Kronos Quartet returns to Macky with some unfinished business

“Music for Change,” cancelled in 2020, comes back in revised form Jan. 13

By Peter Alexander Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

The Kronos Quartet has some unfinished business in Boulder.

Kronos Quartet: John Sherba, Hank Dutt, David Harrington, Sonny Yang (L-R)

The path-breaking string quartet was scheduled to perform at Macky Auditorium in March of 2020, but like most performances around that time, their concert was cancelled. Now they will return to Macky with a revised version of that same program scheduled for Jan. 13, and—fingers crossed!—so far the visit is still on.

The original 2020 program, titled “Music for Change: The ‘60s, the Years that Changed America,” was organized around protest songs from the 1960s, arranged especially for Kronos. The centerpiece was to have been a celebration of Pete Seeger’s music for his 100th birthday.

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969

Many of the same pieces are on the program for this year, although the Pete Seeger celebration has been replaced. Music that has survived the transition include arrangements of the “Star Spangled Banner” inspired by Jimi Hendrix‘s famous 1969 performance at Woodstock and “Strange Fruit” inspired by Billie Holliday; “Glorious Mahalia” by Stacy Garrop which features the recorded voices of Mahalia Jackson and Studs Terkel, and “Peace Be Till” by Zachary James Watkins, which incorporates the recorded voice of Clarence B. Jones, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speechwriter.

Added to the program for 2022 are another Mahalia Jackson arrangement, “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away”; an arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Alabama”; “Colonizer (Remix)” by Tanya Tagaq arranged for Kronos; and Michael Gordon’s “Campaign Songs #1,” one of a series of short pieces recorded by the Kronos players separately during the height of the pandemic.

“I wanted to play a concert like we’re going to do in Boulder, years ago,” David Harrington, Kronos’s first violinist and guiding spirit says. “It’s taken many, many years to arrive at the kind of work that we’re able to do now.”

Stebe Reich

The program opens without Kronos playing a single note, with Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music featuring four microphones swinging freely above speakers, creating feedback as they cross directly over the speakers. Eventually all four microphones stop above the speakers, creating a bed of constant feedback from which the Hendrix-inspired “Star Spangled Banner” emerges.

“It’s audacious, the idea that we can start a program with microphones,” Harrington says. “I love that! It sounds like fog to begin with, and then slowly it gets more and more together, to the point where there’s a fabric of pulsating feedback. From that is going to be the ‘Star Spangled Banner’.”

Other works on the program stand out for their impactfulness. One of these is certainly the arrangement of Abel Meerepol’s “Strange Fruit.” Famously sung at the height of the Civil Rights struggle in the 1940s and ‘50s by Billie Holliday, the song describing a lynching became a tortured anthem for the anti-lynching movement. Rejected by Columbia Records, Holliday’s recording on the Commodore label was later entered in the National Recording Registry.

“’Strange Fruit’ is at the solar plexus of American music and American culture,” Harrington says. “The quality of (Holliday’s) voice is definitely in my ear. When we play that piece, her voice is singing inside of me.”

Another piece that came from the Civil Rights struggle is an arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Alabama.” Coltrane wrote the piece as a response to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four African-American girls. “The way certain musicians are able to respond to events, and attempt to create a counterbalance, to me is so inspiring,” Harrington says.

Tanya Tagaq

Reflecting the breadth of Kronos’s interests, both musically and politically, is “Colonizer (Remix)” by Tanya Tagaq. An Inuk throat singer from Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay) in Nunavut, Canada, Tagaq wrote the song as a response to performing in what she characterizes as “symbolically colonial spaces.”

“’Colonizer’ is a statement,” Tagaq has written. “There is guilt in complacency. Accountability means taking action.”

The political implications of the program are not accidental, but come out of Harrington’s thoughts about his family. “In 2003 I had just become a grandfather for the first time, and I was thinking about the world (my granddaughter) was going to grow up into,” he says. Historian Howard Zinn told him that political leaders are actually afraid of artists like Kronos, because they know the artists cannot be controlled.

“I thought to myself, if those types are actually afraid of people like me that use violins to communicate, then I am doing what I can do,” Harrington says. The desire to make the world a better place for the coming generations through Kronos’s programming grew from that thought. 

Another quality that characterizes Kronos’s is adventurousness. Their repertoire has ranged over the world and across many musical styles. “I’m so glad that we’ve had the years that we’ve had to explore,” Harrington says. “The only thing that happens when you explore is you find things, and then you want to find more.”

That adventurousness is fueled by Harrington’s curiosity. “How could anybody not be curious?” he asks. “I want to do the most (I can to) ensure that I keep curiosity alive. Learning new things is humanity at its best.”

Not that he thinks he has found all the answers. “People think I know something about music, but I don’t know how it works,” he admits. “As listeners, we’re all in the same boat. You never know when something in music is going to penetrate to the deepest possible place within yourself.

“It’s almost incalculable.”

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Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013©Jay Blakesberg

“Music for Change”
Kronos Quartet 
David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Sunny Yang, cello
Brian H. Scott, lighting designer, and Scott Fraser, sound designer

  • Steve Reich: Pendulum Music
  • “Star Spangled Banner” (inspired by Jimi Hendrix, arr. Stephen Prutsman and Kronos)
  • Michael Gordon: “Campaign Songs #1”
  • Stacy Garrop: Glorious Mahalia, featuring the recorded voices of Mahalia Jackson and Studs Terkel
  • Antonio Haskell, arr. Jacob Garchik: “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away” (inspired by Mahalia Jackson) 
  • Tanya Tagaq (arr. Tanya Tagaq, Kronos Quartet, and Joel Tarman): “Colonizer (Remix)”
  • Abel Meeropol, arr. Jacob Garchik: “Strange Fruit” (inspired by Billie Holiday)
  • John Coltrane (arr. Jacob Garchik): “Alabama”
  • Zachary James Watkins: Peace Be Till featuring the voice of Dr. Clarence B. Jones

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13
Macky Auditorium 
TICKETS

Takács Quartet show goes on, with revised program

Live performances Jan. 9 and 10 in Grusin Hall also available online

By Peter Alexander Jan. 6 at 11:25 a.m.

So far this year, COVID has not stopped the music. The Takács Quartet will begin their spring 2022 series of concerts on the CU campus as planned, with performances Sunday and Monday (Jan. 9 and 10) in Grusin Hall.

Takács quartet. Image by Amanda Tipton Photography.

They will not, however, play the program that was originally announced. Pianist David Korevaar was scheduled to perform the Schumann Quintet in E-flat major, op. 44, but he is unavailable due to possible exposure to COVID. Korevaar reports that he feels fine, and he will perform the Schumann Quintet with the Takács Quartet later in the semester.

To fill his place on the January program, the quartet turned to members Harumi Rhodes and Richard O’Neill, violin and viola, who will play the Mozart Duo in G major, K423. The full ensemble will finish out the concert with the new String Quartet No. 1 by Stephen Hough, subtitled “Les Six rencontres” (The six encountered), and the String Quartet in F major by Maurice Ravel.

Both the Sunday and Monday performances will be open to an in-person audience, and will also be available for streaming from 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon until 11 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. In-person and online tickets can be purchased from CU Presents

At this time, face masks are required in all buildings on the CU campus.

Stephen Hough

Widely celebrated as a pianist, Hough is also active as a composer of works for a variety of media including chamber music, piano solo and choral works, among others. The Takács Quartet asked him to write a piece for string quartet to fill out a recording of Ravel’s String Quartet and Ainsi le Nuit (Thus the night) for string quartet by Henri Dutilleux, which the Takács played in Grusin last fall.

The title of Hough’s quartet—“Les Six rencontres”—refers to a group of composers known as “Les Six” (The six) who were a prominent part of French musical life between Ravel in the early years of the 20th century, and Dutilleux in the second half of the century. The six composers—Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Germaine Tailleferre—are not quoted directly in the score but occur “as an echo,” Hough wrote.

The title is also a pun, as the quartet is in six movements. Hough wrote in his program notes that the work “evokes a flavor more than a style. . . . seeing life through a burlesque lens is one recurring ingredient.” The titles of the six movements evoke places in Paris where one might have encountered the composers of “Les Six”—the boulevard, the park, the theater and so forth.

Ravel composed his one string quartet in 1902–03, when he was 28. Largely classical in form, it was inspired by, and in some ways modeled on, the String Quartet of Debussy that had been written a decade before. It remains one of Ravel’s most popular works.

Mozart wrote two duos for violin and viola in 1783 during a visit with his family in Salzburg. They were written as a favor for Michael Haydn, the brother of Joseph Haydn, who was court composer to the Archbishop of Salzburg and a friend of the Mozart family. Haydn was supposed to write six duos for the Archbishop but had fallen ill, and Mozart agreed to finish the set for him. 

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Takács Quartet
Edward Dusinberre and Harumi Rhodes, violin; Richard O’Neill, viola; András Fejér, cello

  • Mozart: Duo for Violin and Viola, K423
    Harumi Rhodes and Richard O’Neill
  • Hough: String Quartet No. 1, “Les Six rencontres” (The six encountered)
  • Ravel: String Quartet in F Major

In-person performances:
4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9
7:30 p.m. Monday. Jan. 10
Grusin Hall, CU Imig Music Building

Streamed performance: 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9, through 11 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17

Tickets for all performances available HERE.

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!”

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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
TICKETS 
NOTE: The Diary Arts Center requires masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

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.”

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“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
Tickets

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
Tickets

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
Tickets

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

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

Tickets

Ivalas String Quartet will play at Museum of Boulder Sunday

Program features works by Haydn, Bartók and Carlos Simon

By Peter Alexander Nov. 19 at 10:45 a.m.

The Ivalas Quartet, the graduate quartet-in-residence at the CU College of Music, will be featured in a performance at the Museum of Boulder at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21.

The performance will take place in one of the museum’s galleries. Chairs will be set up in the gallery for the audience, with a capacity of around 40 listeners.  Tickets are available from Eventbrite and include admission to the museum. Masks are required for anyone ages two and up. 

Ivalas Quartet: Reuben Kebede, Tiani Butts, Pedro Sánchez and Aimée McAnulty

Formed at the University of Michigan in 2016, the Ivalas Quartet came to CU in the fall of 2019 to study with the members of the Takács Quartet. Since their initial performances on campus they have changed their second violinist, but the quartet remains dedicated to the ideal of inclusion, in both repertoire and membership.

That ideal is central to the quartet’s identity as stated on their Web page: “The Ivalas Quartet was formed after a conversation about a feeling of absence we share—how we rarely saw our faces and cultures in classical music. As members of Black and Latinx communities, we saw a lack of representation, of celebration, and of classical music-making from our own communities and to our own communities.”

Their repertoire often includes works by underrepresented BIPOC composers alongside works from the standard classical canon. They have worked actively to advance their goals, working with El Sistema Colorado and presenting educational programming through Sphinx—a social justice organization that stresses the power of diversity in the arts—engaging with schools with Black and Latinx students in Detroit.

Carlos Simon

Sunday’s concert is characteristic of Ivala’s programming, featuring Haydn’s last String Quartet, op. 77 no. 2; the Third String Quartet of Bartók; and Warmth of Other Suns by African-American composer Carlos Simon. Commissioned by the Sphinx Organization, Warmth of Other Suns was inspired by Isabel Wilkerson’s book of the same title that chronicled the “Great Migration” of African Americans out of the South in the years 1916–70.

A native of Atlanta, Ga., Simon is composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and recently received the Sphinx Organization’s Medal of Excellence. He has received commissions from major performing groups including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Washington National Opera and the American Composers Orchestra, among many others. 

The performance will be hosted by the Altius Collective, a project founded by former members of the Altius Quartet, a prior graduate quartet-in-residence at the CU College of Music. It is one of a planned ongoing series of chamber music concerts, both at the Museum of Boulder and in other communities in the region. 

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Ivalas Quartet

  • Joseph Haydn: String Quartet op. 77 no. 2 in F major
  • Carlos Simon: Warmth of Other Suns
  • Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 3

6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21
Museum of Boulder at Tebo Center

Tickets

The Parker Quartet from Harvard will perform Sunday and Monday at CU

They will play in Grusin Hall as guests of CU’s Takacs Quartet

By Peter Alexander Nov. 17 at 5:20 p.m.

The Parker Quartet may be the only string quartet named for a hotel.

Formed when the original members were students at the New England Conservatory, they wanted a name that reflected their connection to Boston. “None of us is from Boston, but we call Boston home,” says Ken Hamao, the quartet’s second violinist. “To have a landmark from the city to name ourselves after was appropriate.”

Parker Quartet. Photo by Luke Ratray

Today the Parker Quartet members maintain their ties to Boston, as Blodgett Artists-in-residence and faculty at Harvard University’s department of music. 

The landmark is the Parker House, which you may recognize from dinner rolls but which was an important gathering place for America’s literary figures in the 19th century, including Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau, and later for politicians including presidents U.S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

The Parker Quartet will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, in Grusin Hall. They are appearing in the guest slot on the fall concert series of CU’s Takacs Quartet. Their eclectic program features the Lyric Suite by Alban Berg and the Third String Quartet of Robert Schumann, as well as shorter works by Adolphus Hailstork and György Kurtág.

Both in-person and digital tickets can be purchased from CU Presents. Masks are required in all indoor spaces in the CU campus, regardless of vaccination status.

Alban Berg

The central work on the program is Berg’s Lyric Suite, an emotionally and musically challenging work in six intense movements. It has always been seen as a dramatic and passionate piece of music, but more than 50 years after it was written in 1926, a secret “program” was found embedded in the score that explained the intensity of the music.

A combination of musical initials standing for the composer and his lover, multiple other musical symbols, the inclusion of Wagner’s Tristan chord and other musical references, all reflect Berg’s passionate and illicit affair with a married woman, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Even the movement titles suggest the subject: amoroso (lovingly), appassionato (passionately) and estatico (ecstatic).

But you don’t need to know the story to appreciate the music, Hamao says. “For us as performers, it helps us to get into the composer’s mindset, but on its own it’s just a very dynamic work, hugely expressive,” he says.

“We’ve been talking about performing it for many years, and after so many years you want to tell each other, ‘Let’s just go for it’. It’s really exciting (because) it has that drama, the very, very highs and the very, very lows of the affair. It did make sense (with) the Schumann as a companion piece. The Lyric Suite is as passionate as it also is desolate, while the Schumann is more uplifting.”

Calra Schumann. Portrait by Franz von Lenbach

Hamao describes the Schumann Third Quartet as representing a different kind of romantic love, that of the composer for his wife, Clara Schumann. “It’s just a love letter to his wife,” he says. “From the very first two notes that you hear, this Clara motive, he’s yearning for his wife. From the first page it’s a declaration of love.”

Hailstork’s Adagio is a piece that the quartet discovered more recently. “It was a piece that we fell in love with immediately and wanted to program it as soon as we can,” Hamao says. “In a program that can be as intense as the Lyric Suite can be, having this beautiful Adagio made a lot of sense to us.

“I think of it as an incredibly beautiful piece that kind of discovers itself throughout the whole piece. It’s definitely tonal but has what you might call notes that don’t quite belong to the scale. For a beautiful piece there’s a lot of surprises, but at the end of the day it’s a really gorgeous movement.”

Kurtág’s Aus der Ferne (From the distance) V is one of a group of pieces for different media. Two of are for string quartet—Aus der Ferne III and V. The Parker Quartet has worked directly with the composer in the past, and recently released a CD recording of his quartets, including those two miniatures. 

“Kurtág has an incredible ability to tap into the idea of drama,” Hamao says. “There is a sense of narrative. I don’t think there is an explicit one, but an abstract narrative. He’s able to pack a story into two minutes of music. [He has] this incredible ability to create a lot of expression through quite minimal means.”

Whatever narrative you discover will have to be “in each listener’s imagination,” Hamao says, but that is part of the reward for both performer and listener.

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Parker Quartet

  • Adolphus Hailstork: Adagio from String Quartet No. 1
  • György Kurtág: Aus der Ferne V (From the distance)
  • Alban Berg: Lyric Suite
  • Schumann: String Quartet No. 3, Op. 41 No. 3

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22
Grusin Recital Hall, CU Imig Music Building

In-person and Sunday live stream tickets available from CU Presents

Longmont Symphony embraces nostalgia in Saturday’s concert

Dvořák’s “New World” and Barber’s Knoxville paired for “American Nostalgia”

By Peter Alexander Nov. 12 at 12:03 a.m.

Conductor Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony (LSO) will embrace “American Nostalgia” for their Masterworks Concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 13) at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

The concert will feature one of the most overtly nostalgic works in the orchestral repertoire, Samuel Barber’s warmly reflective Knoxville: Summer of 1915, paired with Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. Tickets for LSO concerts are available here.

All LSO musicians, staff and volunteers have been vaccinated. Audience members eligible for COVID vaccinations must show proof of vaccination or medical exemption to attend the performance, and must wear face masks inside the building.

Elliot Moore

Moore says that he chose the program for Saturday’s concert while reflecting on people’s need to connect to the past in difficult times. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for nostalgia,” he says. “There can be feelings that the world is changing so fast, I’ve never seen this before.

“Somebody said to me recently, all that’s keeping me alive right now is looking back. People need a sort of old Americana and that is certainly what I feel through Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”

Barber’s score is written for voice and orchestra and will be performed by soprano Leberta Lorál with the LSO. The text is taken from the eloquent prologue to James Agee’s autobiographical novel A Death in the Family. The text is suffused with Agee’s wistful childhood memories of his family, or as Barber wrote, “it expresses a child’s feelings of loneliness, wonder and lack of identity in that marginal world between twilight and sleep.”

A home in Knoxville in 1915

But beneath the nostalgic yearning for warm summer nights with the family there is also an undercurrent of foreboding in both text and music. Agee’s prologue takes place shortly before the tragic death of the book’s title, which is briefly referred to in the text and expressed in the music: “God bless my people . . . remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.”

We also know today that World War I was raging in Europe in 1915, and would soon pull Americans into the slaughter. And, Moore reminds us, “one could also say it’s before the Spanish flu”—something we all can relate to today.

Lorál has not sung the Barber before, but says she has loved getting into the score. “I’ve heard it but have never sung it before,” she says. “When I got approached about it, I looked at it and I was hooked on it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is right up my alley! I love this!’”

She likes the nostalgia and the sweetness of the text and music, but she also has a personal feeling for the final part of the text, in which Agee reflects on his innocence and incomplete identity as a child. “After a while, I am taken in and put to bed,” he writes. “Those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home . . . but will not ever tell me who I am.”

Leberta Lorál

“That line has really stuck with me,” Lorál says. “I know why it stuck with me. At birth I was adopted. I had a great relationship with my biological parents, and last month my birth mother passed, and I was there to see her.

“I was OK with whatever happened—that’s all good. So that last line, wow! It stuck with me. I took that and went back to the beginning to pull through the piece, all the way to the end.”

Moore wanted another work that reflects America’s past to go with Knoxville: Summer of 1915. “To tie that in with Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony, so that we can all feel something good—that’s important for a lot of people in today’s world, where we’re all facing so much,” he says.

The “New World” harkens back to what many Americans think of as a happier time in our history. Composed in the U.S. and premiered in Carnegie Hall in December 1893, the symphony is thematically linked with our culture. For example, scholars have shown that it was partly inspired by Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” which Dvořák had read in Czech translation.

While in this country, Dvořák also showed great interest in Negro spirituals, which were sung to him by one of his pupils, Harry T. Burleigh. Burleigh’s singing is likely reflected in the slow movement, with its spiritual-like “Goin’ Home” melody. Dvořák himself believed the symphony expressed something about America, and once said he would never have written it “just so” had he not come here.

Moore finds meaning in both the nostalgia of the program, and in sharing it communally. “People need that,” he says. “That’s an experience not only that we can offer, but that we can offer to people all at the same time.

“People need that kind of shared, uplifting experience that we’ve missed.”

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“American Nostalgia”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Leberta Lorál, soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Tickets

Boulder Chorale will sing about ‘A World in Harmony’

Saturday’s concert features both solace and celebration

By Peter Alexander Nov. 4 at 10:54 p.m.

Vicki Burrichter dreams of a world in harmony. But as director of the Boulder Chorale, she not only dreams about it, she works to bring it about, one performance at a time.

The Chorale’s next concert, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7 at 4 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church in Boulder, is in fact titled “A World in Harmony: A Ceremony of Solace and Celebration.” An updating of a program originally planned before COVID struck, it will include music of solace and consolation, then transition to music of joy and celebration.

Boulder Chorale from a performance in 2019, pre-COVID

Tickets are available from the Boulder Chorale Web site. Audience members must have proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for admission, and must wear a mask during the performance. All singers have been vaccinated, and will be wearing resonance masks during the performance.

“This program, with some tweaks and some edits, was the program that we were about to perform when we shut down (during) concert week back in March (2020),” Burrichter says. “The first half is going to be all meditative choral music, mostly a cappella. 

Vicki Burrichter

“I want people to be able to just think, meditate, breathe— whatever they want to do. And it’s not only to honor the 700,000 lost in COVID in this country, but also the victims of the King Sooper’s shooting.”

The concert will open with an instrumental performance of the theme from Schindler’s List, played by pianist Adam Waite and violinist Leena Waite. That will be followed by a setting of the Latin text Lux Aeterna (Eternal light), set to the music of the well known “Nimrod” variation from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, a piece often chosen for moments of mourning or meditation.

Also on the first half of the program is “Underneath the Stars,” a piece about parting from friends that was performed by the British a capella vocal group Voces8. “I go a lot by feel when I program,” Burrichter says. “The feeling of this piece—the text is not literally about somebody dying, but the grief of losing somebody is really in the piece. It’s definitely about letting go of somebody that you don’t want to let go of.”

The final two pieces on the first half—“Alleluia” from Brazilian Psalms by Jean Berger and Jorge de Lima, and the “Gloria” from Missa Brevis in Honorem Beatae Mariae Virginis by Lithuanian composer Kristina Vasiliauskaite—were selected to form a transition to the more joyful second half of the concert. ”I really wanted to lift the mood a little bit,” Burrichter says. “I wanted to have these moments of transcendence and joy after the deep grief of the first few pieces.”

“Then for the second half it’s going to be completely different, with the full band and soloists and everything. No one’s really been able to sing in public, and I wanted people to be able to sing with us and sing with the band and have a celebration.”

Christopher Hearns

The first four pieces after intermission will be well known pop songs, all arranged by Waite who has been Burrichter’s first-choice arranger for some time. “He and I are very much on the same page musically,” she says. “He’s really wonderful!”

There will be printed lyrics for the audience, and guest soloist Christopher Hearns will help lead the audience though the Kinks “You Really Got Me,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “September,” Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Hearns is best known as a gospel singer and is currently lead singer of the Confluence Band and director of music at Jordan Chapel Church in Denver.

“He’s quite an accomplished singer,” Burrichter says. “I’m looking forward to what he can do with the Kinks’ music.”

Following the sing-along, the concert will conclude with three pieces Burrichter selected to impart a message of hope for the audience. The first will be Toto’s “Africa,” which she originally planned to end the concert that was canceled last year. That will be followed by “All of Us” by Craig Hella Johnson, from the composer’s oratorio Considering Matthew Shepherd, and last will be “We are the Ones We Are Waiting For” by Sunny McHale. 

Johnson’s “All of Us” has “a message that is so powerful and really fits the moment,” Burrichter says. “And the last piece is the thing that we sang during our online sessions all this last year. We would end with it just as a reminder that we are still a community, and that we have the power to make change.

“I wanted to end the concert with those kinds of songs that tie into what we did in the Boulder community during COVID. I’m certain it will be a joyful noise!”

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“A World in Harmony: A Ceremony of Solace and Celebration”
Boulder Concert Chorale with Christopher Hearns, guest artist
Vicki Burrichter, conductor

4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

TICKETS