Central City Opera announces 2022 summer festival season

90th season is planned to be back in the beautiful Central City Opera House

By Peter Alexander Oct. 6 at 5:40 p.m.

Central City Opera has announced three delicious offerings for the 90th summer season in 2022, scheduled to be back in  the exquisite but small Central City Opera House in Central City, after last year’s outdoors performances at Hudson Gardens in Littleton.

Opening Night at Central City Opera. Featured in Central City Opera’s 75th anniversary book, “Theatre of Dreams, The Glorious Central City Opera—Celebrating 75 Years.”

The 2022 season will open on July 2 and run through July 31. The two works scheduled for mainstage performances in the Central City Opera House will be Die Fledermaus, the frothy Viennese operetta by Johann Strauss, Jr., and  The Light in the Piazza, a 2005 Broadway show by Adam Guettel—Richard Rodgers’s grandson—based on a novella by American writer Elizabeth Spencer. The third production will be Two Remain, a two-act opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer based on the true stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska and Gad Beck. Two Remain will be performed in the Martin Foundry in Central City.

The mainstage productions promise lighter fare for next summer, with no murder-for-hire plots (Rigoletto, 2021), suicides (Carousel, 2021, and Madame Butterfly, 2019), hangings (Bully Budd, 2019), or burnings at the stake (Il Trovatore, 2018). This may be just what audiences need after the COVID pandemic; I for one look forward to a summer without operatic death. I also look forward to all three works: one I love (Die Fledermaus) and two that I am eager to discover (The Light in the Piazza and Two Remain).

Central City Opera has provided the following descriptions of the works in the 2022 season:

  • The light comic operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr. premiered in 1874 and continues to be treasured by audiences today. Gabriel von Eisenstein playfully tosses his friend Doctor Falke out of a carriage en route home from a lavish costume party. Dressed in a ridiculous bat disguise, Falke is now known about town as Doctor Bat, or Die Fledermaus. Later, Eisenstein is attempting to dodge a short jail sentence for yet another overture of mischief. Under the guise of one final night on the town, Falke launches a champagne-soaked prank with the help of Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinde, determined to entertain the evening’s dinner party host Prince Orlofsky.
  • A 2005 Broadway premiere by composer Adam Guettel (grandson of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein), The Light in the Piazza sees strong-willed Southern housewife Margaret Johnson and her charming daughter Clara vacationing in Italy in the summer of 1956. Margaret hopes the magic and memories of Florence will sweep her off her feet, but it’s Clara and earnest inamorato Fabrizio who fall in love at first sight. Torn from their guidebooks, mother and daughter must brave blossoming love, buried secrets and a startling cultural clash to uncover the hopeful new chapters they didn’t know they’d been searching for.
  • Two Remain tells the powerful true stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska and Gad Beck. Premiering in 2016 under the title Out of Darkness, the two-act opera was commissioned by Music of Remembrance at Benaroya Hall in Seattle and composed by Jake Heggie. The libretto by Gene Scheer is based on documents and journals found in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Central City Opera’s production will be the Colorado regional premiere of this stunning piece.

New subscriptions to Central City Opera will be available in January, 2022. Single tickets will go on sale April 1, 2022. More information and access to tickets sales can be found on the Central City Opera Web page.

NOTE: Typo corrected 10/7.

Takács Quartet recording wins Gramophone award for 2021

Piano Quintet recording with pianist Garrick Ohlsson winner in chamber category

By Peter Alexander Sept. 28 at 11:30 a.m.

The London-based classical music monthly Gramophone recently announced the winners of their Classical Music Awards for 2021, including a recording by the Takács Quartet and pianist Garrick Ohlsson in the chamber music category.

Primarily a magazine devoted to reviews of new recordings, Gramophone annually selects the recordings it considers to be the best in a variety of categories. For 2021, the winner in the Chamber Music category is Ohlsson and the Takács’s recording of piano quintets by Sir Edward Elgar and Amy Beach. This CD was reviewed on this site earlier this year.

Jeremy Dibble’s Gramophone review, which is included in the announcement of the winner, states “Ohlsson and the Takács are to be congratulated for the warmth of their interpretation and for their ability to encompass the challenging range of Elgar’s complex moods.”

You may see the full list of 2021 Gramophone Classical Music Awards winners here. The winners are all automatically in contention for Gramophone’s award for Classical Music Recording of the Year. That award will be announced at the Gramophone Awards ceremony, which will be available online at 12 noon MDT (7 p.m. BST) Tuesday, Oct. 5, on the Gramophone YouTube channel.

Joining a growing trend, Boulder Chamber Orchestra plans return to the stage

2021-22 season will celebrate heroes and mourn victims of the past year

By Peter Alexander June 25 at 5:24 p.m.

Bahman Saless, music director of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO), can hardly wait to get back in front of a live audience

Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.

“Oh my god yes, I’m dying!” he says.

The BCO recently announced their 2021–22 season, which will feature a mix of orchestra concerts and mini-chamber concerts through the coming year—very much the pattern of previous seasons. “People want to feel that normalcy is back, and that was the whole plan,” Saless says. “We haven’t gone anywhere, we’re here, and we’re going to have a super season!”

For those who prefer to retain some social distancing in public situations, Saless points out that the current location of most of their concerts, Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church, had a large space that does not usually sell out. 

“We never filled all the seats, because Seventh Day Adventist is pretty big.” He says. “I think the same number of people will want to come back, in which case they would still be OK. They could occupy the entire place, sitting  every other seat. We’re all crossing our fingers that things will get even better and they will get back to normal by October. I’m pretty confident we should be OK.”

Saless says the programs were chosen to fit the timing, of opening up again after a pandemic. “We’re going to celebrate heroes, the people that were in the front line with COVID,” he says. “That’s the first concert, with the Beethoven “Eroica” (Symphony). And then (we remember) the victims, which is the last concert.”

Howard Goodall

The major piece on that closing concert is Eternal Light by British composer Howard Goodall, a piece that Saless says recalls his years in a British boarding school. “I was homesick for so long about English hymn tunes,” he says. “When I heard this piece I was like ‘Oh my God, this is what I’ve wanted to do!’ I thought it would be very fitting to dedicate that concert to the people who lost their lives to COVID. And it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Most of the rest of the season is music that Saless had originally planned for the “lost” season of 2020-21.

A discounted season ticket for the 2021–22 season is available here. You may purchase tickets to the individual concerts by clicking through from that page to the listing of each concert.

# # # # #

Mini-Chamber Concert
Members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra performing string quintets

  • Dvorak: String Quintet, Op. 97
  • Mozart: String Quintet in G Minor, K. 515

8 PM, Sept. 23, 2021, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

“Celebrating the Heroes”: All-Beethoven Concert
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Jennifer Hayghe, piano

  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”)
  • Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 4 in G major

7:30 PM, Oct. 23, 2021, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Maxime Goulet

“A Gift of Music”: Celebrating the Season with BCO Stars
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Joey Howe, cello, and Kellan Toohey, clarinet

  • Maxime Goulet:  Symphonic Chocolates
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme
  • Mozart: Clarinet Concerto

7:30 PM, Dec. 11, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

“Diversions in History”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Andrew Staupe, piano, and Sam Dusinberre, trumpet

  • Johann Christian Bach: Concerto for Piano in E-flat
  • Dimitri Shostakovich: Concerto for Piano No. 1
  • Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings.

7:30 PM, Jan. 29, 2022, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Mini-Chamber concert
Program TBA
Feb. 12, 2022.

“Eternal Light”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Boulder Chorale, directed by Vicki Burrichter

  • Vladimir Martynov: Come in! (Colorado premiere)
  • Howard Goodall: Requiem Eternal Light (in memory of the lives lost due to the pandemic; Colorado premiere)

8 PM. April 1, 2022, First United Methodist Church

Colorado Music Festival expands ticket availability

Danish Quartet replaced with Brooklyn Rider

By Peter Alexander June 11 at 4 p.m.

The Colorado Music Festival has announced that seats in the first five rows of Chautauqua Auditorium are now available for all festival concerts.

Those seats had previously been withheld from sale in order to maintain a safe distance between musicians and audience members. However, it is has now been determined that those seats may be occupied safely. Those rows are now being sold at full capacity.

Brooklyn Rider. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Furthermore, the planned “bubble seating” to maintain distance between concert patrons in the auditorium has been removed. This means that you may purchase less than a full bubble, and you may end up sitting next to another patron who is not part of your party. You may read the full health and safety plan for the summer at Chautauqua here.

Those are not the only changes that have been announced for the CMF 2021 season. The Danish String Quartet, previously scheduled for the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, has now been replaced by Brooklyn Rider. Due to COVID, the Danish String Quartet was unable to travel to the United States. 

Brooklyn Rider will play three works: Schisma (2019 by Caroline Shaw, Tenebrae (2002) by Osvaldo Golijov, and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14, (“Death and the Maiden”). Known for collaborations with artists from differing musical traditions , Brooklyn Rider appeared at CMF during last year’s virtual festival.

Tickets to the Danish String Quartet performance will be valid for the Brooklyn Rider performance on the same date. If you prefer to exchange your tickets or request a refund, you may contact the Chautauqua box office by email (boxoffive@chautauqua.com) or at their walk-up tickets kiosk at Chautauqua by June 23.

Boulder Phil appoints new executive director

Collaborative pianist Sara Parkinson uses her musical skills in administration, too

By Peter Alexander June 3 at 2:30 p.m.

The new executive director of the Boulder Philharmonic credits her musical training for her success in administration.

Sara Parkinson

Sara Parkinson was recently appointed the Phil’s executive director, following nearly a year as interim director. Before that, she was director of education and community engagement for the orchestra. 

But she was trained in collaborative piano—including what you might call “accompanying”—a field in which she holds a doctorate from CU Boulder.

The job of the collaborative pianist is to solve problems. Whether accompanying a single soloist or playing in a chamber group, they must listen to and respond to the other players. If their collaborators skip a beat or lose their place, they must seamlessly make things right—which is not all that different from the job of directing an artistic organization.

“Absolutely, I have transferred all of my skills that I use as a pianist into the boardroom,” Parkinson says. “Stepping into this role during the pandemic year, seeing an organization through a crisis—I was cut out for situations like that. (As a collaborative pianist) you make things work. And beyond that, you see how to make it better.”

As for the responsibility she has been given to lead the organization, “It’s beyond an honor to see Boulder Phil through a crisis, and now to head into the future that is so bright,” she says.

“This is an exciting time, with (music director) Michael Butterman’s 15th season upon us, and my first season in this role, but we are a team and we are already talking about three years into the future. We have exciting plans in the works.”

One particular challenge for Parkinson was that she steeped into the interim director role during the pandemic. There was literally no guidance for running an orchestra at a time when they couldn’t play for an audience.

“There was no playbook,” she says. “I blazed my own path by bringing people together, which I have done throughout my career. That allowed me to lead in a way that I never had before, and to see the possibilities in the crisis. We continued to connect with our patrons, to build a full virtual season, not only with our main series concerts but with our education program. 

“Our discovery program, a highlight of the year for local schools—we pivoted online and we have reached over 16,000 students throughout the world. That includes 23 states and four different countries. Who knew that we could expand our reach that far?”

Parkinson has made it a priority to support Butterman and facilitate his goals. “My collaborative approach to everything really helps that relationship,” she says. “And I want to focus on our musicians. So many of the musicians in the orchestra are colleagues of mine. I’ve made music with so many of them, and they are the reason why I go to work every day.”

If moving into administration makes use of her skills as collaborative pianist, Parkinson is not giving up her life as performer. “Keeping that passion [for performance] alive—that’s not something I’ll leave behind,” she says.

Parkinson has served on the staff and faculties of University of Colorado at Boulder, Cornell College in Iowa and Metropolitan State University of Denver. She performs with the Colorado Ballet Orchestra and members of the Colorado Symphony, and she is a founding member of the tango ensemble Grande Orquesta Navarre. She made her operatic conducting debut in 2018 leading Mozart’s Così fan tutte for Boulder Opera, and she served as music director at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Boulder 2015–2020. She holds degrees in piano performance from the University of Iowa and the New England Conservatory of Music, in addition to her doctorate in collaborative piano from CU. 

Q and A about the proposed Longmont Performing Arts Center

A conversation with Bob Balsman of the Longmont Performing Arts Initiative and Longmont City Councilman Tim Waters

By Peter Alexander May 25 at 4:35 p.m.

Members and advocates of the Longmont arts community have proposed a new Performing Arts Center for the city, to be built in conjunction with a Convention and Events Center. With the support of Visit Longmont and the City of Longmont, private funds were raised for a feasibility study conducted by Johnson Consulting, a real estate and consulting firm with experience in the planning of performance venues. Their feasibility study was recently submitted to and accepted by the Longmont City Council. If carried through, this project would have enormous impact on performing arts organizations and audiences in Longmont and throughout Boulder County. 

Bob Balsman

To clarify some of the questions surrounding the project, I sat down—virtually—with Bob Balsman, president of the Longmont Performing Arts Initiative (LPAI, pronounced l’PIE) and Longmont City Councilman Tim Waters, who is one of several supporters of the project in city government. Here is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Bob Balsman, you are president of LPAI, which played a role in the proposed project from the very beginning. Exactly what is LPAI?

BB: The Longmont Performing Arts Initiative is an association made up of several of Longmont’s major non-profit performing arts groups: The Centennial State Ballet, the Longmont Chorale, the Longmont Concert Band, the Longmont Symphony Orchestra, the Longmont Youth Symphony, and the Long’s Peak Chorus. Together we have hundreds of people that participate directly in the performing arts, and we all perform before thousands of people in the greater Longmont area.

Tim Waters

Tim Waters, I assume most people reading this will know what the City Council is. But I believe politics is relatively new for you.

TW: My professional life put me at the nexus of research and leadership and policy and politics, without ever running for elective office. I turned the page from retirement into a new chapter and started attending City Council meetings so [city councilor Marcia Martin] would have somebody to process the issues with. The more I attended, the more interested I got in the issues. When Brian Bagley was elected mayor, the seat for Ward 1 opened up, and since I had been attending meetings, I thought, you know, this is kind of interesting.

Please describe the project that we’re talking about. 

BB: We’re working towards the construction of a performing arts facility in Longmont. Our overall hope is to see Longmont have a new venue in the range of somewhere between 1000 and 1500 seats, and later that we would also have a smaller venue of about 500 seats. 

And the plan is to combine the performing arts facility with a convention and events center?

BB: Event space is desperately needed in Longmont ever since the Plaza closed a couple of years back and now has been sold. There is no suitable space for gatherings of 200 or more people—even a large-scale wedding reception, not to mention conventions and trade shows. Visit Longmont has estimated that in the past couple of years alone they’ve lost out on 2.6 million dollars worth of business. So these are significant needs in the community.

Where do we stand now on the project?

BB: We first started work on this publicly back in 2018, I believe it was, when we spoke before City Council about the needs for such a center. Since then, members of LPAI have formed into a nonprofit, raised more than half the cost of a feasibility study. That study [performed by Johnson Consulting] has now been completed with a presentation to the City Council, so we’re looking forward to the next steps as soon as those numbers are finalized and validated by city staff.

With the two facilities together, what is the cost of the proposed facility?

BB: According to the feasibility study, that is estimated to be up to $158 million. That’s a pretty big price tag, but we were encouraged when the consultants said those were high estimates, and that they had seen quality venues constructed for 25% less.

Where will that money come from?

TW: We’ve seen the estimates of $105 to $158 million, and I think the City ought to have an investment in that. I think the private sector ought to have an investment in that. LPAI will have to organize a capital campaign to raise private sector money. But I don’t think a project like this can or should be accomplished without an investment by the city. How big a bite that will be is going to depend on a whole lot of variables. With today’s interest rates, we could probably generate $65 million or so of city revenue without having to raise taxes. It’s not simple, but there’s a way to get there. 

Also, the projected site is in an opportunity zone. There may be an investor out there who would like to move some money to avoid capital gains taxes somewhere else into a project like this. The City could aggregate the land and then lease it to a developer. That could substantially lower the top-line cost, on a 30-year lease in a public-private partnership. So there are a variety of funding mechanisms to get it done.

Where is the projected site for the facility?

BB: In the feasibility study, there were five different locations that were identified, and a couple were ruled out for various reasons, including that they’re not even in the City proper right now. The prime location that was identified was in southern downtown near the First and Main intersection, what’s called the “Building Steam” area. That area was identified because of certain advantages, which include the overlap of a few different incentive zones, to help make the financing easier. And there’s also mention of transportation that’s going to be there, nearby parking that will help the facility.

What does it mean that the consultant’s reports was ‘accepted’ by the City Council?

TW: It’s a great question. We accepted the report, and tasked the staff with investigating it.

BB: That was a unanimous acceptance, and then they directed again unanimously for City staff to investigate the numbers, which means double-check everything. Then will be the next steps, how do we get from ‘OK, we know what’s recommended’ to we open the doors some time down the road.

What will those next steps look like?

TW: In terms of steps going forward, if the city is going to invest, then LPAI, in partnership with others, needs to come back with decisions that have to be made. These aren’t problems, they’re just areas where we need to make decisions, like how to we think about governance of the facility, what does the business plan look like, what are the assumptions that have to be made such as if you’re going to have a successful business plan, then you need to have this number of performances and this kind of occupancy—which gets into some of the numbers the consultants had.

On that question, who will be responsible for operating the facility?

BB: You know, one of the better models that we have seen is the formation of a nonprofit governing entity that can make all of these decisions for the facility, while another entity actually operates it.

TW: So LPAI as a nonprofit contracts with a manager—there are people out there in the business of managing these kinds of facilities, booking talent and implementing a business plan. I would assume what you do is contract a pro.

BB: None of us in LPAI operate our own venues. We can see what looks like a good decision or a bad decision, but the hands-on, day-to-day work is not something that we are accustomed to. So you have a governing body making policy decisions, LPAI or some other group, and then you have operational staff.

I know that the facility is intended not only for LPAI members and other local groups, but for touring acts as well.

BB: The intention is not to just provide the six LPAI groups with a home. To make it work economically, and to benefit the community, the intention is to bring in outside groups that right now, everybody goes out of Longmont to see because they just do not come to town. You see an awful lot of touring acts that really have nowhere to go in Longmont. For example, you could think of jazz artists like Michael Bublé or Diana Krall. Why don’t you see these people come to Longmont? Because in Longmont, the only places which are large enough to hold an audience for any performer of this caliber, to make it economical, are churches and schools.

People might ask about the school auditoria. Can they accommodate touring shows?

BB: There are some that were built for performances, but you run into many scheduling conflicts for their intended purposes, which is education. Hosting performances is not their deal, and that’s not why people pay taxes to support the schools. There’s another obstacle in that only three of them, I’m told, have dedicated tech staff. The others are operated largely by volunteers.

When you talk about touring shows, that raises the possibility of bringing in audiences from outside Longmont. 

BB: I see a performing arts hall drawing from all of the surrounding communities.

That should have an economic impact on Longmont as well.

BB: In the feasibility study the consultants identified an annual impact to Longmont of, a positive impact of $8 million injected into the local economy just by having these facilities. If the project is built in phases, that’s $6.5 million per year for Phase I, and then hotel stays go up by about $21,000 some, plus sales and hotel taxes coming back to the city of about $621,000 per year. And then jobs, just Phase I, it’s an estimated 173 new jobs, or $5.6 million per year in increased earnings.

By the time you get to Phase II, you get taxes that come back from sales and hotel taxes of $872,000 per year, and 245 total jobs. That’s some pretty impressive statistics. When you first see that big price tag, you think how are we going to get to there and this is nothing but a expense, but no, it’s not just an expense. The reason that these things get built is that they are a catalyst. Yeah, it costs something to build them, but then you get an annual return back into the economy

Are there other benefits to the community that we should talk about?

TW: We currently have no place in Longmont to bring kids who might aspire for, if not a career at least a lifetime in the arts. There is no venue to take them to say ‘imagine yourself here.’ I can imagine in a performing arts facility like we’re talking about bringing world-class entertainment to town, with an educational outreach task that goes with every one of them. That expands the horizons and the education experience of all the kids in this community, in ways that we simply don’t get a chance to do right now. So, let’s imagine that we could bring Hamilton here. What an educational opportunity for every kid in this town, whether you aspire to be an artist or not, to look at American history thorough the arts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many ways that the lives of our children can and should be enriched that simply aren’t options for us today in Longmont.

Are there misconceptions about this project that should be corrected?

TW: Right off the top is, ‘If you do this there’s a bunch of other things we can’t do. If you do this, we won’t serve well our most disadvantaged residents.’ That’s a misconception that somehow we either lack the resources or the capacity to do this. The argument, if you do this you can’t do something else, I think is a bogus argument. I think it’s a scarcity mentality and a view of the world as a zero-sum experience,. I just don’t see it that way.

I think another misconception is that that ultimately it will serve an elite constituency in Longmont. On the contrary, we have a bunch of people in this town, children in particular. This serves the entire community.

BB: I’d say it’s definitely not elitist. Longmont’s performing arts scene does include more than the LPAI organizations. We have other groups, such as Bario E’ in town that’s from Puerto Rico, for example. And other groups that represent other ethnic groups. And aside from that, none of these people are paid to do what they do. This is all a grass-root effort. What you’re looking at when you see LPAI and the other groups around town is a large-scale volunteer effort. People want to be involved in these groups. It’s certainly not just for the advantaged.

Thank you both for spending some time with me and answering my questions.

You may access the feasibility study that was presented to the Longmont City Council and other documents here.

A statement on the Longmont Center by City Council Member Marcia Martin is here.

Boulder Philharmonic announces 2021–22 season

Live concerts again at last, and a return to CU Macky Auditorium in January

By Peter Alexander 8 a.m. May 22

The Boulder Philharmonic is taking cautious steps back to the future.

In other words, they will return to full orchestral concerts in Macky Auditorium, suspended for the COVID-19 pandemic, but not all at once. In announcing their 2021–22 season, they have revealed a schedule that will feature four small orchestra concerts in a smaller space in the fall, followed by a return to Macky in January, 2022.

Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman in Macky Auditorium

Those will not necessarily be full capacity concerts. According to a statement from the orchestra, they have “developed health and safety protocols to ensure a safe environment for performers, audience members, staff, and volunteers. Measures will include adjusting venue capacity and seating plans, and wearing masks. Plans will adjust in response to public health measures as they evolve in the coming months.”

The fall portion of the season will take place in Mountain View United Methodist Church in Boulder (355 Ponca Place). There will be two programs, each presented twice without intermission (see full schedule below) and led by the orchestra’s music director, Michael Butterman. The first will be a program of music for chamber orchestra, including Haydn’s very first symphony, composed in 1759, and the second a program of 20th-century music from Europe influenced by jazz, featuring works by the Russian Shostakovich, the French composer Darius Milhaud and the German Kurt Weill.

December will see a return of the evergreen Nutcracker ballet, performed by the Boulder Phil with Boulder Ballet in Macky Auditorium. CU music prof. Gary Lewis will conduct. Tickets to Nutcracker will be available in the fall.

The Marcus Roberts Trio will join the Boulder Phil for their first concert back in Macky Auditorium

After the holidays, the Phil will present a subscription series of six concerts, January through May. These concerts will feature guests soloists and collaborations, starting with the “Opening Weekend” concert Jan. 22, a “Gershwin Celebration.” Renowned jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and his Trio will join the Phil for a performance of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F on a program that also features An American in Paris. This program will be repeated at the Lone Tree Arts Center Jan. 23.

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine returns to Boulder Feb. 12 to play the world premiere of the Violin Concerto by Grammy-winning jazz pianist Billy Childs. Pine was in Boulder in 2014, when she played the Berg Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic. Other soloists through the spring will be pianist Terence Williams, who will play Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto March 19; Philharmonic concertmaster Charles Wetherbee, who will play The Butterfly Lovers Concerto on a program that will also feature Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, April 30; recent Grammy winner violist Richard O’Neill, who will play William Walton’s Viola Concerto May 14; and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, who will appear with the Phil and his trio, May 28.

Subscription packages of the six concerts in 2022 go on sale Monday, May 24. Subscription purchasers can add any of the concerts at Mountain View Methodist Church at a discounted price. Any remaining single tickets will be available in September, along with Nutcracker tickets. Information and, starting on Monday, subscription purchases will be available on the Boulder Phil Web page

# # # # #

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Butterman, music director
2021-22 Season Schedule

Michael Butterman. Photo by Shannon Palmer

“Together Again”
Michael Butterman, conductor

  • Haydn: Symphony No. 1 in D Major
  • —Sinfonia concertante in B-flat Major
  • Frank Martin: Petite symphonie concertante, op. 54

4 & 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3 (no intermission)
Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder

“The Art of Jazz”
Michael Butterman, conductor

  • Shostakovich: Jazz Suite No. 1
  • Darius Milhaud: The Creation of the World, op. 81a
  • Kurt Weill: Little Threepenny Music

4 & 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 (no intermission)
Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder

The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor

2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26, Saturday Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 18
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27
Macky Auditorium

Opening Weekend: “Gershwin Celebration”
Michael Butterman, conductor
Marcus Roberts Trio: Marcus Roberts, piano; Rodney Jordan, bass; Jason Marsalis, drums

  • Gershwin: An American in Paris
  • —Piano Concerto in F

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022 
Macky Auditorium

1:30 p.m. Sunday Jan. 23, 2022
Lone Tree Arts Center

Rachel Barton Pine. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Michael Butterman, conductor, with Rachel Barton Pine, violin

  • Billy Childs: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (world premiere/co-commission)
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12
Macky Auditorium

Michael Butterman, conductor, with Terrence Wilson, piano

  • Cindy McTee: Circuits
  • Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2, “Mysterious Mountain”
  • Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19, 2022
Macky Auditorium

The Firebird & Frequent Flyers
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Charles Wetherbee, violin
Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

  • Mason Bates: Undistant
  • He Zhanhao/Chen Gang: The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto
  • Rimsky Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
  • Stravinsky: Firebird Suite (1919)
Richard O’Neill

7:30 pm. Saturday, April 30, 2022
Macky Auditorium

Michael Butterman, conductor, with Richard O’Neill, viola

  • Anny Clyne: Sound and Fury
  • William Walton: Viola Concerto
  • Elgar: Enigma Variations

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14, 2022
Macky Auditorium

Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele, and trio, with the Boulder Phil
Michael Butterman, conductor

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 28, 2022
Macky Auditorium

Boulder-area summer festival tickets go on sale

Central City Opera, Colorado Music Festival tickets now available for purchase

By Peter Alexander April 21 at 10:15 p.m.

Two area organizations have now put tickets on sale for their summer festival seasons. Both Central City Opera and the Colorado Music Festival had announced their summer seasons earlier, but now tickets to individual events may be purchased for both. Both festivals will take place more or less as in past years, but with some important changes in access and ticketing brough about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Central City Opera will present all of its performances this summer at outdoor venues. Two mainstage productions—Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and Verdi’s Rigoletto—will be presented at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. There will be three differently-priced seating sections: a “VIP Section” closest to the stage, with seats provided; and two areas on the lawn farther back from the Hudson Gardens Concert Amphitheater where patrons can bring their own chair or blanket. 

Concert Amphitheater at Hudson Gardens

A smaller production of Henry Purcell’s Baroque-era opera Dido and Aeneas will be performed in the Central City Opera House Gardens. Relatively few seats are available for these performances.

For more information and dates of performances, see the previous article on Central City Opera on this blog, or the Central City Opera’s 2021 Festival listing. 

Tickets for all three productions may be purchased through the Central City Web page or or by phone through the Central City Opera box office, at (303) 292-6700. Due to COVID, there are no in-person box office sales. Frequently asked questions (FAQ) for the 2021 Central City Opera summer festival are listed here.  

The Colorado Music Festival will return to their usual home at the Chautauqua Auditorium for all summer programs—a total of 22 performances—but because it is an indoor facility, the auditorium brings its own problems.

Chautauqua Auditorium

The CMF will address health concerns by selling tickets in “bubbles” of 2, 3 or 4 seats, with appropriate distance between the bubbles. All tickets within each bubble will be sold together, so there will be no single tickets available for the summer. Because the orchestra has to expand the stage to maintain safe distances between the musicians, the first six rows of seats will not be available. Most aisle seats will be held back as well.

A full chart of seats available for sale, as well as answers to ticketing FAQs, can be found here. For a description of the 2021 summer festival, you may read the previously published post on this blog, or consult the calendar on the CMF Web page. You may also purchase tickets through the CMF calendar page.

The AIDS Quilt Songbook Lives On: World Premiere in Boulder

Baritone John Seesholtz and the Sohap Ensemble will perform “Lost Songs”

By Izzy Fincher Tuesday, April 20 at 5:50 p.m.

Art can heal during times of pain and loss. Long before COVID-19, art was a powerful source of healing during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, still the country’s deadliest virus to date.

One example was The AIDS Quilt Songbook project, a musical response to AIDS from 1993 that still lives on today. Last year, baritone John Seesholtz, CU-Boulder’s director of vocal pedagogy, published the first volume of works collected after 1993 in a collection titled The Lost Songs of the AIDS Quilt Songbook.

Seesholtz then recorded the first volume with the Sohap Ensemble, a Boulder-based start-up founded by CU-Boulder alums in 2020. Their world premiere recording will be livestreamed at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 22.

This publication, more than a decade in the making, has been a career-long passion for Seesholt, He feels excited to finally share his work with audiences and musicians around the world.

“There was a calling inside me to get this work published and out to people,” Seesholtz says. “I feel good about finally having it out there.”

NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. From National Institutes of Health website – Public Domain

The AIDS Quilt Songbook was inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, a community art project that commemorates those lost to AIDs. Created in 1985, the project became a powerful tool for raising awareness during the AIDs pandemic, eventually growing to 48,000 panels and more than 54 tons.

Baritone William Parker, diagnosed with HIV in 1986, decided to create a musical equivalent to the quilt called The AIDS Quilt Songbook. He began commissioning art songs for baritone and piano that paid tribute to victims of AIDS. By the early 1990s, Parker had collected and published 18 songs from prominent American composers, including Ned Rorem, William Bolcom and Ricky Ian Gordon.

Since then, The AIDS Quilt Songbook project has continued to grow to more than 100 submissions. Since 1993, however, these newer songs have remained unpublished. Seesholtz began collecting songbook submissions while pursuing his docorate at the University of North Texas. As part of the LGBTQ community, he felt drawn to the music, which he described as a time capsule of the 1980s and ‘90s. 

John Seesholtz

“(The songbook) gives you a window into that time and what it felt like to be gay and to have this disease that others thought you deserved,” Seesholtz says. “People with AIDS went through not only physical pain but also shame.”

Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Seesholt decided to revive the project and publish the first volume of The Lost Songs of the AIDS Quilt Songbook. “I wanted the music to be a source of remedy, instead of filling the pockets of editors and publishers,” he says. All profits from the songbook will be donated to AIDS charities.

Unlike the original collection, which focused on pain, suffering and death of AIDS victims, this new collection explores how the survivors cope with loss and move through grief, knowing their loved ones are no longer suffering. The first volume contains five unpublished songs by Douglas Boyer, Craig Carnahan, Daniel Kallman, Evan Kuchar and songbook veteran Gordon.

For the premiere recording, Seesholtz will sing Death Spirals by Kuchar, which he first heard at a 2008 AIDS Quilt Songbook performance in Chicago. Death Spirals explores choosing to live in the present moment and the acceptance of death. 

“Kuchar focuses on how we choose to live,” Seesholtz says. “We can either focus on death and the end, or we can be present in the now.”

Sabina Balsamo

The other four songs will be performed by soprano Sabina Balsamo, the Sohap Ensemble’s co-founder and artistic director, and mezzo-soprano Christine Li, a CU-Boulder master’s degree student and Sohap Ensemble member.

Balsamo will sing Carnahan’s “Domination Of Black,“ based on Wallace Stevens’ abstract poem about crying peacocks in a fierce storm, and Boyer’s “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,“ a touching plea for loved ones not to mourn the speaker’s death and to remember the beauty of their life. 

Li will sing Kallman’s “When I Am Dead, My Dearest,“ based on a poem by Christina Rosetti about the peacefulness of death, and Gordon’s “The Yoke.“

Christine Li

As part of the LGBTQ community, Li feels excited and honored to be a part of the premiere. She believes the songbook continues to be a tool for activism, by breaking down the stigma attached to those who are currently suffering from, or have lost loved ones to AIDS.

Li hopes hearing these songs will inspire empathy in listeners, even for those not directly affected by AIDS, and might even inspire them to raise awareness in their own communities. “There is this issue with (shunning) groups that are experiencing something tragic or traumatic,” she says. “It’s about having empathy for people that are suffering and struggling even if it doesn’t affect you.”

Despite the themes of grief and loss, she believes the music can be hopeful and uplifting, demonstrating the power of art to reflect the human experience. “There is a lot of hope in the music,” Li says.

“Even when the person’s physical life ends, they live on in a way because people remember them, creating music and art from the impression left on their hearts.”

After the April premiere, Seesholtz hopes to continue expanding The Lost Songs of the AIDS Quilt Songbook with further volumes, which he also plans to record with the Sohap Ensemble. Through their work, he hopes the songbook, like the NAMES quilt, can continue to be an ever-expanding living memorial.

# # # # #

The Lost Songs of the AIDS Quilt Songbook, Vol. 1
Sohap Ensemble with John Seesholtz, baritone

  • Douglas R. Boyer: “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep“
  • Craig Carnahan: “Domination of Black“
  • Ricky Ian Gordon: “The Yoke“
  • Daniel Kallman: “When I Am Dead, My Dearest“
  • Evan Kuchar: “Death Spirals“

Livestream at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22, can be accessed here

Seicento Baroque Ensemble presents “Inspire Baroque”

Series of educational sessions are open to the public

By Peter Alexander April 7 at 6:50 p.m.

Imagine that you are leading a chorus. What do you do when a pandemic prevents you from presenting concerts, or even gathering for rehearsals?

If the chorus is the Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Boulder’s chamber choir devoted to the music of the early Baroque period, you might see this as an opportunity to expand knowledge and understanding of the Baroque style of music. You could, for examle, provide educational sessions designed to “demystify ‘Baroque Performance Practice’ in classical music and dance.” 

Seicento Baroque Ensemble with their director, Amanda Balestrieri (in blue)

In fact, that is exactly what Amanda Balestrieri, Seicento’s artistic director, decided to do this spring.

This intriguing appraoch allows safe distancing, since each session only requires a single presenter, and perhaps one or two other participants. It provides insight into the often arcane matters of early Baroque performance—knowledge that will benefit both the choir’s audience and their members. It allows Seicento to stay in contact with their supporters, and might attract the attention of potential new listeners.

The first of the “Inspire Baroque” series, as it is called—a class on Baroque dance—was held in March, but four sessions remain. The first of those remaining sessions, “Cellos & Viols and Students, Oh My!” will premiere on YouTube at 6 p.m. Friday, April 9.

Sarah Biber

For that session, Baroque and viola da gamba specialist Sarah Biber will explore and explain the viol family of instruments—bowed stringed instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods that are similar to, but distinct to the more familiar violin and its larger relations. Assisted by colleagues and students, Biber will use the “La Folia” theme, employed by many Baroque composers and familiar to Baroque music enthusiasts.

Other sessions of the “Inspire Baroque” series and their premieres will be:

—“Historic Organs Meet 21st-Century Tech,” 6–7 p.m. Friday, April 23. Using a Virtual Pipe Organ (VPO) setup, historical keyboard specialist Wesley Leffingwell will discuss organ history and music that showcases the versatility of a virtual instrument.

—“What’s Your Temperament (and why does it matter)?” 6–7 p.m. Friday, May 7. Organist and harpsichord performer Eric Wicks will venture into the complex and deeply mystifying subject of Baroque-era intonation and systems of tuning, and explain the ways that different temperaments affect the sound and expression of early music performances.

—“The Flute’s Pleasure Garden,” 6–8:15 p.m. Friday, May 21. Flutist and recorder specialist Rob Turner will present Baroque music written or arranged for unaccompanied recorder and transverse flute, using his extensive personal collection of instruments. The YouTube premiere of the “Inspire Baroque” session will be followed by a Q&A session by Zoom. 

Each session is free, with a requested donation to Seicento. You may sign up for the individual sessions here.