas. In 2007, Garland premiered the last two songs in the cycle, “Eufemia” and “En la Vela del Angelito”(In the little angel’s candle). Fourteen years later for his Faculty Tuesday performance, he wanted to perform the rest of the cycle, which he describes as cohesive and compelling even in its incomplete form.

“Within the arc of these eight songs, you get a great variety of magic, solemnity, comedy, mystery, intensity and darkness,” Garland says. “They are very powerful and memorable.” 

This will be followed by the baritone premiere of Mortality Mansions by Garfein, a Grammy-Award winning composer, librettist and stage director. Mortality Mansions, originally written for tenor, is set to selected poems that span former U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall’s 60-year career. Drawing from his personal experiences with the death of his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, Hall depicts a moving portrait of love, sexuality and loss in later life.

Herschel Garfein

“When I first read Hall’s poetry, I was amazed,” Garfein recalls. “I was immediately attracted to these very vivid poems about life and especially about sexuality over the age of 60, which is something no one talks about. He’s both very frank and very moving about it.”

“These poems are so insightful and illuminating, but he doesn’t show off or lecture the reader,” Garfein continues. “That’s extremely important in great art.”

To complement Hall’s writing style, Garfein chose to keep the vocal lines melodic and mostly tonal. This is accompanied by dissonant harmonies and virtuosity of the piano part, a contrast inspired by Schubert’s lieder style. 

Garfein selected the title, Mortality Mansions, from the second poem, “When I Was Young,” a contemplation of how youthful lust has evolved with aging. The poem ends with the line, “Let us pull back the blanket, slide off our bluejeans,// assume familiar positions,// and celebrate lust in mortality mansions.” 

Given the long time span of the collection, each poem feels like a vignette of love and life, cohesive yet independent. The work opens with “When the Young Husband,” depicting an ill-fated affair between the young husband and his wife’s friend, accompanied by an energetic motif. 

“In the first song, what needs to come across is the recklessness and brazen disregard or the desire for chaos and downfall, that Don Giovanni-esque, bring-it-on attitude,” Garland says. 

Then the focus shifts to bittersweet recollections from Hall’s relationship with Kenyon, beginning with “When I Was Young.” This flow is briefly interrupted by “Woolworth’s,” an ode to the iconic American five-and-dime business that closed in 1997, and “The Green Shelf,” in which a neighbor is killed in a lawnmower accident, a disturbing scene accompanied by an agitated piano part in an ominously low register. 

Over the next six poems, Hall shares happy memories of making love and cooking together with Kenyon, before shifting to painful reflections on endings and death. The cycle ends with “Otherwise” by Kenyon, a poem about enjoying the beauty of small moments in daily life, while acknowledging the ephemeral nature of existence.  

Mortality Mansions evokes both the grandeur and the fatality (of human existence),” Garfein says. “It’s a call to enjoy life while you can because it’s not going to last forever. Love and sexuality are a hedge against mortality, against death.”

# # # # #

“Odysseys from Nicaragua to New Hampshire”
Andrew Garland, tenor

  • Gabriela Lena Frank: Cantos de Cifar y el Mar Dulce
    with Jeremy Reger, piano
  • Herschel Garfein: Mortality Mansions
    with David Korevaar, piano

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7
Grusin Recital Hall, CU Imig Music Building
Admission free 
Livestream available from CU Presents

King’s Singers return to Boulder with music familiar and new

‘Christmas with the King’s Singers’ will be December 8 in Macky Auditorium

By Peter Alexander Dec. 2 at 4:30 p.m.

Pat Dunachie can hardly wait to get back onstage. With an audience. In Boulder.

As a member of the King’s Singers, Dunachie was accustomed to traveling and performing about seven months out of every year. And then COVID hit and—nothing. 

“We ended up with two concerts after the 110 we had expected [in 2020], which was really tough,” he says.

King’s Singers at play. Photo by Frances Marshall.

But once the tours started again in September, Dunachie says, “it felt like life was back to normal. And in December we return to the States for a Christmas tour, which I think is a real sign that life is back to normal, and we can get our woolly hats and scarves on. That will feel like normal!”

Early in the 2021 Christmas tour the King’s Singers will appear at Macky to present “Christmas with the King’s Singers,” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

Holiday season brings a wide spectrum of musical celebrations

Two Messiah performances lead the local programs

By Peter Alexander Dec. 1 at 3:52 p.m.

What is one thing COVID has not closed down this year? The flood of Holiday-themed concerts in December.

This is in stark contrast to last year, when there were virtually no live concerts anywhere. Holiday music-making, if any, was done online. But now Boulder has returned to near normal, and there is no space or time to give individual coverage to all the concerts. Here is a compilation of most local classical concerts, all of them available for live attendance and some with streaming as well (details and ticket information are below; check each group’s Web page for COVID requirements):

Boulder Ballet Nutcracker (2018). Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

The Nutcracker returns to Longmont in performances by the Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet (Dec. 3–5). Performances of this perennial family favorite also include a sensory-friendly “Gentle” Nutcracker performance that will be under one hour with both dramatic and musical elements as well as lighting adapted for special needs children.

Boulder Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker almost had to be cancelled for the second year running, until supporters of the ballet and the symphony raised funds to support the performances. LSO executive director Catherine Beeson released a statement, saying “The thought of our communities having to miss a second year of this holiday tradition was too disappointing to consider. We are so grateful to Boulder Ballet and LSO patrons, supporters and sponsors who stepped up to fill the gap.”

The CU Holiday Festival (Dec. 3–5), featuring CU College of Music ensembles, is one of the oldest musical traditions in Boulder, dating back decades. Performing groups this year will be the Holiday Brass, the Holiday Festival Orchestra, Chamber Singers, Holiday Festival Choral Union, West African Highlife Ensemble, Holiday Festival Jazz, and the Magari Quartet.

The 2013 Holiday Concert put on by the College of Music in Macky Auditorium at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

There will be some very familiar Holiday music—“Ding, Dong Merrily on High,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the perennial favorite, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” But there will also be some unusual selections, including the Spanish villancico “Ríu, ríu, chíu,” the Gloria from the Misa Criolla (Creole Mass) by the Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez, and a Nigerian Christmas song, “Betelehemu” (Bethlehem). The program will conclude with the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

The Holiday Festival often sells out. That may be different this year, with COVID restriction still in place, but check availability before making plans.

There will be two performances of Handel’s Messiah  in Boulder this year: One by conductor Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Chorale (Dec. 4), and one by conductor Zachary Carrettin and performers of the Boulder Bach Festival (Dec. 17 and 19).

Both organizations will present only the Christmas portion of Messiah; Pro Musica Colorado will add the “Hallelujah” chorus. Theirs will be the more traditional style of performance, with full chorus. The Boulder Bach Festival will present Messiah with only one on a part in both orchestra and chorus; in other words, the choral parts will all be sung by a quartet of vocal soloists rather than a traditional chorus.

The Ars Nova Singers will present their Holiday program, “Made Merry,” in Denver (Dec. 10), Longmont (Dec. 12) and Boulder (Dec. 16 and 17).

Harpist Kathryn Harms

Under the direction of Thomas Edward Morgan, the Ars Nova Singers will be joined by guest artist Kathryn Harms on harp. The program follows the usual pattern for Ars Nova Holiday concerts: a mix of new arrangements and recent compositions with more traditional tunes. 

Featured works will include Variations on “Lo How a Rose” by Hugo Distler, a prominent composer of sacred music in early 20th century Germany, whose short life illustrates the tragedy of his times. Torn between his revulsion for the Nazi regime and the prominent positions he was granted, he took his own life in 1942 at the age of 34. 

Other works on the program are Morgan’s arrangement of “What Child is This?,” Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of “In the Beak Midwinter,” Jeffrey Van’s arrangement of the Mexican carol “El Rorro” (The babe) and contemporary English composer Jonathan Dove’s setting of “The Three Kings” by Dorothy Sayers.

The Longmont Symphony’s annual Candlelight concert, this year titled “A Baroque Christmas,” will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19 at the Westview Presbyterian Church in Longmont. Elliot Moore will conduct, with soprano soloist Ekaterina Kotcherguina.

Music by familiar Baroque composers will comprise the majority of the program, including Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, known as the “Christmas Concerto” and J.S. Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto. Kotcherguina will sing arias from Handel’s Messiah, including “I know that my redeemer liveth” and “Rejoice Greatly.”

She will also sing “The Holy City,” a Victorian-era ballad that was extremely popular and widely performed around the turn of the 20th century, and that has been called “the most pirated piece prior to the internet.” Published under the name Stephen Adams, it was actually the work of English composer and singer Michael Maybrick.

According to legend, the song got a group of drunken prisoners released by a judge, it was mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and via a spiritual titled “Hosanna” its melody found its way into Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy. It continues to be performed, often under the title “Jerusalem.”

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Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
1 and 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4
1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5: “Gentle Nutcracker”
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

CU College of Music ensembles
“Holiday Festival 2021”
Featuring College of Music faculty with student choirs, bands and orchestras

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

Macky Auditorium

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale and vocal soloists
George Frideric Handel: Messiah

7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Tickets for in-person and live-streamed performance

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor
“Made Merry”

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver
4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, United Church of Christ, Longmont
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Tickets for in-person and streamed performances.

Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
George Frideric Handel: Messiah

7:30 pm. Friday, Dec. 17
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19

Broomfield Auditorium

Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
“Candlelight: A Baroque Christmas”

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19, Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont