A mix of operas large and small drives the season at Central City Opera

The method in artistic director Pelham Pearce’s madness

By Peter Alexander July 5 at 10:50 a.m.

Pelham Pearce, general/artistic director of Central City Opera (CCO), insists, “there is method to my madness!”

Central City Opera Opening Night 2006- Page 2 of Book

Central City Opera House (photo courtesy of Central City Opera)

The madness is expecting audiences to attend opera high in the Colorado mountains. And the method involves a mix of big pieces and small pieces, famed operas and unknown operas, with first-rate casts and imaginative productions. For the 2018 season, Pearce says, “you’ve got Handel, Mozart, Verdi and Mollicone. It represents a broad swath of styles.”

The formula devised through trial and error is to present two major productions in the historic Central City Opera House — this year, Mozart’s Magic Flute and Verdi’s Il Trovatore — and two shorter works in smaller venues — this year, Handel’s Acis and Galatea and The Face on the Barroom Floor by Henry Mollicone, a work that was written for CCO 40 years ago.

The season opens Saturday (July 7) with the Magic Flute; Il Trovatore opens a week later (July 14). These productions run in repertory until Aug. 5, with the shorter works being presented over a span of 10 days, July 25–Aug. 3.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Central City Opera Summer 2018

The Magic Flute by Mozart/Emanuel Schikaneder
André de Ridder, conductor; Alessandro Talevi, stage director

2:30 p.m. July 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 25, 29; Aug. 2, 5
8 p.m. July 7, 19, 27, 31
Central City Opera House
Performed in German with English supertitles.

Il trovatore by Verdi/Salvadore Cammarano
John Baril, conductor; Joachim Schamberger, stage director

2:30 p.m. July 18, 22, 24, 28; Aug. 1, 3
8:00 p.m. July 14, 20, 26
Central City Opera House
Performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Acis and Galatea by Handel/John Gay, Alexander Pope, John Hughes
Christopher Zemliauskas, conductor; Ken Cazan, stage director

8 p.m. July 25, 28; Aug. 1
5 p.m. July 26
Martin Foundry, Central City
Performed in English

The Face on the Barroom Floor by Henry Mollicone/John S. Bowman
40thanniversary production
Michael Ehrman, director

1:15 p.m. July 25, 28, Aug. 1, 2 3
Williams Stables Theater, Central City
Performed in English

Tickets for all productions

 

 

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Colorado Music Festival opens with fun, beauty, and excitement

Violinist Vadim Gluzman shines in Bernstein Serenade

By Peter Alexander June 29, 12:30 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival opened its 2018 season last night (June 28) with a program that had generous supplies of fun, beauty and excitement.

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Marcelo Lehninger

Guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger faced the challenge of launching the festival, conducting an unfamiliar orchestra in a hall where he had never performed. It is a testament to him and to the players that he acquitted himself with great success. He is a conductor who exudes a calm confidence and who leads with clarity and restraint.

Lehninger began the concert with John Corigliano’s Promenade Overture, which starts with a near-empty stage. Players and sections enter gradually until the stage is full (or nearly: the tuba player, in a humorous nod to the instrument’s bulk, enters oompahing breathlessly at the very end). Lehninger selected this score the represent the reunion of the orchestra players, who reconvene every summer in Boulder from their main-season jobs all over the country.

Promenade is a great concert and season opener: the percussion riffs, the brass fanfares, the woodwind noodling all give the players a chance to show their virtuosity, and the culminating broad, lyrical theme gives the strings their due as well. It was done with great brilliance and precision, announcing “THIS is an orchestra!” For future seasons, opening with Promenade would make a great Chautauqua tradition.

That bit of fun was followed by the beauty of Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, featuring violinist Vadim Gluzman. Effectively a five-movement concerto for violin with strings, percussion and harp, the Serenade was written in 1954, before West Side Story made Bernstein a popular sensation. The style is mostly conservative mid-century modernist, with hints of Shostakovich, Britten and others of the time, with the jazzy, hip “Lenny” that we expect only showing up in the final movement.

Plato’s Symposiumdepicts a series of discourses on the subject of love. Fittingly, the five contrasting movements of the Serenade are dominated by a lyrical spirit, with the particularly beautiful fourth movement suggesting Bernstein’s expansive love of humanity.

Vadim Gluzman Photo: Marco Borggreve

Violinist Vadim Gluzman

Gluzman was a sheer joy to hear. The lyrical solo that opens the Serenade filled the hall with beautiful sound, even at a piano volume, and the tricky pyrotechnics of the third movement were precise and flawless. The fourth movement was the expressive heart of the performance, and the finale had just the right amount of jazzy spirit.

I particularly enjoyed the way Gluzman interacted with the violin section behind him, frequently turning to face them rather than the audience, sharing the joy of performance with the players. Equally captivating was his interaction with the principal cellist during a joint cadenza. I have heard this piece live before, but never has it made a greater impression.

Lehninger closed the concert with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, one of the most viscerally exciting pieces in the repertoire. This was the first real test for the full orchestra, and with a few reservations they passed handily. This is the CMF orchestra we have heard before, with great individual virtuosity, a full sound, (mostly) impeccable intonation, and a wide range of dynamics and expressive potential. From the very first notes, the brass was bold, full and thrilling. The movement displayed the flexibility of the ensemble, with extensive tempo modifications and well controlled phrasing.

A few entrances were slightly blurred, but only a few, and from where I sat the balance was not ideal. The powerful brass section sometimes overwhelmed other sections, the middle of the texture was a little too thick, and some details were lost in the wash of sound. It may have sounded differently elsewhere in the hall.

In a moment of surprise, Lehninger turned to the audience between the first two movements to apologize that he had not spoken earlier, and to say “Welcome.” What could have been an awkward moment was made charming by his relaxed, affable personality.

The remainder of the symphony was played with great expression, notable flexibility and well marked expressive contours. The finale was taken at a driven tempo, but one that the players managed well. The movement was irresistibly exciting and did what it is supposed to do: Drive the audience to their feet. And so the 2018 CMF is well launched.

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Chautauqua Auditorium from the CMF Orchestra. Photo by Eric Berlin.

Dates, programs and tickets for CMF performances here.

Guest conductors launch 2018 Colorado Music Festival

Violinists Gluzman and Quint, pianists Weiss and Martinez will be early soloists at CMF

By Peter Alexander June 28 at 12 noon

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Chautauqua Auditorium during a CMF orchestra concert. Photo by Eric Berlin.

The Colorado Music Festival, facing another year without a permanent music director, opens with two weeks of concerts led by guest conductors Marcelo Lehninger and David Danzmayr. Current artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead several concerts mid-summer, and former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni will return for one week.

The opening weeks set the festival pattern of full orchestra concerts on Thursdays and chamber orchestra on Sundays. Later, the season will also see the return of Fresh Friday mini-concerts and Saturday chamber music (full schedule at coloradomusicfestival.org).

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

 

A LOSS FOR BOULDER’S CLASSICAL MUSICIANS

Classical music journalist/critic Kelly Dean Hansen leaves the Daily Camera

By Peter Alexander June 26, 2018, at 12:05 a.m.

Kelly Dean Hansen, the classical music critic for the Boulder Daily Camera since 2011, recently resigned his post.

Kelly Dean Hansen Camera Classical Music Writer

Kelly Dean Hansen. Boulder Daily Camera photo.

Hansen resigned as of May 27, but only announced the decision yesterday, June 24. He had written music criticism for the Camera since 2003, first as an assistant to long-time local critic/journalist Wes Blomster, and then as the newspaper’s sole classical music writer after Blomster’s death in October, 2011.

Hansen’s departure had been rumored in classical music circles for some time, and the publication by the Camera of a preview of this summer’s Colorado Music Festival—long a favored topic for Hansen—by reporter Christy Fantz on June 22 seemed to confirm the rumors. Two days later, on June 24, the Boulder Free Press Web page published an article by Hansen announcing his resignation from the Camera and explaining his decision.

The main reason appears to have been the gradual reduction in the number of articles and the total space allotted by the paper for classical music. After 2017, Hansen wrote, “the cuts were unrelenting and ever increasing. . . . By the time I submitted my last piece around Memorial Day, my writing had become a shadow and shell of its peak around 2014.”

Asked to comment on Hansen’s departure, Quentin Young, the Camera’s features and entertainment editor, wrote: “The Camera, like newspapers across the country, has fewer resources than it did five or 10 years ago. But we remain committed to providing robust coverage of local news and events, including classical music.”

In a spoken conversation he added a personal note of appreciation. “Kelly had a rare mix of talents, which most importantly includes a breadth of knowledge of the subject he was writing about,” Young said. “I’m personally sad to see that go.”

Hansen expressed his own sadness in his article for Boulder Free Press, writing “the pain is real, the sense of loss is real.” Likewise, the loss to the Boulder classical music community—musicians, musical organizations and audiences—is real, for at least two reasons.

One is that Hansen had a unique and well informed perspective that cannot be completely replaced. And the second reason is that any community thrives best when multiple voices are heard.

I remember when my friends in the professional theater world used to complain about the power wielded by a single critic in New York, Frank Rich of the Times. I always maintained that the only problem with the highly opinionated and outspoken Rich was that there were not more of him. Likewise, the loss of critical voices and informed journalists in city after city across the country weakens the fabric of our artistic communities, and is always to be mourned.

“In today’s journalistic world I was an anachronism,” Hansen writes, noting the shrinkage of arts criticism in the country’s daily newspapers. “But,” he adds, “I genuinely believe that what I had to offer was both rare and treasured, which explains why I did what I did for as long as I did.”

Indeed.

Finally, my personal reaction is first of all my sadness not to see him at the concerts I attend, which has been a part of musical life since I arrived here, and also that I do not want to be the sole critical voice in Boulder’s incredibly vital classical music scene. Honestly, there is more than any one person can quite keep up with.

Besides, I love to read what others have to say, even when they have a very different perspective than mine—as Hansen often did. I learned from reading his reviews, and will happily welcome other writers to the scene, whenever they might appear.

Let us hope we do not have too long to wait.

NOTE: Edited to correct typos, 6.26.18

CU NOW presents selections from new opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer

If I Were You’ addresses questions of identity, life and death

By Peter Alexander June 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Jake Heggie, composer of the opera Dead Man Walking, and Gene Scheer, who wrote librettos for Heggie’s Moby Dick and It’s a Wonderful Life, are hard at work again.

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CU NOW Rehearsal. L to R: Erin Hodgson, assistant to the composer and librettist; Gene Scheer, librettist; Jake Heggie, composer (photo by Glenn Asakawa)

Their latest project, an opera that addresses existential questions about identity, life and death, has brought them to Boulder and CU Eklund Opera’s New Operatic Workshop (CU NOW). Selected excerpts from the new work, If I Were You, will be presented to the public for free, performed by CU student singers.  The Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CFI), a separate project of CU NOW will present four short operas by CU composition students: three 8-minute works and one 30-minute work.

CU NOW invites a composer and librettist every year to come to Boulder for a couple of weeks in June as they develop a new opera and work with student singers. The composers have the opportunity to hear portions of their own work and make changes as necessary before it’s complete. As part of his association with CU NOW, Heggie has also been working with the students whose works will be presented by the Composer Fellows’ Initiative.

If I Were You, as Heggie describes it, is “a modern-day Faust story” with an overlay of Gothic romance. “It’s about a disillusioned young man who wishes he could be anyone else,” he says. Heggie and Scheer will decide which portions of the opera to perform during the workshop. They will introduce the musical excerpts to the audience and explain the plot as they go along.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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CU New Opera Workshop festival (CU NOW)
Leigh Holman, director
Jeremy Reger, director of music

 

If I Were You (selected excerpts)
Libretto by Gene Scheer
Music by Jake Heggie
Adam Turner, guest conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 17
Music Theater, CU Imig Music Building

Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CU NOW—CFI)
Daniel Kellogg, managing director
Four short operas by student composers
Steven Aguillo, guest music director
Bud Coleman, stage director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16
ATLAS Blackbox, Roser ATLAS Center

Performances free and open to the public

 

 

Boulder Bach Festival announces 38th concert season

B-minor Mass will be performed on Veterans’ Day/Remembrance Day Nov. 11

By Peter Alexander May 24 at 10:20 p.m.

The 38thconcert season of the Boulder Bach Festival, 2018–19, will include a performance of the B-minor mass, one of the great masterworks of European music, as well as a chamber concert, a guest appearance by conductor Nick Carthy from CU, a dance performance with electric instruments, and the unveiling of a new/old piano, manufactured in Paris in 1845.

ZC conducts chorus May 2017

Boulder Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Zachary Carrettin, conductor

Also noteworthy will be the role of guest artists during the season, both as performers and as expert teachers of early musical performance styles, and the introduction of a Baroque orchestra and a Romantic orchestra as historically-informed performance ensembles.

The season was announced tonight (May 24) at the BBF’s final concert of the 2017–18 season. In a news release, the BBF’s director, Zachary Carrettin, commented: “The Boulder Bach Festival’s 38th season celebrates the influence of J.S. Bach across time and across cultures, and explores the musical dialogue with modern instruments, period instruments, electric instruments, and various vocal and choral forces. The guest artists contribute in performance, masterclasses, lectures, and more, adding to our rich cultural landscape.”

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Robert Hill

The season opens Sept. 13 with a chamber concert featuring harpsichordist Robert Hill, who teaches historical keyboards and performance practice at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, with Carrettin performing on Baroque violin and viola and the cello da spalla. The all-Bach program will include sonatas, a concerto, a suite, and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor BWV 903. (See details of all concerts below.

The BBF returns to CU Macky Auditorium for a performance of the B-minor Mass on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations and Veterans’ Day in the U.S. The performance by the Bach Festival Orchestra, Chorus and soloists will be under Carrettin’s direction. Audience members will be given poppies, since World War I a symbol of soldiers lost in battle, and given the opportunity to place them on the front of the stage.

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Nicholas Carthy

Nicholas Carthy, music director of the CU Eklund Opera Program, will be guest conductor for performances Feb 14 and 16 by the BBF Fellowship Artists Baroque Orchestra. Titled “From London with Love,” the concert will feature Baroque music from England.

The BBF moves to the Dairy Arts Center April 5, 6 and 7 when the Venice on Fire electric Baroque instrument trio collaborates with 3rdLaw Dance/Theater to recreate “Obstinate Pearly,” first performed in 2014. Composers will include Barbara Strozzi, J.S. Bach and their contemporaries.

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1845 Érard piano

For the season finale May 23, the BBF will present a Romantic-era period instrument chamber orchestra accompanying pianist Mina Gajićin Chopin’s Piano Concerto #2 in F Minor. Past performances have introduced Gajić’s 1895Érard piano, and in this concert she will play her earlier Érard grand from 1845, an instrument built during Chopin’s lifetime. The orchestra will also perform Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione,” and the Fellowship Artists Vocal Ensemble will perform a motet by Brahms.

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Boulder Bach Festival
38thSeason, 2018–19

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Zachary Carrettin with cello da spalla

Gala opening concert
Robert Hill, harpsichord, and Zachary Carrettin, Baroque violin, viola and cello da spalla
Solo and duo works by J.S. Bach

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sep. 13
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Dance of Life: J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass
Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Abigail Nims, alto; Peter Scott Drackley, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass

2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11
Macky Auditorium

From London With Love
Songs of love and passionate concertos
Boulder Bach Festival Fellowship Artists Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas Carthy, guest conductor
With Guy Fishman, cello; Szilvia Schranz, soprano; and Claire McCahan, mezzo-soprano

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, Broomfield Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

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3rd Law Dance/Theater

Obstinate Pearl
Venice On Fire electric instrument trio with 3rd Law Dance/Theater
Zachary Carrettin, violin; Gal Faganel, cello; and Keith Barnhart, guitar
Katie Elliot, choreographer
Music by Barbara Strozzi, Robert de Visée, J.S. Bach and others

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, 2019
2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, 2019
7 p.m. Sunday, April 7, 2019
Dairy Arts Center

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Mina Gajic

The Romantic Period Orchestra and Piano
Boulder Bach Festival Fellowship Artists Chamber Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble
Zachary Carrettin violin/conductor, with Mina Gajic, piano
Colorado debut of 1845 Érard grand piano

Brahms: Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
Haydn: Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione”
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Season subscription tickets available May 25

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Boulder Bach Festival ends its season May 24 with a major piece by Bach

Venice, “purveyor of exotic goods,” provides a point of reference

By Peter Alexander May 22 at 7:40 p.m.

ZC conducts chorus May 2017

Bouder Bach Festival orchestra and singers, Zachary Carrettin, conductor

The Boulder Bach Festival closes its season Thursday (7:30 p.m. Boulder Adventist Church) with a program of stunning variety, but festival director Zachary Carrettin sums it up in one sentence:

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Zachary Carrettin

“We have this journey from lament to meditation to levity to blazing virtuosity, and finally to international dances at the hand of Johann Sebastian Bach.”

That’s as good a capsule description as one could make of a program that includes two settings of the Crucifixus from the Latin Mass by Antonio Lotti, a rousing street song by Tarquinio Merula, a tragic chorus by Giacomo Carissimi, a concerto by Vivaldi, and ending with an orchestral suite by J.S. Bach.

The program also sums up pretty nicely where the BBF stands today, because it introduces music by some of Bach’s predecessors that are not well known—one of the festival’s major goals. It features a number of guest artists from around the world, which is a priority. And those guests are serving as mentors to local musicians who are eager to learn more about early music performance, which fulfills an educational mission.

The concert is titled “La Venexiana,” meaning roughly ‘the one from Venice.’ (Note that in the Venetian dialect, the “x” is pronounced “tz”: “La Venetziana.”) Clearly, not all the composers are Venetian: Vivaldi and Lotti are, but the German Bach is not; Carissimi was from Rome and Merula from Cremona.

Antonio Lotti

Antonio Lotti

“For me, the theme doesn’t define the program,” Carrettin says.“One can choose a theme and adhere to it, or one can look at it as a point of reference. The final program should be an experience that I want us to present to the audience.”

The first half of he program mixes vocal and instrumental pieces, starting with two Crucifixus settings by Lotti, one for eight voices and one for six. Carrettin describes Lotti as one of Bach’s “contemporaries whose music is equally thrilling and ravishing. His use of suspension and resolution is exquisite. The successive chains of dissonances paint the idea of a crucifixion, and the resolutions are so poignant that one senses the promise of salvation.”

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Josefien Stoppelenburg

Balancing the serious works will be Su la certra amorosa by Tarquinio Merula, which Carrettin describes as “a fun piece, rhythmic and virtuosic.” Written for soprano and continuo, it will be performed by soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, a guest artist who has become a favorite of BBF audiences, accompanied by cello and Baroque guitar.

Between the vocal works will be two instrumental pieces designed as moments of reflection, a Sonata for Three Violins by Giovanni Gabrieli and a Ricercar for solo cello by Domenico Gabrielli (not related to Giovanni). The program’s first half concludes with the final recitative and chorus from the oratorio Jephte by Carissimi, a lament for Jephte’s daughter who must be sacrificed to the gods to fulfill a tragic vow.

Two instrumental pieces will be heard after intermission, Vivaldi’s Concerto for two violins in D minor and J.S. Bach’s Orchestra Suite in B minor for solo flute and strings. Although they are both in minor keys, they are by no means gloomy in mood. “This Vivaldi Concerto really is aggressive and brilliant and in some ways over the top,” Carrettin says.

Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi

The quintessential Venetian composer of the Baroque era, Vivaldi was famous enough to attract visitors to the city for his concerts. This fits Venice’s character, Carrettin says. “Even in the 17th and 18th centuries the number of residents paled in comparison to the sea trade and those visiting the city as an exotic place and purveyor of exotic goods”—including its music.

That international flavor ties Venice to the final piece by Bach, even though Bach never visited Venice. “In a way Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 has that international quality,” Carrettin says. “But the suite is as much programmed for its international flavor as it is to present Ysmael Reyes on the Baroque flute.

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Ismael Reyes

“Ismael has been a valued artist with the Boulder Bach Festival, and this is a great way to have him come back and share one of the great pieces for his instrument. He’s a wonderful person and a brilliant musician.”

Finally, Stoppelenburg and the other guest artists—violinist Adam LaMotte, concertmaster of Portland Baroque, and cellist Guy Fishman, principal cellist of Boston’s Handel-Haydn Society—will be doing more than performing. They will also be working with local musicians to share their expertise with Baroque musical styles.

In other words, the BBF has become much more than an organization that presents concerts; it is actively building a community of musicians. As such, Carrettin sees the BBF resting on three pillars.

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BBF artist/mentor Guy Fishman

“One pillar is the guest artist/mentors,” he says. “Another pillar is the experienced early-music interpreters who already live in Colorado. And the third pillar is recent graduates here, professional musicians who want to have access to musicians in Amsterdam, Vienna, New York.

“We bring them all together. So we’re building a core of players, and merging this idea of professional development into our season finale. And we’ll continue this tradition next year.”

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La Venexiana
Boulder Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Singers
Zachary Carrettin, director and violin
With guest artists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Adam LaMotte, Baroque violin; Guy Fishman, Baroque cello.

Music by Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Gabrieli, Domenico Gabrielli, Tarquinio Merula, Giacomo Carissimi, Vivaldi and J.S. Bach

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church
345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Tickets