Not just fast-paced Vivaldi, program is ‘more floating than serious’
By Peter Alexander March 20 at 6:10 p.m.
If you think all Vivaldi sounds the same—fast-paced, chugga-chugga “sewing-machine music”—the Jupiter Ensemble has a surprise for you.
The youthful early-music ensemble brings an all-Vivaldi program to Macky Auditorium as part of the CU Presents Artist Series Wednesday (7:30 p.m. March 22). When they played the same program in New York’s Weill Hall, the Times critic Zachary Woolfe characterized their performance as “slow, serene, more floating than serious. . . . A broad range of (Vivaldi’s) artistry was on display.”
Formed in 2018 by French lutenist Thomas Dunford, the Jupiter Ensemble is a flexible group of early-music specialists based in France. In addition to Jupiter’s roster of instrumental players, the Vivaldi program also features the youthful, 30-something mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre singing arias from four of Vivaldi’s underappreciated operas.
The group is taking their all-Vivaldi program (listed below) on tour around the United States. In addition to the virtuoso arias that Desandre will sing, the program includes concertos for lute and cello, interspersed between the vocal numbers to give Desandre some much needed breaks between numbers.
Continuing his NYT “Critic’s Pick” review of Jupiter’s Vivaldi, Woolfe wrote, “the young early music ensemble . . . made a delightful debut in Carnegie Hall’s intimate Weill space.” About mezzo-soprano Desandre, he wrote that her “fast runs emerged with smooth legato flow” and “her clarinet-mellow voice provided the spine of the evening.”
Woolfe was equally complimentary of the group‘s leader. “The lute is not a loud instrument, but Dunford makes it speak,” he wrote. “He wove a subtle but clear, golden filament of sound.”
Once characterized by BBC Magazine as “the Eric Clapton of the Lute,” Dunford decided four years ago to create an ensemble of virtuosos to follow in the footsteps of the early-music pioneers. “All of the artists invited to take part in the (Jupiter) project are brilliant masters of their instruments,” he wrote. “Some of them are already renowned soloists.”
As a child, Desandre joined the chorus of the Paris Opéra, where her idol was the great French singer Natalie Dessay. An early interest in dance turned more to singing, and her early-music experience included work with William Christie, founder of the superstar group Les Arts Florissants, and studies with Véronique Gens and Paul Agnew, both stars on the French early-music scene.
Many of the works on Wednesday’s program can be heard on group’s 2019 CD recording, Vivaldi/Jupiter.
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Thomas Dunford, Artistic Director and lute, with Lea Desandre, mezzo soprano; Louise Ayrton, violin; Augusta McKay Lodge, violin; Manami Mizumoto, viola; Bruno Philippe, cello; Douglas Balliett, double bass; and Tom Foster, harpsichord and organ
“Vedro con mio diletto” from Il Giustino
“Armatae face et anguibus” from Juditha triumphans
Lute concerto in C Major (arr. from Trio Sonata in C Major)
“Cum dederit” from Nisi Dominus
“Veni, veni me sequere fida” from Juditha triumphans
Lute concerto in D Major
“Gelido in ogni vena” from Il Farnace,
“Gelosia, tu già rendi l’alma mia” from Ottone in Villa
Cello concerto in G minor
“Onde chiare che sussurrate” from Ercole su’l Termodonte
“Scenderò, volerò, griderò” from Ercole su’l Termondonte
Performances will be on the Takács Quartet concert series, Sunday and Monday
By Peter Alexander Nov. 2 at 4:46 p.m.
The Ivalas Quartet spent the years 2019-22 in residence at CU-Boulder, under the mentorship of the Takács Quartet. Now serving as the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School in New York, they have returned to the CU campus to perform as guests on the Takács’s concert series.
Their program, featuring the music of Beethoven, Eleanor Alberga and Osvaldo Golijov, will be performed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, in Grusin Music Hall of the Imig Music Building. Tickets to both live performances, and to a live stream that will be available from 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, though 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, are available from CU Presents.
The Ivalas Quartet has always been creative in the their programming. The group has stated a goal to “disrupt the classical music world by . . . spotlighting BIPOC composers.” Among the composers whose works they have presented is Eleanor Alberga, a Jamaican composer who currently lives and works in the United Kingdom.
Although not well known in the U.S, Alberga’s music has been performed throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Australia, China, South American and Canada. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2021. She has said that her First String Quartet was inspired by a lecture on physics, particularly the notion that our bodies are made of stardust.
Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov draw on both his Jewish heritage and his Latin American roots in works such as The Dream and Prayers of Isaac the Blind for klezmer clarinet and string quartet, and his opera Ainadamar. Golijov described Tenebrae as “the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript” that offers “a ‘beautiful’ surface” but with pain beneath that surface.
Compared to works by Alberga and Golijov, Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 130, is familiar to most classical music audiences. One of the composer’s late quartets, it was completed in 1826. The slow movement, titled “cavatina,” is considered the high point of the score and was included on the “Golden Record” sent on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.
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Eleanor Alberga: String Quartet No. 1
Osvaldo Golijov: Tenebrae
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op.130
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building
Tickets to both live performances and a live stream of the concert are available HERE.
CU Quartet in residence will play Grusin Hall Sept. 18–19 and October 30–31
By Peter Alexander Sept. 14 at 11:18 p.m.
It’s hard to keep up with the Takács Quartet.
The CU quartet-in-residence is celebrated worldwide, giving them access to the top classical festivals. Over the past summer, they played the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, the Tanglewood Festival in Lennox, Mass., the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, at the Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh, England—a venue made prominent by composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears—and the Luberon Festival in France.
But now they are back in Boulder, and their local fans can look forward to their annual series of campus concerts, starting this weekend with an all-Beethoven program (4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 in Grusin Concert Hall). Other events during the fall semester will be concerts Oct. 30 and 31, featuring music by Britten, Bartók and Mozart; and concerts Nov. 6 and 7 by the Ivalas Quartet, who concluded a two-year residency with the Takács in May (program tba; other details and ticket information below).
Between the September and October concerts, the Takács will be touring in Japan and Korea. “We’re looking forward to that,” Takács cellist András Fejér says. “They always bring a special joy because they regard culture and classical music very highly, and they are treating us as such wonderful friends.”
Just this month the quartet released its latest recording, featuring works of Joseph Haydn. The CD, of quartets opp. 42, 77 nos. 1 and 2, and 103, was recorded in the Lone Tree, (Colo.) Arts Center. “We had probably the top American producer, Judy Sherman, and a wonderful, wonderful sound engineer, Mike Quam, whom we got to know at the Colorado Music Festival,” Fejér says.
In addition to working for the Colorado Music Festival, Quam lives and has a recording studio in Boulder. “He’s the most wonderful all-around sound man anywhere,” Fejér says. “We never met anyone like him, so we were very happy.”
In case you are wondering, in addition to the touring and recording and campus concerts, Fejér says “we always make time for (our students)! We have a wonderful new ensemble-in-residence and they are eager and hungry. That’s always a great encouragement for us, because teaching is wonderful!”
The Takács has of course played all of the Beethoven quartets, many times. In the case of the upcoming concert, the choice of an all-Beethoven program is partly from the exploration of familiar repertoire with the ensemble’s newest member, violist Richard O’Neill. “We need to re-learn the Beethoven with our new member,” Fejér says.
“He’s full of great ideas and he’s got an encyclopedic memory. He’s a great, great all-around artist, so we are very happy to be listening to new ideas, new solutions. It’s all a new dynamic, which I am enjoying tremendously.”
The three quartets chosen for the September concerts span the major periods of Beethoven’s life: Op. 18 no. 5 from Beethoven’s very first set of six quartets published in 1801, in the sparkling key of A major; Op. 95 in the gloomier key of F minor, known as the “Serioso” Quartet, from 1810; and Op. 127 in E-flat major, from 1825.
“We love these pieces,” Fejér says. “They are wonderful pieces. Maybe the audience is not jumping on its feet because of the final effect, but it doesn’t take away from the overall greatness.”
The Quartet op. 127 provides unique challenges, Fejér explains. “Some ensembles might not program it because it’s not so spectacular. It’s so deep, and herein lies the difficulty. Its first and last movement are extremely soft, piano, pianissimo, very ethereal, up in the clouds. It takes work and rehearsing and it’s not easy to make it flow and make it light, ethereal and transparent.”
Fejér explains that the Takács usually has three main areas of work when they rehearse. First is “what we play on tour, which might be pieces we already played many times. And then there’s practicing and getting familiar with new or newish pieces, (and finally) the ones we are planning to record.”
What that means is that rehearsing the program for the October concert will mostly come a little later. About that program—Britten’s String Quartet No. 1, Bartók’s String Quartet No. 6 and Mozart’s String Quartet in D major, K499—Fejér declines to comment right now.
“I might refrain trying to be smart about Britten at this point,” he says. “We recorded (his quartets) eight or nine years ago, but we haven’t played them again. So basically now we’re relearning and discussing what’s new and what’s changed, and what we wish to be changed.
“What matters is how we feel about it today or the next week, so we can be even more convincing and find even more joy in bringing it together.”
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Beethoven: String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 no. 5 —String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 —String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127
4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building In person and live-stream tickets HERE
Benjamin Britten: String Quartet No.1
Bartók: String Quartet No. 6
Mozart: String Quartet in D major, K499
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building In person and live-stream tickets HERE
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building In person and live-stream tickets HERE
NOTE: Due to spell checker error “encyclopedic” first appeared as “encyclopedia.” Corrected on 9/15.
Falstaff and Barber of Seville each worth the trip down I-25
By Peter Alexander Aug. 10 at 11:08 p.m.
Verdi’s Falstaffis the greatest of all comic operas. The combination of Shakespeare and Verdi at the very peak of his musical powers have produced a masterwork of scintillating humor and extraordinary beauty. And in baritone Quinn Kelsey, currently starring in the Santa Fe Opera’s splendid co-production with Scottish Opera, it has found an ideal interpreter. The rest of the terrific ensemble cast nearly reaches his level, with Elena Villalón’s Nanetta especially noteworthy.
Sir David McVicar’s set, a simple wooden structure of two stories and multiple staircases, recalls the theater of Shakespeare’s time. Furniture and props are moved on and off to change the scene from The Garter Inn—opening in Falstaff’s bedroom with various hangers-on under and in the bed with the portly knight—to the garden and the interior of Ford’s home, to Windsor Park. Only the last scene with Hearn’s Oak hulking behind the framework of the set posed any difficulties.
As stage director, McVicar showed a deft comic touch with individual characters. Moments of rollicking chaos, as in the first scene in Falstaff’s bedroom and the second act climax with Ford searching his home while Falstaff hides in the famous laundry basket, were especially delightful.
Occasionally McVicar supplied extraneous touches that distracted from the principal singers, such as bustling servants and a gardener raking the ground upstage from the merry wives at the outset of the second scene. At such moments, directors should trust the music and dispense with superfluous ideas. Happily, the distractions were few, and otherwise the direction served the comedy well.
The costumes were generic Elizabethan with comic touches, such as Falstaff’s grotesque codpiece when he goes to visit Mistress Ford. Individual touches helped identify the multiple characters who appear in the ensembles, including a witches hat for Mistress Quickly—who not coincidentally is costumed as a witch in the Windsor Park scene—and delicious pink and red for Nanetta, exchanged for bridal white at the end.
The dazzling variety of costumes for the final scene at Hearn’s Oak included everything from a moon-faced queen, a horse and a demon borrowed from Hieronymus Bosch. This might be overkill, but I for one relished every excess in this scene. It is, after all, the culmination of a lavish comedy. It is a scene about excess, the excess that drives Falstaff and Ford both to realize their overreach and accept being the brunt of the joke. Any comic opera that ends with a comic fugue deserves climactic excess.
Under conductor Paul Daniel the Santa Fe Opera orchestra played brilliantly. Daniel led the players through every twist and turn of the score, bringing out the full force of the winds when appropriate, but also moderating the gentle moments. The brief, distilled glimpses of love music between Nanetta and Fenton were handled with grace and tenderness, the delicacy of the ensemble scenes presented on the point of a needle.
Kelsey presented a virtual masterclass on vocal control and interpretation. He was boisterous and full of braggadocio at the outset, but singing with grace, even tenderness if required, full of extravagant self-pity after his bath in the Thames, by turn terrified, indignant and hilariously self-mocking at the end. He has mastered every nuance of the role and will doubtless claim a place as one of the great interpreters of Falstaff.
Villalón brought a lovely, soaring soprano to Nanetta, floating gently to her top notes in her exchanges with Fenton, then exercising restrained control of the music and the stage in her Act III aria. She was a Nanetta that the audience could fall in love with, as they should.
Eric Felling was a winning Fenton, bringing a ringing sound and eloquent phrasing to his Act III aria. Alexandra LoBianco negotiated the role of Alice Ford nimbly, singing with a bright sound that could either blend with the other wives or soar above the full ensemble. As a comedienne, she was clearly in control of the gathering plot from beginning to end. As her husband, Ford (or “Master Fountain”), Roland Wood was comically on target, fitting well into the ensembles and eliciting sympathy in his soliloquy. His voice was sometimes pinched, with a occasional hint of a wobble.
The other characters handled their comic assignments well. Brian Frutiger was a satisfying Dr. Caius, filing well a smaller part that in lesser hands can too easily be overlooked. Megan Marino sang Meg Page prettily. Thomas Cifullo and Scott Conner were well matched comic partners as Bardolfo and Pistola, enlivening every scene with their hijinks. As Mistress Quickly, Ann McMahon Quintero made her character real, in spite of lacking the hefty chest voice that would project better over the orchestra.
But it is first of all Falstaff, and then the ensemble performance that carry the opera. Nothing showed the SFO’s success better than the final ensemble with Falstaff starting the great fugue “All the world’s a joke and only the jolly are wise,” everyone joining in turn with a perfect moral for a perfect comedy. As the performance came to a joyous climax, the musical summation of Verdi’s life in the theater, no one could leave without a feeling of satisfaction.
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Close behind Falstaff as a great comic opera is Rossini’s Barber of Seville (Aug. 6). It doesn’t have Shakespeare as a source, but it does have Beaumarchais, who provided the literary source for two great operas in Barber and Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro. And while Rossini’s opera features the standard comic situations of the time, the composer’s skill and wit raise Barber into the highest realms of musical entertainment—a level that is exuberantly matched by SFO’s hilarious production.
Santa Fe’s set is a marvel of invention. Upon entering the theater, the audience is greeted by a large topiary mustache at the back of the stage. During the overture, a sculptured head rises from behind and below the stage. The night I attended the audience applauded and laughed with delight when the head proved a perfect fit to the mustache. Together head and mustache moved down to the middle of the stage, representing the façade of Dr. Bartolo’s house, with the head later revolving 180° to reveal the house’s interior.
That is only a small part of the inventiveness of the production, which uses period settings and costumes spiced with anachronistic details, including a plastic garbage bag, a computer (with an orange instead of apple as logo), cell phones and headphones. When disguised as the student Lindoro, Count Almaviva wears jeans, a down jacket and a “Sevilla” hoodie. Later he sports aviator glasses when disguised as a soldier, and enters Bartolo’s house in the final act as a Mormon missionary, singing “Peace and happiness be with you.”
Hilarity is piled upon hilarity, all in the gleeful spirit of Rossinian comedy. Thanks to the direction and design team of Stephen Barlow (stage direction) and Andrew D. Edwards (scene and costume design) the comedy never flags, sometimes pushing the limits but never undermining the plot and music, nor crossing the line into self-indulgence. I cannot remember a more raucously entertaining evening of operatic comedy.
The cast had full command of the Rossinian style, with Jack Swanson (Almaviva) and Emily Fons (Rosina) particularly agile and clean in their delivery of the flighty lines that sink many a tenor and mezzo. Swanson had great comic energy and onstage chemistry with Joshua Hopkin’s self-possessed, strutting Figaro. Fons captured attention anytime she was on stage and followed her character’s emotional twists and turns from boredom, to confidence, to (briefly) fury, to joy at opera’s end.
Kevin Burdette as Dr. Bartolo proved a master of physical comedy as well as a versatile and polished singer. Far from the stiff diplomat he played in M. Butterfly, he was agile and flexible, singing while attempting yoga poses (more anachronistic merriment), while climbing the walls (literally) or sliding out of a chair. Every moment he was on stage was a potential moment of unexpected laughs.
Nicholas Newton (subbing for Ryan Speedo Green) was vocally imposing and on target as the pompous but venal Don Basilio, always available to the highest bidder. He provided the best updated joke of the entire show, producing his “Orange”-brand computer as he sang about how to harness the rapid spread of slander.
SFO apprentice artist Murella Parton brought energy and liveliness to the role of Berta, Bartolo’s housekeeper. Always a figure of calm and good sense in the midst of the comic madness, she exploded out of her shell and enchanted the audience during her one aria, when she unexpectedly became a figure of glamour, swirling in a sparkly dress accompanied by four top-hatted dancers.
Conductor Iván López-Reynoso elicited a crisp and transparent sound from the orchestra. A worthy partner of the singers, he kept a brisk and sparkling pace that matched their comic energy. Once again the orchestra outdid itself.
In these two comic masterpieces, Falstaff and Barber of Seville, the Santa Fe Opera has delivered two peerless productions. Each is well worth the trip to New Mexico. If there are tickets left by the time you read this, they may be found HERE.
Central City Opera has released the following statement, cancelling all performances through July 24:
In consultation with our medical partners and in order to protect the health and safety of patrons, artists and staff, all Festival performances scheduled for Tuesday, July 19 through Sunday, July 24 have been cancelled.
Due to recently reported COVID-19 cases in the company, Central City Opera has made the difficult decision to cancel all festival performances for this week. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we navigate these challenging circumstances in order to protect the health and safety of our community.
We sincerely apologize for this disappointment and inconvenience. We are working with our medical consultants to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps when we resume performances. We hope that we can reseat as many patrons as possible for the following week’s performances, but we may not be able to guarantee that all patrons will be reseated.
Details for ticket holders may be found on the CCO Web page.
Principal cello and principal clarinet will be featured soloists Dec. 11
By Peter Alexander Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.
There are lots of Christmas concerts in Boulder this time of year, but only one is offering chocolate along with the music.
The Boulder Chamber Orchestra has paired with Boulder’s Piece, Love & Chocolate for their concert Saturday (7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church), and while the program does not feature a single carol, who can turn down the sweets?
The occasion for the chocolates is the performance of Symphonic Chocolates by Maxime Goulet, a piece that suggests—requires?—a specific kind of chocolate with each of its four movements. For the rest of the program, conductor Bahman Saless wanted to feature members of the BCO as soloists.
“It’s really important to support our principal musicians,” he says. “We had planned during the COVID year to do two pieces (featuring BCO players). I decided that in the spirit of the orchestra being a family that it would be appropriate to do both of them on the same night.”
The two solo pieces will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, played by principal cellist Joseph Howe, and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, played by principal clarinetist Kellan Toohey. For the former, Saless points out, Howe and the BCO will perform the original version, which is not often heard today.
The cellist who played the premiere and the score’s dedicatee, Wilhelm Fitzhagen, considered the Variations to be ”his” piece. He changed the order of the variations and cut Tchaikovsky’s final variation, all without consulting the composer. Tchaikovksy reportedly hated the changes, but didn’t challenge them, and ever since it has been Fitzhagen’s revised version that has usually been performed.
The original version “is hard to get now” Saless says. “We had to get it from somewhere else—it’s out of print.” Nevertheless, some scholars and performers prefer the original version, because the order of the variations seems to follow a more logical musical development.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was one of the composer’s very last completed pieces, composed shortly before his death in 1791. It was written for Anton Stadler, a personal friend of the composer and one of the very first virtuoso clarinet players. He performed on an instrument that had an extended range, making it possible to play a few notes lower than the modern instrument. It also had a very primitive fingering system with only a few keys, making it remarkable that the piece could be played at all. Today it is regarded as the first great solo piece for the instrument and is often played for professional clarinet auditions.
But back to the chocolates! Goulet describes his Symphonic Chocolates as “a work meant to accompany a chocolate tasting . . . an orchestral suite in four short movements in which each movement evokes a different flavor of chocolate.” The four flavors are described musically, and “the audience is invited to eat four small chocolates while each movement of the corresponding flavor is being played.”
The four movements and their descriptions in Goulet’s program notes are: “1. Caramel Chocolate: A long lyrical melody supported by a rich and enveloping sonority; 2. Dark Chocolate: An intense habanera of desire and seduction, spiced up with a dissonant bitterness; 3. Mint Chocolate: A delicate freshness with icy cold sonorities; 4. Coffee-infused Chocolate: An espresso tempo with a Brazilian flavor.”
For the BCO performance, Boulder’s Piece, Love and & Chocolate will provide a box of four small chocolates of the described varieties which can be purchased with the tickets to the concert. The chocolates will be given out at the concert to ticket holders who purchased them.
If you don’t recognize the name, Goulet is active both as a composer of concert music and of music for video games. He was staff composer for Gameloft 2007–13, and has written the music for games including “Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade,” “The Amazing Spider Man” 1 and 2, “Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front” and “Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War.”
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“A Gift of Music:” Celebrating the Season with BCO Stars Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
Maxime Goulet: Symphonic Chocolates
Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme (original version) Joseph Howe, cello
Mozart: Concerto in A for clarinet and orchestra Kellan Toohey, clarinet
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec.11 Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church TICKETS (admission and the chocolates may be purchased separately) NOTE: See BCO COVID policies on their home page.
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):
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.
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).
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
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
Online event Sept. 25 replaces a planned fundraising gala
By Peter Alexander Sept. 21 at 9:30 p.m.
Thomas Morgan, music director of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, says “sitting on a beach in Maui sounds like a pretty good idea.”
“All of us want to be traveling right now,” he continues, speaking after a year when most of us stayed in place. And while you and I may not be able to drop everything and fly to Hawaii, Morgan has the answer: he has programmed a piece of music that captures the Maui beach experience. “Napili Bay 2 p.m.” by J.A.C. Redford will be presented as part of an online performance by Ars Nova Saturday (Sept. 25).
“This piece is really evocative of [the beach at Napili Bay],” he says. “It’s spectacularly well written for the choir, and the chorus really loves to sing it. It’s a wonderful piece.”
The performance is part of “Sounds from the Soil: A Salon” to be streamed on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, and will remain available through Wednesday, Oct. 13. The program, which was recorded at Lone Hawk Farm in rural Boulder County, features Morgan conducting Ars Nova, plus the Duende Trio of mezzo-soprano Shannon Pennell, violinist Mintze Wu, and guitarist Alfredo Muro. Information and tickets can be found here.
The program developed from Ars Nova’s planned fall gala, a fund-raising event to kick off the 2021–22 season. The gala was scheduled for Sept. 11, but “we realized that probably wasn’t going to be an appropriate time to do a fundraiser, indoors,” Morgan says. “Fortunately, we were able to make the change and not do it as an in-person event. We kept the date and took the choir out [to Lone Hawk Farm] and recorded both indoors and outdoors.”
Lone Hawk Farm is a working organic farm and event venue located in the country between Boulder and Longmont. The program is a collection of pieces that are new to Ars Nova and others they have performed before. Among the latter is Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti a Baroque piece that was on Ars Nova’s very first concert in March 1986. Morgan says he wanted to perform the Crucifixus because “it connects to our very first concert, so it’s like beginning again after this current wave of the pandemic.
“It’s a wonderful eight-voice piece that builds in a really elegant way with a lot of suspensions and resolutions. It’s a really fun piece for the choir to sing.”
The members of the Trio Duende all have prior connections to Ars Nova. Pennell is a member of the choir, and both Wu and Muro have played with the group before. The trio is intriguingly multi-cultural: Pennell is a Coloradan living in Lyons, Muro is from Peru, and Wu is a native of Taiwan who used to live in Lyons and now resides in Carbondale, Colo. Wu in particular is a shape shifting musician who has performed everything from Bach to Celtic fiddling—sometimes on the same program—and now has taken up bossa nova.
“The first time the trio got together was 2014,” Wu explains. At the time, she was living in Lyons, where she organized the eclectic “Sound of Lyons” music festival. They recently got together again in Carbondale, where Wu lives now and has curated the Garden Music series. That was where Morgan heard them and invited them to play for the Ars Nova gala/online “Salon.”
The name Trio Duende comes from the Spanish word meaning “soul” or “passion.” It was a word that Muro’s wife used to describe how the three musicians perform together. “She was talking about when we play together there is this quality of passion, of being very inspired,” Wu says. “And so we decided to use that name.”
For the online performance, Trio Duende presents three pieces, including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s iconic bossa novaGarota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema). Wu and Muro will also play a duo, and Muro will play solo pieces on guitar.
Morgan talks about other pieces that Ars Nova will perform: “I should probably mention Samuel Coleridge-Taylor‘s little motet ‘Summer is Gone,’” he says. “Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer of African descent. He achieved a lot of success as a composer, including three tours of the United States in the early 1900s. This little piece is based on the poem ‘Bitter for Sweet’ by Christina Rosetti. It’s perfect for this time of year and for the changing of season. It’s just a beautiful little piece.
“Our recording of it was done right near sunset at a beautiful location out in the country. It really looks good.”
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Sounds from the Soil: A Virtual Salon Ars Nova Singers Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director and conducto Trio Duende, guest artists: Shannon Pennell, mezzo-soprano, Mintze Wu, violin, and Alfredo Muro, guitar
Antonio Lotti: Crucifixus
Cary John Franklin: “The Merry-Go-Round at Night”
Sibelius, arr. Blake Morgan: “This is My Song”(Finlandia)
J.A.C. Redford: “Napili Bay, 2 p.m.”
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor:“Summer is Gone”
Josef Rheinberger: Abendlied —Ars Nova
Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes: Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema)
Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Maria: Manha de Carnaval (Morning of Carnival)
Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes: Samba Em Preludio —Trio Duende
Instrumental works —Mintze Wu, violin, and Alfredo Muro, guitar
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 TICKETS NOTE: This event will premiere on YouTube. A performance link will be sent to ticket-buyers just before showtime, valid to watch through October 13.
From “Decadence and Debauchery” to fifth symphonies to a hike in the mountains, the 2021 Colorado MahlerFest will cover a lot of ground, literally and figuratively
Over five days, Tuesday–Saturday Aug. 24–28, concerts, films and a symposium will explore the music of Gustav Mahler, his contemporaries and heirs, in venues from the Dairy Arts Center to the Huntington Bandshell and Mackey Auditorium. Composers will include Mahler’s European contemporaries and successors Korngold and Krenek, but also American ragtime musicians Scott Joplin and James Reese Europe (see the full schedule here).