Pro Musica Colorado to stream 2019 Bach performance with conductor Katsarelis

B-minor mass, performed with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir and soloists

By Peter Alexander Feb. 4 at 7:15 p.m.

The COVID pandemic has left huge gaps in the classical musical calendar

Conductor Cynthia Katsarelis and the Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra, unable to gather for the concerts they had hoped to present this month, decided to fill the gap with a streamed performance from their archives: a performance of J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor originally presented live in October, 2019. 

Pro Musica and St. Martins’ Chamber Choir performing Bach’s B-minor Mass

The performance features Katsarelis with the Pro Musica orchestra, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, and a quartet of soloists: soprano  Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, mezzo Julie Simson, tenor Derek Chester and bass-baritone Jeffrey Seppala.

A release announcing the broadcast explains, “The audio engineering is radio broadcast quality, however, the video is pre-pandemic archival. The video from the first half offers a view from the chorus and the second half offers a view from the balcony in audience.”

In a separate written announcement, Katsarelis stated that “Sharing the Bach seemed like a nice thing to do for a number of reasons, but most of all because of its capacity to bring healing. In addition to the terrible losses of people to COViD-19, I felt deeply traumatized by the event of January 6. For a week afterwards, about all I could do was play Bach on violin. Given that the February concert couldn’t proceed as planned, the Bach B-Minor Mass is our offering to healing and peace in this world.”

The streamed performance will be preceded by a pre-concert talk by Rebecca Maloy, a professor of musicology at CU, Boulder.

Anyone who purchased a ticket to the cancelled Feb. concert will have access to this performance from 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 14. Tickets may be purchased HERE.

# # # # #

Special Online Broadcast
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
St. Martin’s Chamber Choir
Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Julie Simson, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Jeffrey Seppala, bass-baritone

Pre-concert talk by CU Professor of Music Rebecca Malloy

J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor

Original performance from Oct., 2019
Streamed performance available from 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 14
Tickets HERE.

Musical Adventures 3: American music, mostly from the mid-20th century

Pianist Andrew Cooperstock will feature music by George Walker

By Peter Alexander Feb. 1 at 5:05 p.m.

Andrew Cooperstock. Photo by Peter Schaaf.

Pianist Andrew Cooperstock is drawn to American music.

“I have enjoyed exploring 20th-century American music that speaks to me as an American and somebody born in the 20th century,” he says. “I’m interested in how composers express themselves. For Americans it’s especially interesting because there’s such a diversity of backgrounds.”

The CU music faculty member will explore some of the diverse voices in American music in this week’s online Faculty Tuesday recital (streamed starting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2). Anchoring the program is music by George Walker (1922-2018), the first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for classical music, who taught at CU in the 1960s.

Cooperstock became interested in Walker through his own piano teacher, who was a close friend and classmate of the composer. Walker taught at CU 1968–69, and his son, violinist/composer Gregory Walker, still lives and teaches violin in Boulder.

But Cooperstock had in mind more than a recital of Walker’s works. “I thought it might be nice to put his music into context with some other American composers who were writing around the [middle of the century],” he says. In addition to the three sets by Walker, Cooperstock’s program will include pieces of pure Americana by his contemporaries Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. 

And just because he likes to play them there will be two pierces written in 2003, two Improvisations on Hassidic Melodies by Paul Schoenfield.

Cooperstock made it a point to play Walker’s most approachable works. “I choose his early music,” he says. “His music from that period is beautiful and lyrical and lush, but still with some modern twists.”

George Walker

The program opens with Walker’s “Variations on a Kentucky Folk Song,” a movement from his First Piano Sonata that has been published and played separately. The original song, “O Bury Me Beneath the Old Willow Tree,” has a long history in American folk music.

“I love what George Walker does with this piece,” Cooperstock says. “The theme’s a beautiful arrangement, and then he writes six short variations that are imaginative and exuberant. I really enjoy playing them.”

The centerpiece of the recital will be Walker’s Second Piano Sonata, written in 1956. “It’s virtuosic and it’s difficult, but it’s also lyrical and attractive at the same time,” Cooperstock says. He also notes that the music is especially virtuosic in recordings by the composer. “He does play his music so fast!”

Closing the program will be two short, contrasting pieces by Walker, a lyrical Prelude that he wrote for his own New York debut recital in 1945, and a more energetic Caprice that was one of his first efforts as a composition student in 1941. ”They’re short pieces,” Cooperstock says. “I thought that would be a nice ending.”

Barber‘s four-movement Excursions for piano is a kind of musical Cook’s Tour through various American musical idioms. “The first movement is a boogie-woogie with a walking bass, and the second movement is a blues,” Cooperstock explains. 

The third movement, which starts with a dreamy recall of the cowboy song “The Streets of Laredo,” is the hardest of the set. “It’s got very complicated rhythms, but you won’t hear that in the performance because it sounds improvised,” Cooperstock says. ”And then the whole piece ends with a square dance. Those are a lot of fun!”

Copland is represented on the program by two pieces. The first is a piano arrangement of music he wrote for the film Our Town. “I just love these pieces,” Cooperstock says. “They’re beautiful and calming. There’s this sense of old-fashioned simplicity and security. One of my students is playing the piece, and I thought, ‘I want to play this, too.’”

Cooperstock admits that the other Copland piece is less cozy. “I paired [Our Town] with a thorny work, because I thought we needed the other side of Copland,” he says. “[Night Thoughts] has some dissonances, but Copland was a very lyrical composer. Even in the middle of all this, some beautiful melody comes through.”

Paul Schoenfield

The final pieces added to the program came out of an experience Cooperstock had during the pandemic of playing for the daily meditation at the Jewish Community Center. For that, he picked two from a set of Six Improvisations on Hasidic Melodies by Paul Schoenfield. “I thought these Hasidic melodies would be perfect, and I picked two that were slower and lyrical and dreamy,” he says.

Cooperstock embraces the fact that he has programmed music that will not be familiar to his audience. “What it comes down to,” he says, “if somebody will be attracted to tune in to the program, that the music is good and it speaks to the audience, maybe they’ll try something new.”

He sees 2020 as a turning point, with the attention that has been directed to Walker and other composers of color. “I’m glad that composers who we didn’t know before are coming to light. This is a good time to be exploring different kinds of literature, and I hope that the trend will stay with us.”

Above all, he hopes his playing will reach people who have been dealing with so much in the past year. “I’ve thought a lot about the purpose of music, especially this year, and how music can bring us comfort,” he says. 

“Maybe this program can do that in some way.”

# # # # #

Faculty Tuesday: “George Walker, Underneath the Willow Tree”
Andrew Cooperstock, piano

George Walker: Variations on a Kentucky Folk Song (“O Bury Me Beneath the Willow Tree”), from Piano Sonata No. 1
Samuel Barber: Excursions
Paul Schoenfield: “Achat Sha’alti” “and “Nigun” from Six Improvisations on Hassidic Melodies
George Walker: Piano Sonata No. 2 
Aaron Copland: Three Excerpts from Our Town
Aaron Copland: Night Thoughts (Homage to Ives)
George Walker: Prelude and Caprice 

Streamed HERE and HERE at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2
Free or pay what you can

TO LEARN MORE about George Walker, watch this interview from PBS’ “State of the Arts.”

Musical Adventures 2: David Korevaar’s Faculty Tuesday

Jan. 26 recital includes works by Frescobaldi, CPE Bach and Margaret Bonds

By Peter Alexander Jan. 25 at 4:25 p.m

David Korevaar is an adventurous pianist.

“I’ve always been interested in music that’s off the beaten track,” he says. And the shutdown from the COVID pandemic has given him an opportunity to do more music off the beaten track than ever. “This has been an amazing experience, quickly learning a lot of repertoire,” he says.

David Korevaar off the beaten track

His latest explorations will be revealed Tuesday on Korevaar’s latest online CU Faculty Tuesday recital (Jan. 26, livestream at 7:30 p.m.). Titled “Variations Fantastiques,” the program brings together composers that are not on the well worn path: 17th-century Italian composer Girolamo Frescobaldi; J.S. Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel; Clara Schumann, the wife or Robert; and African-American composer Margaret Bonds.

Two other works are from more familiar composers: a Rondo by Mozart, and the Symphonic Etudes by Robert Schumann. “The Schumann Symphonic Etudes is the only thing on this program I had played before, and it’s been a long, long time,” Korevaar says. “That was a major act of resuscitation of a very difficult piece.”

Translation: Korevaar put a lot of work into this recital. 

David Korevaar at the piano (but still off the beaten track)

The opening piece gets right to the variations idea, Frescobaldi’s Partite sopra l’Aria della Romanesca—a set of variations over a standard Renaissance bass line known as Romanesca. Many composers wrote pieces based on the Romanesca bass, but don’t be embarrassed if you have not heard them before, unless you pay unusually close attention to the music played in church.

“Frescobaldi is not often played, period,” Korevaar says. “Organists play his music, and harpsichordists do. Frescobaldi was a native of the keyboard, he understood how to put notes together on a keyboard with hands.”

Frescobaldi’s music comes out of his experience improvising. “All of his toccatas and the variation sets represent a kind of frozen improvisation,” Korevaar says. “It’s fascinating— he manages to combine the traditions of renaissance vocal writing with keyboard improvisation. He transfers the kind of affective language of the Renaissance madrigal to this keyboard medium.”

The next work on the program, C.P.E. Bach’s Rondo in G Major, grows from the same soil as Frescobaldi’s Partite. “When C.P.E. Bach writes for keyboard, he’s writing again as an improvisor,” Korevaar says. “These rondos are particularly peculiar. This one has always fascinated me, because while there is a larger-scale structure, it works in four-bar bits that keep repeating the same material in various embellishments and modulations. And it’s like early Beethoven in the use of silence.”

Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes does not resemble traditional variation sets. “[Schumann] does say it’s etudes in the form of variations, but you’ve got to search a little bit,” Korevaar says. “Every now and then he’ll throw in the head motive to remind you where he started, but several have little to do with the theme. This is typical of Schumann’s transformative techniques.”

The piece actually began as an explicit set of variations on a theme by a friend of the Schumann family, plus a Finale that may be based on an entirely different theme from an opera by Heinrich Marschner. It is this original version of a later much-revised work that Korevaar will perform.

Clara Schumann. Daguerrotype by Franz Hanfstaengl (1854)

Even in that form, not all the etudes are related to the theme. Schuman’s approach is more one of transformation, as Korevaar says, than variation. At least three do not include the theme at all. “Thinking about it as variations, you realize how loose [Schumann] is with that term,” Korevaar says.

Both Clara Schumann and Brahms wrote a set of variations on the same theme by Robert Schumann. Both sets were published together in 1854, after Robert had been confined to a mental asylum. In both sets, Clara’s and Brahms’s, the variations on the theme are clearly delineated.

“It’s a remarkable piece because it’s a fully mature composition by a fully mature composer, with her own voice,” Korevaar says. “We forget that. We say, ‘Oh, she’s a woman who clearly did not get the opportunities.’ She played this piece throughout her career.

“It’s pianistically not friendly—she must have had a phenomenal technique! It’s a remarkable piece. This is a composer who was very much influenced by Robert Schumann, influenced by Chopin, influenced by Mendelssohn, and she has her own brand of virtuosity.”

Margaret Bonds

Bonds’s Spiritual Suite comprises three movements, each derived from a spiritual or traditional African-American song, each a set of variations or embellishments of the theme. Korevaar compares the middle movement, based on “Peter Go Ring them Bells,” to a Bach chorale prelude. “She introduces this descant first before we get the tune. It’s quite fun what she does: nesting in the middle of it is this wonderful waltz. It’s a wonderful piece.

The third movement, “Troubled Water,” has been published separately and is performed more often that the other two. The recent interest in African-American composers this year has resulted in the whole suite being played more, Korevaar says. “A lot of people have started taking it on, which is nice. It’s a good piece. It deserves to be played and heard.”

Korevaar enjoyed building a program with so many pieces that are new to him and likely to his audience. “I had more fun putting this program together than I’ve had in a long time,” he says. 

“It’s liberating to do stuff that I don’t know!”

# # # # #

“Variations Fantastiques”
David Korevaar, piano

Girolamo Frescobaldi: Partite sopra l’Aria della Romanesca
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Rondo in G Major
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Rondo in A minor, K511
Robert Schumann: Symphonic Etudes
Clara Schumann: Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann
Margaret Bonds: Spiritual Suite

Streamed here or here at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26

Free or pay what you can

CORRECTION: One quote by David Korevaar corrected 1.25 to state that we think of Clara Schumann as “a woman who clearly did not get the opportunities.” The original post omitted the word “not.”

Longmont Symphony announces spring-summer concerts

Performances include guest artists, small orchestra and full symphony

By Peter Alexander Jan. 8, 2021, at 10:10 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony has announced a spring and summer season of six virtual concerts, featuring solo guest artists, small orchestra ensembles, and the full orchestra.

Tickets for the spring–summer season, Jan. 16–Aug. 7, are on sale, both individually and a discounted package for the full season. All performances will be streamed starting at 7 p.m. Saturdays.

Guest artists will be percussionist Cameron Leach, who was engaged for a concert last spring that was cancelled, Jan. 16; duo pianists Yuki and Tomoko Mack, March 20; and cellist Clancy Newman, Aug. 7. Performances by the LSO will a program of music for strings, including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Feb. 27; an all Mozart program for small orchestra, including the Clarinet Concerto performed by Colorado Symphony principal clarinetist Jason Shafer, April 17; and a full orchestra program June 19.

LSO director Eliot Moore

For the audience, it will be good to see a varied series of programs, but you might miss the most significant feature of the season. “There’s something that’s noteworthy [about the season] and it’s not really about the music at all,” LSO music director Elliot Moore says. “It’s this pivot that the LSO had made during the time of COVID, from presenting an orchestra to becoming a presenting organization.”

Moore is referring to the solo guest artists that the orchestra has presented during the fall and will present during the coming spring and summer. “That is a way that we can keep the level the audience has expected from the Longmont Symphony organization,” he says. “We’ve been able to have unbelievable guest artists that are so engaging that people buy tickets.

“The thing that has been amazing is keeping our commitment to excellence during this time. We’ve done it and I’m proud of it.”

Moore admits that he wasn’t sure what the audience response would be to essentially a hybrid season, including both small orchestra performances and solo artists, all of it online. Today, he is thrilled that the response was so enthusiastic. “Our audience gave us way more than we expected,” he says. “We have a following now for these guest artists.”

Percussionist Cameron Leach. Photo by Joshua Jorel Gutierrez

Each of the three guest performances during the spring and summer offers something unique, Moore says. Percussionist Cameron Leach “is phenomenal,” he says. “He commissions pieces from all kinds of composers. And one of the things he’s been investigating during the pandemic has been technology—how can he purchase equipment, making a space in his home where can record and have a product to market.”

Concerning duo pianists Yuki and Tomoko Mack, “my thought was it’s really hard to have two pianos here, onstage with the LSO,” Moore says. “There’s not a venue I know of where we could do that. I was thinking, how do I create a season that we wouldn’t always be able to have?”

Himself a cellist, Moore is especially excited to have Clancy Newman as a guest artist “When he was a freshman at Juilliard he beat out undergrads, graduate, doctoral cellists to win the Juilliard Cello Competition— when he was getting a double degree in cello performance and in English at Columbia,” he says.

Clancy Newman. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

One thing Newman is known for is writing cello pieces based popular music. “He would every month look at the number-one pop song and create a solo cello caprice that’s like wickedly impossible to perform,” Moore explains. “So he’s going to play a couple of his own cello caprices, based on pop songs.”

The three programs played by the LSO were planned to gradually increase the numbers of performers, in the hopes that recovery from the pandemic will parallel the planed programming. “The idea is, let’s stay safe, in terms of where we are currently,” Moore says.

That meant starting with a program where everyone could be masked, which meant an orchestra of only strings [see full programs below]. Following that is a concert with small orchestra, which in this case is all music by Mozart. 

“I have had different ideas about how can I focus on a single composer,” Moore says. “This portrait of Mozart is a good way to pave the path, whether it would be a festival where our community can delve deeper into the works of a specific composer, really get into what was going on in the composer’s lifetime. That’s been on my mind for several years.”

The last of the LSO’s performances will be a program for full orchestra, to be recorded outside and presented in June. “This is the first time we’ve had a summer season, so that’s a new aspect for the Longmont Symphony,” Moore says. 

“That will be our first time as an orchestra to get back into rehearsing and performing together. So that really is one of the big points of this season.”

# # # # #

LSO 2021 Spring and Summer

7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021
Cameron Leach, percussion: solo concert

7p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 -Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Grieg: Holberg Suite
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
Vivaldi: Four Seasons

Yuki and Tomoko Mack

7 p.m. Saturday, March 20, 2021
Yuki and Tomoko Mack, duo pianists

7 p.m. Saturday, April 17, 2021 –A Portrait of Mozart
Overture to La finta semplice, K.51 (46a)
Concerto for clarinet and orchestra, Jason Shafer, soloist
Symphony No. 25

7 p.m. Saturday, June 19, 2021 –Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony
Borodin: Polovtsian Dances
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 (“Reformation”)

7 p.m. Saturday, Aug 7, 2021
Clancy Newman, cello: solo concert 

Individual and season tickets

NB: Minor typos corrected 1/9

Opera in a time of pandemic

Following strict health protocols, CU stages Hansel and Gretel for streaming

By Peter Alexander Dec. 9 at 4:15 p.m.

Putting on a staged opera during a pandemic is challenge.

There are many restrictions: distancing of performers, at least 12 feet because of the spread of aerosols by singers; no orchestra in the pit; rehearsal and performance space having to be aired out every 30 minutes; and of course no audience.

Leigh Homan

All of those challenges and more have been met by CU Eklund Opera director Leigh Holman and music director Nicholas Carthy. Fully staged, streamed performances of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel will be available online starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, through 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

The pandemic has had a major effect on the CU opera program. But the students depend on their experiences at CU to prepare for their careers, and Holman and Carthy were not willing to lose a full year of students’ educations.

The pandemic arrived in March just as the opera program was preparing Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. “When we got in dress rehearsal for Figaro and that turned into nothing, the outpouring of both grief and love was enormous,” Carthy says.

The opera planned for the late spring was Beatrice and Benedict by Hector Berlioz. Unwilling to let it drop, Carthy and Holman found a way to record individual musical numbers with singers performing separately. Holman worked over the summer with a videographer to make those numbers available online (see the final product here.) 

After that, they turned their attention to the fall production. As it turns out, Hansel and Gretel is the ideal opera to produce at this time: the cast is small, the opera is fairly short, which made it easier to observe time limits singing together, and it is a Christmas tradition in many opera houses. And another benefit: CU produces the opera every few years, so there was a complete set and costumes in storage.

Nicholas Carthy

But obstacles remained, including the orchestra. “We were told by the College of Music in no uncertain terms that we could not have the orchestral members to do it,” Carthy says. But rather than deny the students the opportunity of singing with an orchestra, he entered the entire score into a music writing program and sampled the score through a symphonic sound library. The result is a sampled orchestra, using real players and instruments.

Carthy set the tempos throughout. The performance tempos are not rigid—there are ritardandos and accelerandos—but they will be the same each time. “My role changed from somebody whose sole object in the pit is to be with the singers, to somebody who has to force the singers to be with me,” Carthy explains.

Holman had her own obstacles. “We had quite a list of protocols that we needed to follow (to stay safe),” she says. “When we practiced the staging all of the singers wore masks.”

They had to limit the singing in rehearsals, Holman says, because “even if you sing through the mask it starts the clock, and you can only sing for 30 minutes before you have to leave the room for 15 minutes.”

For the early staging rehearsals, no one sang—a rehearsal pianist would play the score while the singers spoke their lines in rhythm. “Once we had a scene ready to sing through, they would take their masks off,” Holman says. “We sang for 30 minutes and then left the room.”

Linsey Duca, Tommy Bocchi and Kely Riordan observing social distancing in CU’s Hansel and Gretel

The staging too had to observe the protocols. The singers had to stay 12 feet apart. ”Our technical director Ron Mueller was so helpful in marking out the stage so that we knew exactly where 12 feet was,” Holman says.

“We tried to make it as active as possible but stay 12 feet apart——a lot of circles around the stage. There’s a sword fight with brooms but the brooms are six feet long, and we used little bandanas that they could use when they weren’t singing, or when (Hansel and Gretel) were asleep under the trees.”

The stored sets for Hansel and Gretel were designed for Macky Auditorium, but the rehearsals and recordings took place in the much smaller Music Theater. This meant individual set pieces had to be combined on the small stage; scenic artist Jennifer Melcher Galvin hand painted a backdrop that other set elements could fit into. “It is one of the stars of the show!” Holman says. “It really brings it all together.”

The performances will feature three different casts, two singing the original German and one singing an abridged version of the opera in English, designed for school outreach, that lasts about an hour. Purely orchestra material—the overture and the Witch’s Ride—are cut from both versions. All the performances were taped the weekend of Oct. 24–25.

Tenor Tommy Bocchi as the Witch

You will notice that in all three casts, the witch is sung by a male tenor. This is often done in opera houses, to give the witch an additional bit of humor and to add a man’s voice to a cast dominated by women. In CU’s case, there is another reason: a male witch gives more male students the opportunity to be cast. 

Although the origin of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale is quite dark, Carthy and Holman point out that the opera is more humorous than scary. In the opera, Carthy says, “It wasn’t an evil stepmother, it was a mother with two boisterous children and a headache. And the witch has to be so funny!”

Holman agrees. “This is a story about a real family who love each other but they are going through hard times,” she says.

It is overcoming the challenges of presenting opera at all that Holman keeps coming back to. “We really paid attention and stressed the protocols that our epidemiologist gave to us,” she says.

“Our singers were very, very serious about these protocols. I did want to make that point, because when people see the video of people on stage together, that can make them nervous. Everybody did take it so seriously. And we’re really proud of them about that.”

# # # # #

Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck
CU Eklund Opera
Nick Carthy, conductor
Leigh Holman, stage director

Stream available from 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, through 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15

Detailed program information and stream access available here.

NOTE: Edited for clarity 12/9/20

HOLIDAY CONCERTS TO STREAM AT HOME

Celebrate the holidays virtually this year with local festive concerts.

By Izzy Fincher and Peter Alexander December 3 at 10:45 a.m.

Relax with a hot cocoa, a warm blanket and your favorite holiday tunes, all from the comfort of your own home.

This year, holiday music on Boulder’s classical scene will not be the same without the decked-out concert halls and communal holiday spirit. However, the holiday celebrations will continue virtually in Boulder with CU-Boulder’s Holiday Fest and festive concerts from Pro Musica, the Boulder Phil and the Longmont Symphony. 

Holiday Festival 2020 Dec. 4

The 2013 Holiday Concert in Macky Auditorium. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

This year CU-Boulder’s Holiday Festival won’t be the usual grand event at Macky, where the auditorium is filled with students, faculty, family and other fans. Instead, 2020’s scaled-down online broadcast of the Holiday Fest will have pre-recorded performances of seasonal favorites and traditional selections from the fall semester. The holiday spirit of a festive Macky continues on from the comfort of home.

“Holiday Festival 2020”
CU-Boulder College of Music students and faculty
Available from 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4
Tickets

“Holiday Moods” Dec. 5 and 6

Under the direction of Cynthia Katsarelis, Pro Musica will present “Holiday Moods,” featuring both traditional and diverse holiday tunes. Earlier this year, Katsarelis planned to collaborate with the Boulder Chorale to perform Handel’s Messiah, but due to COVID-19 restrictions she decided on an all-strings program instead. 

Yumi Hwang-Williams

The program will feature soloist Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony. The two performances of “Holiday Moods” with a limited in-person audience at the Broomfield Auditorium and First United Methodist Church have been canceled and moved to an online broadcast, available for up to 48 hours after the concert times, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.

“Holiday Moods” continues Pro Musica’s season theme of diversity and healing. The program opens with Novellette No. 1 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Black composer and conductor active in England in the early 20th century. The rest of the program is composed of traditional repertoire, to offer healing and comfort to listeners, according to Katsarelis.

The second work is Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, which was composed for Christmas night (Fatto per la notte di Natale) in 1690, likely for Corelli’s patron, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, in Rome. Next, Hwang-Williams takes center stage for “Fall” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, another Baroque classic. To end the program, Pro Musica will play Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings, one of the composer’s most popular orchestral works.

“Holiday Moods”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violinist
Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6
Tickets

“Happy Holidays from the Phil” Dec. 13

Michael Butterman rehearsing in the Brungard Aviation hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport

With conductor Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s brass and percussion sections will present a selection of carols and other holiday tunes. Like the rest of the Boulder Phil’s fall 2020 season, this concert was recorded in a hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport, on a tight 48-hour rehearsal and recording schedule. 

The wide-ranging program is a mix of holiday favorites, including “Carol of the Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (mashed up with the French carol “Patapan”). The program also features lesser-known carols, including “Wassail Song” and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”; modern holiday music, Dan Forrest’s “Jubilate Deo”; and a Hanukkah observation, “A Celebration of Hanukkah.”

“Happy Holidays from the Phil”
Boulder Philharmonic Brass and Percussion, Michael Butterman, conductor
Available from 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 27
No tickets required; contributions welcomed

Vocal Concert will substitute for Messiah Dec. 13

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will present a Holiday Concert Sunday, Dec. 13—but not the one they had originally planned. 

The LSO previously announced pared-down selections from Handel’s Messiah with four soloists but no chorus as their seasonal offering. That performance was to have been recorded in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium and streamed starting at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13.

With the recent announcement that Boulder County has reached COVID Dial “Red Level: Severe Risk,” Stewart Auditorium became unavailable, and no other acceptable venue for the recording was found.An announcement from the LSO states, “The restrictions made it difficult to find a venue and to safely film the performance with our musicians.”

Consequently, the LSO reluctantly decided Tuesday (Dec. 1) to cancel the performance. Instead, the LSO will present a Holiday Concert featuring pianist Spencer Myer and baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco, from their home in New York City. The performance will include classical song selections by Handel and Schubert, as well as holiday favorites.

Their performance will be streamed at the same time as was announced for Messiah—4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Season tickets for the LSO fall 2020 season and tickets purchased separately for Messiah will be honored for the Myer/Diaz-Moresco concert. For more information, see the LSO Web page

“Holiday Concert, New York—Longmont”
Spencer Myer, piano, and Mario Diaz-Moresco, baritone
Available from 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13
Tickets

Seicento will stream concert that was canceled in March

“Song and Dance in the French Baroque” available online Friday

By Peter Alexander Nov. 18 at 10:45 p.m.

Amanda Balestrieri wanted to bring French Baroque music and dance together to Boulder audiences.

Seicento Baroque Ensemble preparing a program of French music and dance

“I absolutely love this repertoire,” the artistic director of Boulder’s Seicento Baroque Ensemble says. She is speaking of music that came out of France in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly opera and other forms that mixed song and dance.

To that end, she created a program titled “Airs and Graces: Song & Dance in the French Baroque,” featuring the Seicento chorus as well as guest singers, instrumentalists and Elena Mullins, a guest artist trained in both the singing and the dance of the French Baroque period.

Dancer Elena Mullins

The artists were all assembled in Boulder last March, and rehearsals were well under way at Boulder’s First United Methodist Church. And then COVID happened, and the performance was cancelled at the last minute. “We just finished preparing to do the concert, so we decided to record it without an audience,” Balestrieri says. “I felt if we could at least record it, we could present it at a later time.” 

That recording will be available online for the first time Friday (Nov. 20) at 6 p.m. It will be accessible through the Seicento Facebook page, in return for a donation of any amount.

Amanda Balestrieri

Including dance in the program was crucial because it was such an important part of French music at the time. “I wanted to present the concept of having visual representation of the gesture and the meaning in the dance, because it’s really an integral part of the music,” Balestrieri says.

Most Baroque music derives from dance to some extent, but that was especially so in France, where dance was a cherished courtly activity. King Louis XIV, famed as “The Sun King” and the builder of Versailles, was an accomplished dancer, as was the court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. French Baroque dance is also important historically as the source of classical ballet.

“We have to understand this music in its complete form,” Balestrieri says. “If you have the body involved in the music, it becomes human and it becomes something that is related to us. That’s a very important thing. It’s part of the genre.

Louis XIV costumed for dance

“At the time the whole point of the music was to reach the passions. So the dance is very much in relation to the audience. It is supposed to relate not to [something] abstract but to real human dilemmas and fears and love and grief.”

Her interest in the art of French music and dance came from her own experience as a performer. “I have been on stage with French Baroque dancers and admired their expertise,” she says. “I know the music very well.”

To bring the music and dance to life, Balestrieri picked a program that included scenes from operas by Lully (1632–1687) and Marc Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704). Other works are an anthology of the most popular dance types of the times by Jean-Féry Rebel (1666–1747), the cantata Le triomphe de l’Amour by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667–1737), and courtly songs of love. 

Balestrieri wanted the performance to be a learning experience for the audience, so that they could see the dance movements that underlay the music that they would hear, but also for the singers in the chorus. “I wanted the choir to have the experience of the music enough to get it,” she says. “I wanted the dancer to give that element and for people to understand the visual side that was combined with the music.”

She admits that the program and its presentation are well outside the mainstream, even of Baroque music, but that was the point. “This is an esoteric corner of an esoteric art,” she says. “Our whole mission with Seicento is perform lesser-known music, to present things that you wouldn’t otherwise see.”

Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Lully by Paul Mignard

When the decision was made to record the final rehearsal for later streaming, Seicento hired Michael Quam as their video engineer. Quam has recorded videos for the Boulder Philharmonic, the Colorado Music Festival and other organizations in the area. Several cameras were set up to record the performers from different angles. 

Because viewers won’t have access to the texts in a printed program, Balestrieri herself added titles with French and English texts. “I learned how to use Adobe Premiere Pro and I beat my head against the wall for about a week,” she says. She also added the names of the individual dances as well. “You can watch and say ‘So that’s a bourrée! I never knew that!’”

The performances are all straight takes, with no corrections added afterwards. The absence of an audience was a challenge for the amateur singers in the chorus. “Feeling like you are connecting with live performance electricity—you have to imagine it,” Balestrieri says.

Nevertheless, she says she is happy with the final result. “It’s going to be very lovely to watch,” she says.

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Seicento Baroque Ensemble

“Airs and Graces: Song & Dance in the French Baroque”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director
With Elena Mullins, soprano and dancer
Guest vocalists and instrumentalists

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Excerpt from Les arts florissants
Jean-Féry Rebel: Les caractères de la danse: Fantasie
Jean-Baptiste Lully: Excerpts from Bellérophon
Michel Lambert: and Christophe Ballard: Two airs de cour
Jean-Paul Égide Martini: Plaisir d’Amour
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair: Le triomphe de l’Amour

Available at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 through the Seicento Facebook page
Stream will include a live post-concert conversation with guest artist

Boulder Philharmonic continues 20–21 season Nov. 14 with ‘Beauty of Bach’

Guest conductor/pianist Simone Dinnerstein, flutist Christina Jennings, violinist Charles Wetherbee are featured

By Peter Alexander Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Simone Dinnerstein has garnered a reputation as a Bach pianist, dating at least from the 2007 release of her recording of the Goldberg Variations. And in “Beauty of Bach,” a program performed with members of the Boulder Philharmonic, she reveals a new facet of her career: Bach conductor.

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Not only does she lead the orchestra in the keyboard concertos in the program—the Concerto in D minor and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto—she also conducts two orchestral pieces—Philip Lasser’s arrangement of the chorale prelude Erbarm’ Dich and the Orchestral Suite in B minor. The latter two she conducts from the keyboard while playing continuo, the chordal accompaniment that is a feature of Baroque performance.

“I love so much of Bach’s music, not just the keyboard music, and I’m hoping that this is going to lead to more conducting,” Dinnerstein says. “I don’t yet feel comfortable to conduct without playing the piano, but I feel like I can transmit more through playing, even if I’m playing continuo.”

Charles Wetherbee

The performance was recorded at Boulder Airport in September for live streaming, and will be available at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 14). Soloists with her for the Brandenburg Concerto are Charles Wetherbee, the Phil’s concertmaster, and flutist Christina Jennings, who also plays the flute solos in the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor.

The program is a repeat of one given by Dinnerstein and Jennings at Columbia University in February, just before the pandemic halted most concert activity. That performance, her first as conductor, featured Baroklyn, a string ensemble that Dinnerstein created for her own performances.

When Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Phil, asked Dinnerstein to participate in the orchestra’s ‘20–’21 streamed season, she immediately thought of the concert she had done with Jennings. “He wanted a Bach program,” she says. “I suggested that we do that program, because Christina lives (in Boulder).”

In assembling the original program for the February concert, Dinnerstein was sensitive to the flow from one piece to the next. “I think it’s interesting to start the program with something that is a very contemporary take on Bach,” she says. “And it moves very beautifully into the orchestral suite, so I like that connection between the two pieces.

Christina Jennings

Erbarm’ Dich was arranged by Philip Lasser, who is a fantastic composer and has a deep understanding of Bach’s music. This particular transcription sounds almost as much like his music as it does like Bach. He didn’t change any notes, but the way that he voices it, it’s in the style of Philip Lasser.

“I like the juxtaposition of the D minor Concerto and the D major Brandenburg Concerto. The whole program shows different sides of Bach’s music, from this very profound chorale prelude to the ebullient Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, which couldn’t be more fun.”

Although most live concerts since the February program in New York have been cancelled due to COVID-19, Dinnerstein has kept busy. “I’ve been doing concerts similar to the one in Boulder, where I am filmed and then they’re streamed,” she says. “So I’ve been doing a little bit of traveling.”

Whatever her reputation at this point, Dinnerstein does not want to be pigeonholed as a Bach pianist. “I don’t think of myself as a Bach specialist,” she says. “I love Bach, and I have recorded a lot of Bach, but I’m not somebody who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Bach. I would not call myself a Bach scholar.”

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

As for playing on the modern piano instead of a keyboard of Bach’s time, “There is a kind of abstraction to his music which is not instrument-specific,” she says. “He thought of music in a pure way.”

Like many musicians and other performing artists, she is looking forward to the days after COVID. She doesn’t want to guess how things will have changed in the meantime, however.

“I can’t quite process how it’s going to change our perception of concerts,” she says. “I think that it will certainly make us favor live concerts when we are able to attend them and perform at them.”

Like most of us, she has found both positive and negative aspects to the Zoom experience. In some ways it has enhanced her teaching. “I teach in New York, and I have students (in Asia) that I’ve never met in real life. I’ve been teaching them over Zoom for a few months now. It’s very striking how we’re getting a lot more work done than we did before.

“I think that all of this recording has made us listen more acutely to ourselves as musicians. There’s’ so much opportunity for reflection and there’s a lot more inward-looking action taking place—musically and in our lives in general—just because of this whole period of time.”

# # # # #

Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

The Beauty of Bach
Simone Dinnerstein, pianist and conductor
Christina Jennings, flute, and Charles Wetherbee, violin

J.S. Bach/Philip Lasser: Erbarm Dich, S721
J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, S1067
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, S1052
Brandenburg Concerto No 5 in D major, S1050

Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. Ticket may be purchased here.

SEE LA BOHÈME LIVE IN LONGMONT

Boulder Opera Company will perform La Bohème for a limited in-person audience.

By Izzy Fincher Nov. 10 at 12:45 p.m.

Are you tired of livestreams?

Live, socially-distanced opera in Longmont might be the answer.

Dickens Tavern and Opera House in Longmont. Photo by Sherri O’Hara.

The Boulder Opera Company will present Puccini’s La Bohème for a limited in-person audience on four dates, Nov. 13, 14, 19 and 22, at Longmont’s Dickens Opera House, a restaurant/live music venue. The performance will adhere to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, and audience members will be required to wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Michael Travis Risner

“We are excited to present (opera) live,” Michael Travis Risner, the Boulder Opera Company’s stage director, says. “That visceral, human experience of live performance is so valuable.”

“How long has it been since we have seen something truly live? Broadway is still dark. The entertainment and hospitality industries are almost down to zero because of the pandemic. There’s been a dearth of live performance these last eight months.”

La Bohème, premiered in 1896, is one of the most performed operas worldwide today. Based on Henri Muger’s novel, Scènes de la vie de bohème, the opera depicts the Bohemian lifestyle of an impoverished seamstress, Mimi, and her artistic friends, Rodolfo, Marcello, Musetta, Schaunard and Colline, all living in Paris during the 1830s. The tale is heart-rending and tragic, yet it is also full of passion, love, joy and humor.

Phoenix Gayles will be Boulder Opera’s Mimi

This performance of La Bohème will be set in 2020 COVID-19 times, rather than 19th century Paris. Mimi’s mysterious illness, which is later revealed as tuberculosis in the original story, will be left ambiguous—it could be COVID-19 or not. To keep her artistic friends safe, Mimi will enforce social distancing and mask-wearing for everyone as part of the staging.

“By setting (La Bohème) in a contemporary time, it is immediately more accessible,” Risner says. “I wanted to show the context in which we are all living right now.”

But staging an intimate romance while maintaining social distancing has not been easy.

“It’s a challenge getting an intimate show that is very much about love and relationships without having that physical intimacy,” Risner says. “I am asking a lot of (the singers) to really act hard, to convey what we need to without being physically close to each other.”

Nathan Snyder will play Rodolfo

Other COVID-19 related challenges have also impacted the production.

Weeks before the final performances, the pianist and music director, Steven Aguiló-Arbues, and three main singers quit, due to safety concerns about COVID-19. With no pianist, Colline, Musetta or Schaunard, Risner almost had to cancel the show.

Luckily, he soon found a new pianist/music director, Maggie Hinchliffe, and three replacement singers who were familiar with the roles, on short notice. Risner says he felt “very fortunate to find people,” especially with only five rehearsals left before the show.

“We just keep pushing forward,” Risner says. “We are 100% committed.”

Making the live performance safe for the audience and singers has been yet another challenge for Travis. During the show, singers will release high quantities of aerosols, which can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Audience members will also release aerosols while eating dinner without masks. 

To mitigate these risks, Risner has taken several precautions in collaboration with the Dickens Opera House. Dinner will be served before the performance, and masks will be required once the opera starts. The singers will be far away from each other on stage, at a significant distance from the audience. At intermission, everyone will leave the room to allow for ventilation, before returning for the final two acts. 

“I want people to feel safe,” Risner says. “I want people to feel confident. We will ask audience members to keep their masks on when they are not actively eating or drinking. We will ask them to be masked up the entire duration of the performance. The only difference from going out to a restaurant and taking your mask off to eat is that there are people singing 25-30 feet away from you.”

Despite all of the hurdles of live performances in 2020, Risner feels the Boulder Opera Company is as prepared as possible for their adaptation of La Bohème. He is excited to bring live music back and share the classic, touching love story with the greater Boulder community.

“It’s a timeless story about love, forgiveness and understanding,” Risner says. “It’s a slice of life, designed to be heightened realism.

“Hopefully, (the audience) sees a part of themselves reflected onstage and is moved in some way. That’s why we do what we do—to provide an escape from the craziness.”

# # # # #

Boulder Opera Company
La Bohème at Longmont’s Dickens Opera House

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov.14
7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19
1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Purchase in-person tickets for La Bohème here.

Livestream access for the Nov. 14 performance available here.

Takács Quartet livestream will be available to all

Nov. 1 concert will feature music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn

By Peter Alexander Oct. 30 at 10:50 a.m.

The next live stream of a CU campus concert by the Takács Quartet will be available to the public worldwide.

This is a change from their previous concerts this fall, which, due to contractual restrictions, were made available online only to prior subscribers to their CU performances. In this case, they will again be performing from the stage of an otherwise empty Grusin Hall in the Imig Music Building, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1.

Takács Quartet

Virtual admission may be purchased through the CU Presents Web page. The performance will remain available online to ticket purchasers through 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29.

The program will comprise three works by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Fanny’s String Quartet in E-flat major and Felix’s string quartets No. 6 in F minor, op. 80, and No. 2 A minor, op. 13.

The Takács Quartet will play two more online concerts from Grusin Hall this season, Jan. 10–11 and April 11–12, 2021. If conditions allow, those concerts will be performed before a live audience and single tickets will be sold as available. If live performances are deemed not to be safe, online access will only be available to previous season ticket holders.

The same will be true for a guest concert by the Jupiter String Quartet, March 7–8, 2021. Their concert was originally scheduled in October, and was postponed due to the pandemic.

The Takács Quartet has not announced their programs for the spring. The Jupiter String Quartet, which is the resident string quartet at the University of Illinois, will perform music by Mendelssohn, Schubert and Michi Wiancko.

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Takács Quartet

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: String Quartet in E-flat Major
Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80
    String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1: Live stream from Grusin Hall on the CU Boulder campus (program available through 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29)

More information and tickets available from CU Presents