“Choral Dances” concert sponsored by Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers
By Peter Alexander Feb. 27 at 3:30 p.m.
In 2005 brothers Paul and Barnaby Smith, who had both been choristers at Westminster Abbey, formed their own a capella vocal group. With eight members, they drew on their classical Latin learning and called the group Voces8 (Voices8).
Today the group tours internationally, commissions new works, has released more than a dozen recorded albums, has their own educational foundation, a composer-in-residence, and now has a Grammy nomination to their name. Comprising two sopranos, one alto, one countertenor, two tenors, a baritone and a bass, they perform a variety of styles from folk to pop, from music of the Renaissance to classic jazz, often in their own arrangements.
Thanks to sponsorship by Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, Voces8 will appear in Colorado this week: at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Macky Auditorium in Boulder and Thursday at St. John/s Cathedral in Denver (March 1 and 2). The Denver performance is sold out, but tickets for Wednesday’s Macky Auditorium performance are still available HERE.
Under the title “Choral Dances,” the Macky program offers what the group calls “a rare mix of ethereal and angelic,” and will include performances by Ars Nova, under the direction of Tom Morgan. Both groups will present music that reflects their individual traditions of performing music from the Renaissance to the current day.
Voces8 will open with a celebratory sacred piece from the Renaissance, “Buccinate in Neomenia Tuba” (Blow the trumpet when the moon is new) by Giovanni Croce. Characteristic of their eclectic programming, that will be followed by an eight-part motet by Mendelssohn (“Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen”—For He shall give his angels charge), music by group co-founder Paul Smith (“Nunc Dimittis”—Now depart) and the great cellist Pablo Casals (“O vos omnes”—O all ye).
“Drop, drop, slow tears,” one of the best known songs of the English Renaissance composer Orland Gibbons, is paired with a setting of “The deer’s cry,” a sacred poem also known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Ars Nova closes the first half of the concert with three pieces from their repertoire, by English Renaissance composer John Shepherd, late Renaissance Italian composer Carlo Gesualdo, and contemporary American composer Caroline Shaw.
In the second half of the concert Voces8 will sing one of their most popular numbers, a setting of Elgar’s famous “Nimrod” variation from The Enigma Variations to the text “Lux Aeterna” (Eternal light). Other composers on their program are Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, and the great early Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi. The program closes with another piece by Orlando Gibbons, the joyful “O Clap Your Hands.”
The group’s Voces8 Foundation is a registered charity in the United Kingdom. It was set up by Paul and Barnaby Smith in 2006 to develop the ensemble’s music education and outreach programs. Located in London, the foundation works with choral and small vocal groups in both performance and education. It presents workshops and masterclasses, and awards choral scholarships to young singers. There is a separate Voces8 USA Foundation.
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Ars Nova Singers presents Voces8
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2
St. John’s Cathedral, Denver—SOLD OUT