ARS NOVA SINGERS WILL BE JOINED BY THE TRIO DUENDE FOR A MUSICAL “SALON”

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.”

Napili Bay, Maui, Hawaii

“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.

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Morgan, director (center)

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.”

Alfredo Muro

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.”

Mintze Wu

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 nova Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema). Wu and Muro will also play a duo, and Muro will play solo pieces on guitar.

Thomas Morgan

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.”

# # # # #

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.

2021 MahlerFest features hike, concerts, “decadence and debauchery”

Festival returns to Boulder August 24–29

By Peter Alexander Aug. 19 at 12:55 p.m.

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).

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Colorado MahlerFest XXXIV—The Return
Kenneth Woods, artistic director

7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24
The Gordon Gamm Theater at the Dairy Arts Center
“Mahler’s Contemporaries”
Colorado MahlerFest Festival Artists

  • Alexander von Zemlinsky: Sonata for Cello and Piano (1894)
  • Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Suite from Much Ado about Nothing for violin and piano (1919)
  • Robert Kahn: Trio for piano, clarinet, and cello (1905)

Tickets

4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25 (additional screenings as necessary)
The Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Arts Center

Films by Jason Starr: “Mahler’s Titan” & “On Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer”

Tickets

4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26
The Academy, 970 Aurora Avenue (entrance on 10th Street), Boulder
“Mahler’s Heirs”
Colorado MahlerFest Festival Artists

  • Erwin Schulhoff: Duo for Violin and Cello (1925)
  • Philip Sawyers: Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1969)
  • Grażyna Bacewicz: Trio for Oboe, Violin, and Cello (1935)
  • Hans Gál: Viola Sonata in A (1941)

Free, with advance registration 

8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27
Huntington Bandshell, 1212 Canyon Boulevard, Boulder
“Decadence and Debauchery: Music of the Roaring ‘20s”
Colorado MahlerFest Chamber Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor

  • Scott Joplin, arr. Gunther Schuler: Maple Leaf Rag (1899)
  • Erwin Schulhoff: Suite for Chamber Orchestra (1921)
  • James Reese Europe, arr. Gunther Schuler: Castle House Rag (1914)
  • Darius Milhaud: La Création du monde (1923)
  • Eubie Blake, arr. Gunther Schuller: Charleston Rag (1917)
  • Ernst Krenek, arr. Emil Bauer: Fantasie from Jonny Spielt Auf (1926)

Free

9 a.m.­–3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 28
Symposium at the Bar
License No. 1, 2115 13th Street (under Hotel Boulderado), Boulder

Full schedule here

Free, with advance registration

7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28
“Festival Finale: Mahler’s Fifth Symphony”
Stan Ruttenberg Memorial Concert
Colorado Mahlerfest Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor

  • Philip Sawyers: Symphony No. 5 (2021; world premiere)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 5 (1902)

Pre-concert talk at 6 p.m.
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

From 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 29
“Visit Mount Mahler”

Registration


Ajax Ensemble will perform on the Museum of Boulder rooftop

Program includes works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and more

By Peter Alexander May 4 at 2:40 p.m.

The Ajax Ensemble, one of Boulder’s many small classical ensembles that should not be overlooked, is playing a program at the Museum of Boulder rooftop Saturday (June 5).

Boulder Museum rooftop

With a capacity of 60, the rooftop performance is already sold out, but lucky for you, it will be repeated next Wednesday, June 9. The concert will take place on the museum’s rooftop from 5 to 6:30 p.m. It will be preceded by a “Walk Around the Museum” for ticketholders from 4 to 5 p.m., and followed by a Q&A period with the artists from 6:30 to 7 p.m.

There will be another opportunity to hear this same program, when—weather permitting—the Ajax Ensemble performs at the Linden HOA Park, 3750 Lakebriar Drive in North Boulder from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 6.

Ajax will perform as a string trio comprised of violinist Tom Yaron, violist Tanner Menees, and cellist Joseph Howe. Yaron and Howe are graduates of the CU Boulder College of Music, and all three players are active in the Boulder musical scene, and with experience performing world wide.

Ajax Ensemble in an earlier outdoor concert

The program for June 5, 6 and 9 will feature the following works:

  • J.S. Bach: Selections from the “Goldberg” Variations
  • Schubert: String Trio No. 1 in B-flat, D471
  • Ernst von Dohnányi: String Serenade, movements I, II and  IV
  • Mozart: Divertimento in E-flat Major, K563, movements I and IV
  • Gideon Klein: Trio for violin, viola, and cello
  • Beethoven: String Trio in E-flat Major, op. 3

The rooftop performances are presented by the Boulder Museum in partnership with Concertize, a Boulder-based company that provides concert-planning services and access to performers in the Boulder area. They serve as concert managers for Ajax, and state that their goal is “making music happen in more places, from vaccine clinics to concert halls.”

Tickets for all Concertize events are available on their Web page. Tickets for the Museum of Boulder events can also be purchased through their Web page.

Correction: The correct identification for the performing group is Ajax Ensemble, not Ajax Trio, and the violist will be Tanner Menees, not Joshua Ulrich.

Q and A about the proposed Longmont Performing Arts Center

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

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

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

Bob Balsman

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

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

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

Tim Waters

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

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

Please describe the project that we’re talking about. 

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

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

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

Where do we stand now on the project?

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

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

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

Where will that money come from?

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

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

Where is the projected site for the facility?

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

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

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

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

What will those next steps look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That should have an economic impact on Longmont as well.

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

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

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

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

Are there misconceptions about this project that should be corrected?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Santa Fe Opera announces reduced 2021 season with extensive safety measures

Four operas, to be played for 30–80% capacity houses

By Peter Alexander Oct. 26 at 9:15 p.m.

The Santa Fe Opera (SFO) has an advantage these days over most other summer opera festivals: they perform outdoors.

Santa Fe Opera’s open-air theater. Photo by Kate Russell.

In the time of COVID, of course, outdoors is the safest place to be. That fact made it easier for SFO to plan for the coming season. 

“The single greatest advantage that we have given the challenges of the coronavirus is that that we are an outdoor venue,” Robert Meya, the SFO’s general director, says.“ Even if we have to reduce our social distancing way down, it’s still going to be a lot safer than any indoor theater.”

Meya announced the summer 2021 season in an online press conference Oct. 21. The season will be reduced—four operas instead of the usual five—to decrease crowding on the grounds of the SFO during rehearsals and work hours for backstage crews. The four operas on the schedule provide an interesting variety of styles, with one each from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Robert Meya announces the SFO 2021 season from the stage of the John Crosby Theater.

The season will comprise Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream—ideal for an outdoor summer venue!—and the world premiere of The Lord of Cries by John Corigliano and Mark Adamo. All four had been part of the long-term plan for the coming summer.

A fifth opera that calls for a very large chorus and many extras would have been next to impossible to produce with safe distancing of cast and crew, and was dropped from the schedule. 

The open-air “lobby” of the Santa Fe Opera. Insight Foto.

It was important to preserve as much of the 2021 schedule as possible because of contractual commitments by the SFO. “Most of the contracts had been issued,” Meya explains. “Certainly verbally, we had agreements with all of the artists for that season.”

All of the productions planned for 2020 have been moved to 2022 or ‘23, including the world premiere of M Butterfly by Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang, the return of Wagner to the SFO with Tristan und Isolde, and the company’s first production ever of Dvořák’s Rusalka. “Because we wanted to preserve all of these projects, we had to leapfrog over 2021,” Meya says.

“We were able to save all five projects by slotting them into ‘22 and ‘23. That created a little bit of a domino effect, because we had those plans laid out. We had already built three of these (2020) productions. In March [they were] almost ready to go on stage.”

The dates of those future performances postponed from 2020 will be announced later. “I’m hoping we can go forward with the season announcement for 2022 this coming spring, in the normal pattern of announcing about 14 months out,” Meya says. Stay tuned.

Costume sketch for Lord of Cries. Courtesy of Santa Fe Opera

Of the four operas slated for 2021, the premiere of The Lord of Cries is sure to attract the most attention from the opera world. The 17th world premiere at the SFO, The Lord of Cries is based on two classic works of literature, The Bacchae by Euripides and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

According to the description in the SFO’s news release, “Separated by 24 centuries, The Bacchae and Dracula tell virtually the same timeless story, with the same subversive message: We must honor our animal nature lest it turn monstruous and destroy us. The Lord of Cries begins with a strange, androgynous god returning to earth to offer a mortal three chances to ‘ask for what you want’ or risk the consequences. He materializes in Victorian England in the guise of the eponymous ‘Lord of Cries,’ . . . the irresistible antihero of Dracula.”

The Lord of Cries is the second opera by Pulitzer Prize winner Corigliano, after his 1991 Metropolitan Opera commission, The Ghosts of Versailles. Librettist Mark Adamo is himself a composer who wrote librettos for his own operas, including the 2013 Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was revised in 2017 for a “CU NOW” workshop production in Boulder.

John Corigliano

Ticket information and full information on all four operas, including casts and synopses, is available on the SFO Web page.

The SFO’s various health strategies, for artists, staff and the public, have been worked out in partnership with CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, as well as a Reopening Advisory Group comprised of SFO Board members, staff, and public health experts. Steps to protect the health of the public during the 2021 season include seating reduced to between 30 and 80 percent of capacity, depending on conditions; ticketless entry and staggered arrival times; electrostatic disinfection of high traffic areas; and enhanced ventilation and air purification in elevators and restrooms. 

The usual preview dinners and backstage tours will not take place, and the SFO Cantina, a popular gathering place before performances, will be closed. Tailgating picnics will still be permitted in the parking lot, with appropriate distancing.

SFO Tailgaters. Photo by Chris Corrie.

Protecting the health of the artists and others working at the SFO is both a high priority and a complex challenge. Meya explains the steps that will be taken: “The musicians in the orchestra, all of the singers, and of course that includes our apprentices who comprise our chorus—[everyone] rehearsing and performing in close proximity is going to be quarantined upon arrival in the state for 14 days. During that same period they will receive the CCR test as well as the antibody test.

“Once they’re admitted to rehearse on campus, we will have frequent [testing]. All the singers, musicians and apprentices will be tested three times weekly, the backstage crew who can still socially distance to some degree will be tested two times weekly, and everyone else on campus will be tested once weekly.

“Those tests will be the rapid test. We are actually in the process of sourcing those—something like 12,000 tests. We will do the tests on site. We’ll set up a testing station [with] six machines that are going to be running approximately seven hours a day, six days a week with three operators, in order to conduct something like 1000 tests per week.”

The SFO outdoor campus. Photo by Peter Alexander.

In addition to those precautions, the SFO campus is mostly outdoors, with open air rehearsal spaces. But of course the visiting artists and their families will be out in the community as well. “We’re going to ask all of those people to sign a stringent out-of-workplace agreement about what they’re not going to do, like go to bars or restaurants.”

The Santa Fe Opera is one of the very first summer operas to announce full details for their 2021 season. Central City announced long ago that they would move their entire 2020 schedule to 2021, but details of health precautions have not been released. Opera Theater of St. Louis announced Oct. 19—two days before SFO—that they will proceed with an open-air, socially distanced 2021 season. 

Considering the dangers posed by the coronavirus, Meya feels very fortunate that the SFO is operating in its unique environment. “We are in that environment that is the perfect marriage of nature and art,” he says. “We’re in such a fortunate position in so many ways. We’re determined to put on a season, and we have been able to announce with a good deal of confidence.

“I feel very positive that we can make this happen and that we can do it safely.”

Santa Fe Opera. Photo by Robert Goodwin

Boulder Philharmonic has a full season for 2020-21—all of it online

Players are currently rehearsing and recording six of the eight programs

By Peter Alexander Sept. 21 at 10:30 a.m.

There were airplanes coming and going at the Boulder Municipal Airport last week, there were mechanics working on airplanes, pilots picking up brake fluid for airplanes—all the activity you would expect.

And there was an orchestra.

Members of the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman rehearse in the Brungard Aviation hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport Sept. 15.

In fact, the Boulder Philharmonic was busy rehearsing their fall 2020 season in the Brungard Aviation hangar. It’s not usual activity at the airport, but if the pilot picking up brake fluid was taken aback, he didn’t show it.

This is part of the Boulder Phil’s answer to keeping the music alive during the pandemic. As conductor Michael Butterman explains, he and the orchestra spent several months looking for a way to have a 2020–21 season.

“This is probably the 40th iteration of ‘20–‘21,” he says. “Throughout the summer we kept changing our thoughts about what we’re going to be able to do.”

They finally found a way to stream the season online. Seven of the eight concerts will be available individually or by subscription through the Boulder Phil Web page. The eighth concert, the holiday program, will be available free with voluntary contributions. Each concert will be available for a limited time after its online premier. (See the full schedule below.)

Who are those masked violinists? Rehearsals in the time of COVID.

To rehearse and record, Butterman realized, the players would have to be safely distanced and most playing with a mask. For that to be possible, they would have to use a reduced orchestra, mostly strings, and they would have to have a large space. For the former, there is a lot of available repertoire, but where would they find an appropriate space?

Michael Butterman at rehearsal in the Brungard Aviation hangar, Sept. 15

“It occurred to me that we have had galas at an airplane hangar at Rocky Mountain Airport,” Butterman says. “We ended up locating an opportunity at Boulder Municipal Airport, at Brungard Aviation’s hangar, and we’re grateful to them for that.”

Over a two week period—Sept. 15–20 and Sept. 22–27—players from the orchestra will rehearse and record for later streaming six of the eight concerts scheduled for the season. There will be three rehearsals and one three-hour recording session for each program.

The last two concerts—one a collaboration with the CU-Boulder Department of Theatre and the other with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance—will be recorded later. That gives flexibility in working with the collaborating organizations and keeps open the possibility that some kind of live performance might be possible by the end of the season.

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Two artists who have appeared with the Boulder Phil in the past—pianist Simone Dinnerstein and cellist Zuill Bailey—were invited to collaborate in chamber or chamber orchestra performances. “Zuill and Simone are wonderful to work with,” Butterman says. “The fact that we’ve had them both to Boulder already, and that they’ve been very popular with our audience, they were obvious choices.”

Zuill Bailey

To make the video recordings, the Boulder Phil recruited the service of sound and video engineer Michael Quam. There will be 10 cameras recording each piece, providing a wide variety of camera angles for the streamed performances.

Streamed concerts offer both a challenge and an opportunity. “This season may offer opportunities for greater access for some people,” Butterman says: “anybody who has problems with transportation, who has a schedule conflict Saturdays at 7:30, who lives far enough from Boulder that they don’t want to drive in.” And of course the hope is that the convenience of being able to see concerts on demand will attract new audiences 

The necessity of limiting the number of performers led to some thoughtful  programming. For example, during the years after World War I and during the Spanish flu, Stravinsky and other composers did not have access to large orchestras. Instead, they wrote music for smaller groups, including Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat for seven players, which is ideal for the pandemic year. It will be on the April 3 program. 

Other works will be performed in arrangements for reduced ensembles, such as Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on April 24, arranged for a string sextet, and Ellen Taaffe Zwillich’s Cello Concerto, which the composer re-arranged for chamber ensemble, on March 13.

In fact, Butterman says, “the idea of this being a re-imagined season is embodied in each of the programs. We’re presenting pieces that themselves have undergone some amount of transformation. In the case of Vivaldi (recomposed by Max Richter, on the Oct. 17 concert), that’s obvious. The least obvious example is the Bach concert (Nov. 14), but any time you’re playing Bach on piano, that is a bit of a re-imagining.

“We’re obviously retooling the concert experience. I think there’s some very, very strong upsides to that, including bringing you inside the experience, and making the access wider.”

And if they find new fans among the mechanics at Brungard Aviation, or pilots that need brake fluid, so much the better.

# # # # #

Boulder Phil 2021: Reimagined
All performances streamed online
Tickets available through the Boulder Phil Web page

Vivaldi Recomposed
Michael Butterman, conductor
Charles Wetherbee, violin

Jesse Montgomery: Strum
Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17

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

J.S. Bach/Philip Lasser: Erbarm’ Dich
J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor
Keyboard Concerto in D minor
Brandenburg Concerto No 5 in D major

Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14

Happy Holidays from the Phil
No tickets required; contributions welcomed
Available from 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13

Zuill and Zwillich
Zuill Bailey, cello, with Michael Butterman and Jennifer Hayghe, piano

Rachmaninoff: Vocalise  for cello and piano
Ellen Taaffe Zwillich: Cello Concerto (chamber version)
Schubert: Piano Quintet in A major (“The Trout”)

Available 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23

Mozart and Mendelssohn
Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Scott Joplin: “Solace” and “Bethena”
Mozart/Ignaz Lachner: Piano Concerto in C major, K467
Mendelssohn: Octet for Strings

Available from 7:30 Saturday, Feb. 13

A Celebration of Cello
Michael Butterman conductor, with Zuill Bailey, cello

Debussy/Schoenberg: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Schumann/Philip Lasser: Cello Concerto in A minor
Paul Trapkus: Trio for Three Violins
Giovanni Sollima: Violencelles, Vibrez!
Wagner: Siegfried Idyll

Available 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13

The Soldier’s Tale
Michael Butterman, conductor 
CU Department of Theatre and Boulder Ballet

Stravinsky: L’Histoire du soldat (The soldier’s tale)

Available 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 3

Beethoven 6 and Frequent Flyers
Michael Butterman, conductor
Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

George Walker: Lyric for Strings
Korine Fujiwara: Suite from Claudel
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”; arr. for string sextet by M.G. Fischer)

Available 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24

CMF announces six virtual summer concerts, June 25–July 30

Compilation orchestra performances and composers from marginalized communities

By Peter Alexander June 19 at 2 p.m.

The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) announced a series of six virtual, online concerts, featuring the Takács Quartet and other guest artists, members of the CMF orchestra, and music director Peter Oundjian.

The performances will be presented free of charge, on demand through the CMF Website.  The performances will be made available at 7:30 p.m. on six consecutive Thursday evenings, June 25 through July 30. Each performance will be available for some time after the time they are first posted.

CMF’s usual summer home, the Chautauqua Auditorium

A letter from CMF music director Peter Oundjian places the virtual festival in the current times, and particularly issues of racial justice in the United States. “It is no secret to any of us that the story of this country is riddled with the murder and mistreatment of non-white races,” Oundjian writes. “I am committed to doing everything in my power to make this festival an instrumental platform for musicians who come from marginalized communities.

CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian

“This summer’s festival will include only a fraction of what our programming will look like next summer, and the summers that follow. We will be featuring the music of a number of composers, both living and deceased, who come from different marginalized communities all across the country and the world.

“This is just the beginning.”

For the abbreviated 2020 virtual festival, the inclusion of minority and marginalized musicians includes works by, among others, Florence Price, Agustin Barrios Mangoré, Keith Jarrett, Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessie Montgomery and George Walker. The festival will conclude with performances by the current quartet-in-residence at CU Boulder, the Ivalas Quartet, a multi-cultural group with members from Hispanic and Black communities.

Takács Quartet

The six performances and their full programs will be:

June 25: Festival Orchestra and the Takács Quartet, featuring the debut of the quartet’s newest member, violist Richard O’Neill. The program will feature a previous Festival Orchestra performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide; and the Takács Quartet on the Chautauqua stage playing Schobert’s Quartettsatz and movements from Florence Price’s String Quartet No. 2; Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major, op. 59 no. 3.

Sharon Isbin. Photo by J. Henry Fair.

July 2: A celebration of women in music. Guitarist Sharon Isbin will play works by Enrique Granados, Antonio Lauro, Leo Brouwer, Nanomi Shemer and Agustin Barrios Mangoré. Percussionist Jisu Jung will play works by Howard Stevens and Keith Jarrett. Framing their performances, CMF musicians will play virtual compilation performances of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and two marches by John Philip Sousa. 

July 9: Violinist Augustin Hadelich will join Oundjian in his home to perform music by J.S. Bach, Eugène Ysaÿe and Francisco Tarrega.

July 16: Pianist Jan Lisiecki will perform cadenzas from the Beethoven piano concertos nos. 1 through 4,  and join Oundjian in a discussion of those pieces.

July 23: Brooklyn Rider string quartet will share a performance from their “Healing Modes” repertoire, which features works by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank and Kinan Azmeh. The program will open with a virtual compilation of Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5, performed by members of the CMF Orchestra brass section.

Ivalas Quartet

July 30: CU’s Ivalas Quartet will perform movements from quartets by Joseph Haydn and Jessie Montgomery, and the piano duo of twin sisters Michelle and Christina Naughton will perform music by Ravel, Debussy, George Walker, Rachmaninoff, and Conlon Nancarrow. CMF orchestra members will open the program with Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, and close the virtual festival with the second and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Except for the Overture from Candide, all the performances by CMF orchestra musicians will be virtual compilation performances, assembled from separate videos submitted by the players. These individual video will be compiled by the festival’s recording and sound engineer Michael Quam and CMF staff.

Other performances will be recorded in advance for broadcast at the stated program times.

You may register for the virtual festival performances here

2020 Colorado Music Festival is canceled

Music director Peter Oundjian is working to create a virtual festival

By Peter Alexander May 1 at 10 a.m.

In a statement released to the press and public this morning, the board of directors of Boulder’s Colorado Music Festival has announced the cancellation of the 2020 festival that was scheduled to take place June 25–Aug. 1 at the Chautauqua Auditorium.

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Chautauqua Auditorium

A quote attributed to executive director Elizabeth McGuire and board president Anne Beer states that it is impossible “to ensure the health and safety of our beloved musicians patrons, housing hosts, volunteers and staff—a responsibility we hold paramount.

“The staff and board of directors are all profoundly saddened by the loss of the festival’s 2020 live performance season.”

The CMF management have created a Musician Fund to help provide financial support for musicians and staff of the festival who have lost work as a result of the cancellation. Public contributions to the fund are possible through the Web page. People who have already purchased tickets for the 2020 festival are given the choice of donating some of all of their ticket values toward the Musician Fund, crediting their ticket value toward the 2021 festival, or requesting a full refund.

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CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian

Peter Oundjian, the CMF music director, is working with artists to create a “virtual festival” online. According to the CMF’s statement, the virtual festival content “will be released first to those who purchased tickets to the 2020 festival, and later to the public. The virtual festival will be available through the CMF Website. http://www.coloradomusicfestival.org/festival

Oundjian is quoted in the CMF statement: “While we are faced with the disappointment of canceling this year’s Colorado Music Festival, we are grateful to have the opportunity to offer a virtual festival. Without exception, the musicians I’ve spoken to are eager to participate.”

While it seems unlikely that anything approaching full orchestral performances will be part of the Virtual Colorado Music Festival, several chamber music performances were listed as likely events. These included performances by CMF orchestra musicians; a performance by the Takacs Quartet to mark the debut of the their new violist, Richard O’Neill; an evening with the Juilliard Quartet in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the quartet’s founding first violinist, Robert Mann; and a performance and discussion with the St. Lawrence String Quartet and 2020 composer-in-residence John Adams.

More information about the Virtual Colorado Music Festival will be released when possible, through the CMF Web page.

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BREAKING: Boulder Phil March concerts are canceled

Events and classes on CU Campus postponed or canceled

By Peter Alexander March 11 at 1:05 p.m.

Updated at 1:25 p.m.

The Office of the Chancellor at University of Colorado Boulder today made an announcement about campus classes and events. The full ramifications of this announcement for CU Presents and other events is not yet certain. Here are pertinent parts of the announcement form the Office of the Chancellor:

Today, I am announcing several campus actions to help limit COVID-19 risk on our campus. We will continue to fulfill our mission by ensuring that students are able to meet their educational requirements and faculty are able to continue their research and scholarship, and the campus will remain open to allow that to occur. We will continue to operate campus facilities, including residence halls, dining halls, the University Libraries, student recreation centers, the Center for Community, Wardenburg Health Center and the University Memorial Center. But, as local, national and global public health recommendations shift to include mitigation of transmission, we are proactively taking steps to protect the campus and the community.

. . . . .

Effective immediately, multi-day university-sponsored gatherings or those with more than 150 attendees are suspended until further guidance is issued. Event sponsors may request their events still be held and can request exemptions via the campus events exception form.

We will be providing further guidance and direction about how to implement each of these decisions in the coming days. Please continue to reference the latest information at colorado.edu/coronavirus.

Note to readers

By Peter Alexander July 14, 2019

If you read Sharpsandflatirons often you may notice that I have not posted any reviews in the past few days—right in the middle of Boulder’s Colorado Music Festival at Chautauqua, the flagship classical music event of the summer in Boulder County! There is a reason, and it is not that I am snubbing the festival.

A few days ago I was out hiking with my grandson and foolishly took my eyes off the trail for a few seconds. My left foot found a steeply slanted rock that was covered with dirt, and down I slid, doubling my right knee back and landing in some terrible way on my right foot and ankle.

The bruises are remarkable to behold, but apart from their artistic merit, I experienced quite a bit of pain and still have considerable swelling in my foot and lower leg. There is no doubt that the ankle has been severely sprained. The best advice is to stay off my right foot as much as possible.

So I am staying home, my foot propped up and frequently iced (RICE=Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Consequently  I have had to miss more than one concert I had hoped to review. I expect to return to my usual routine of concerts and reviews within the next week. Until then, I appreciate your wishes for a quick recovery!