Ars Nova Singers, guitarist Spera will present ‘postcards to the future’

Concerts June 3–5 feature new work by Theofanidis and Pizzetti’s 1922 Requiem

By Peter Alexander May 23 at 9:12 p.m.

Nicolò Spera

Guitarist and CU music professor Nicolò Spera was shocked by things going on the U.S. after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He wanted to respond in the best way he knew—with music.

The musical work that came from that desire, Door Out of the Fire by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Christopher Theofanidis, will be the centerpiece of a concert by Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, under the direction of Thomas Edward Morgan. The Ars Nova performance will be the Colorado premiere, following a performance by Spera in Michigan in October, 2021.

Also on the program is the Requiem of Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti. Performances will be June 3, 4 and 5, in Denver, Boulder and Longmont, respectively (see details below). In addition to the live performances, the concert will also be available by livestream. Information and tickets for the concerts, which close out Ars Nova’s 2021–22 season, are available here.

Christopher Theofanidis

After Ginsburg’s death, “I wanted a composer to write some ‘postcards to the future,’ in music,” Spera wrote in a recent email. He turned to Theofanidis, who had recently written an orchestral work, On the Bridge of the Eternal, for the 2020 centennial of the CU Boulder College of Music.

Writing for and with Spera, Theofanidis composed four choral “messages in a bottle” based on poems by Melissa Studdard. Each of the four choral settings is preceded by a prelude for guitar.

The texts reflect some of the major issues of our time, including the threat posed by climate change. They are titled “Burning Cathedral,” “The Book of Rahul,” “Ruth’s Aria”—to be sung by CU music faculty member Abigail Nims, mezzo soprano—and “Migration Patterns.” The work is dedicated to “le nostre speranze”—our hopes—Spera’s children, Julia and Giacomo.

Pizzetti’s Requiem will be presented in observance of the 100th anniversary of its composition. The Requiem, Pizzetti’s only liturgical music, is written for a-capella choir. The musical setting includes Gregorian chant as well as movements that recall Renaissance madrigals. The texture varies from single-line chant to eight voices to multiple choirs in the manner of 17th-century Venetian polychoral music.

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Thomas Edward Morgan and Ars Nova Singers

Made Real
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, director
With Nicolò Spera, guitar, and Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano

  • Christopher Theofanidis: Door Out of the Fire
  • Ildebrando Pizzetti: Requiem

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 3
St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

7 p.m. Sunday, June 5
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Information and tickets, including livestream

Familiar Fauré Requiem anchors Ars Nova Singers program April 1–2

“Made Fragile” welcomes a fragile spring season with consoling music

By Peter Alexander March 29 at 10:20 p.m.

It’s a common theme: Boulder conductors look to program music that recognizes the stress and trauma their audiences have been through in the past two years.

Reena Esmail

For Thomas Morgan and the Ars Nova Singers, that means turning to music that is more comfortably familiar than much of the Renaissance and contemporary music that they usually perform: the gentle, consoling Requiem by French composer Gabriel Fauré. On the same program will be Fauré’s popular Pavane, in a version for orchestra and chorus; Brahms’s choral song “Abendständchen” (Evening serenade); and four works by Indian/American composer Reena Esmail.

The program, titled “Made Fragile,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Denver (April 1) and Saturday in Boulder (May 2; details below).

Featured performers with Ars Nova will be flutist Christina Jennings; violist Matt Dane, who will be concertmaster of the orchestra; Ars Nova assistant conductor Brian Dukeshier, who will lead the Brahms; and soprano Magdalena Kadula, a senior at Tara Performing Arts High School in Boulder who won a competition to sing a solo with Ars Nova.

The Fauré Requiem is probably the most familiar work Morgan and the Ars Nova Singers have performed. “We did it in our second season, 1987, and haven’t done it since,” Morgan says. “It is outside where our usual repertoire is. But one of the things we realized coming out of the pandemic is that there’s so much community grief that’s left unprocessed.

“We wanted to do something that would really appeal both to the audiences and to our singers. And Fauré’s really gentle that way.”

Ars Nova likes to include educational activities in their schedule, but during the pandemic they have been unable to go into schools. Instead, Morgan decided to reach out to students by offering the opportunity to sing “Pie Jesu,” the soprano solo movement of the Requiem. It is relatively short and not difficult, which made it ideal for young singers.

Magdalena Kadula

“We had a competition,” Morgan explains. “We sent it out to public music teachers and private voice teachers and offered a little scholarship (and) we had 13 entrants. It’s just a two-page piece and we had the first round where the kids recorded it on their phones. We evaluated those 13 entries and selected five to do in-person auditions.

“From that we selected Magdalena Kadula, who will be our soprano. She’s a senior at the Tara High School of the Arts here in Boulder. It was a good way for us to outreach to young people at a time that’s very challenging.”

The other major element of the program is a selection of four pieces by Reena Esmail. An Indian-American composer, she has studied at Juilliard and Yale in this country, and with Hindustani music teachers in India. She often incorporates elements of Hindustani music into her compositions, along with Western classical music.

Matt Dane

Esmail’s music was added to the program through a suggestion by violist Matt Dane. The orchestra for Fauré’s Requiem only calls for violas and cellos, with no violins, so Dane serves as concertmaster. He suggested Esmail’s “When the Violin” for chorus and viola as a good companion piece to the Requiem.

That led to adding another piece by Esmail for viola and flute, which Dane will play with his wife, flutist Christina Jennings from the CU faculty. That in turn led to adding two other pieces by Esmail, “She Will Transform You” for flute and chorus, and “Tarekita” for a capella chorus, which will open the concert.

Esmail wrote “TaReKiTa” for a choir of homeless people in Los Angeles that she was working with. “It’s taken off in the choral world,” Morgan says. “A number of people have recorded it. It’s very accessible, kind of like Indian scat singing. It’s a short piece that sets the stage well for the rest of her music, (which is) infused with who she is as an Indian-American.”

Christina Jennings

With Jennings included on the program, Morgan then decided to add Fauré’s Pavane, which is popular in a version for small orchestra and featuring a prominent flute solo. Originally written for piano, it was adapted by Fauré for orchestra and chorus, including a text that Morgan says “is not high art in terms of poetry,” about men’s and women’s romantic helplessness. “The beautiful melody carries the whole thing,” he says.

Morgan chose the Brahms “Abendständchen” to complete the program, both for its musical qualities and the opening line, “‘Hark the flute laments again, and the cool springs murmur,” which fits the occasion perfectly. The performance is a farewell for Dukeshier, who has been Ars Nova’s assistant conductor for several years, and recently completed a doctorate at the University of Northern Colorado.

Morgan says that the COVID protocols for the two performances are always subject to change. “We’re watching week to week as to how we implement our COVID strategies,” he says. “At the moment we’re planning to go with the singers masks-optional, but we’re also watching what’s happening. It makes for an interesting time right now.”

In other words, be sure to check the Ars Nova Health and Safety page on the Web before attending the concert. Or as Morgan puts it, “As the name of the program says, everything’s very fragile.”

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“Made Fragile“
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Morgan, director
With Christina Jennings, flute, and Matt Dane, viola
Magdalena Kadula, soprano
Brian Dukeshier, asst. conductor

  • Reena Esmail: TaReKiTa for chorus
    —“When the Violin” for chorus and solo viola
    —“She Will Transform You” for chorus and solo flute
    —“Nadiya” for flute and viola
  • Brahms: “Abendständchen” (Evening serenade)
  • Gabriel Fauré: Pavane (arr. Thomas Morgan)
    —Requiem

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1
Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., Denver

7:30 pm. Saturday, April 2, 
First United Methodist, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
Also available by livestream

TICKETS

CORRECTION, March 30: The spelling of TaKeKiTa, with alternating upper case letters was corrected, as well as the spelling of Christina Jennings’s first name.

Ars Nova Singers offers free online performance Friday

By Peter Alexander Feb. 17 at 9:40 p.m.

“We wanted to bring the music from one of our finer performances,” Tom Morgan says.

The conductor of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers wanted to offer a free online gift to the disaster-wearied local community at the start of 2022, before the choir starts having in-person rehearsals and performances later in the spring. But he faced one problem: the group has made a lot of sound recordings of their concerts, but not any videos. 

Tom Morgan wanted to give a gift to the Boulder community

What he wanted to share was a pre-COVID performance from October 2018, of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue, a jazz-inflected, modern setting of movements from the Latin Mass. Morgan decided that rather than showing a static image or series of still images, which he says are “not particularly interesting to look at,” he would create his own video with abstract and natural imagery to accompany the music.

Under the title “Made Cool,” the resulting video will be offered free to the public at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, through the Ars Nova Web page.

Soprano Kathryn Radakovich performs the virtuosic solos in the Mass in Blues

With imagery that responds to the music rather than any specifics of the liturgical texts, the video transcends specific religious or doctrinal interpretations. Morgan feels that style of video fits well with the score, which brings together a jazz trio of piano, bass and drums with a virtuosic soprano solo and the choir.

“Todd in his conception and setting is making a pretty clear attempt to universalize the mass,” Morgan says. “He’s trying to make it more both modern and universal by taking it into this musical language.

“I thought we should go even a step further with the visuals. It adds another layer of meaning to the music. To establish the intent of universalizing the mass and bringing it to a wider audience, I thought a video overlay that also universalizes the mass opened it up to more interpretation, (by) not being overly literal with the mass.”

The video is very much a COVID-era product. To build his skills in video editing, Morgan took online video-editing classes during the early months of pandemic. He first used his newly-developed abilities in his former job as music director at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder. With that experience, he then transferred those skills to his work with Ars Nova.

Morgan plans to make more use of his video editing experience in future work with Ars Nova. Now that he has retired from his church job, he has “more opportunities to think about how we do the art that we do, in ways that is not the usual concert,” he says. Since the pandemic, “we’re having to think in new ways and broaden what we do. It’s a good challenge, but a necessary one right now.”

In creating the “Made Cool” video, Morgan selected a different visual theme for each of the six movements of Todd’s Mass. These range from photos he himself took in a church in England to visuals of nature and natural phenomena. Other than the photos Morgan took in the Sanctus movement, they mostly came from online sources.

“There’s online libraries of all kind of video possibilities, used for advertising,” Morgan explains. “There’s also wonderful public libraries like from NASA, and those have been valuable and interesting to work with, too.”

In some cases Morgan was able to connect with specific photographers whose online material he responded to, and get more material from them. He could use the visuals in that way to create continuity within a movement, for example—“so that it’s not completely a mishmash,” he says.

“I thought about how a narrative might come through each particular movement, and also something that would connect across the piece. I tried to find little arcs within the movements and then find an overall one that would allow the music to expand into that space. That also ties into what an actual Mass is, in terms of a sequence that has a relationship to redemptive history.”

Many of the videos were available for a small fee, although Morgan and Ars Nova drew the line at paying one videographer in England £45 per second for his video. “That’s way out of our price range,” Morgan says. “We said, ‘Let’s find something else!’” Other material however they paid for the rights to use, the same as they did for the music and the performances of the musicians  involved.

With the video, Morgan is taking part in the development of new forms of art—a kind of classical choral-music video. “It’s a different take on the traditional choral concert,” he says. 

“I hope it will get out to a wider audience than our usual concert supporters.”

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“Made Cool”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
With Kathryn Radakovich, soprano; Scott Martin, piano; Mark Diamond, bass; and Russ Meissner, drums
Video editing by Tom Morgan

Will Todd: Mass in Blue

  • Kyrie
  • Gloria
  • Credo
  • Sanctus
  • Benedictus
  • Agnus Dei

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18

Free virtual performance HERE

Ars Nova Singers present music “Made Perfect” Oct. 15–16

Concert features music of Renaissance composer Palestrina

By Peter Alexander Oct. 14 at 5:35 p.m.

The music of Renaissance composer Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina was regarded as having been “made perfect” by the generations that followed him.

Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina

Boulder’s Are Nova Singers will present a concert devoted largely to Palestrina’s perfectly made music, along with a piece by the contemporary English composer John Tavener, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15 at St. Pauls’ Community of Faith in Denver, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, in First United Methodist Church in Boulder. Tickets are available for both in-person attendance, and also for an online audience for the Oct. 15 performance, on the Ars Nova Web page.

Proof of vaccination must be shown for admission, and masks must be worn indoors throughout the concert.

The leading composer of sacred music in the 16th century, Palestrina spent his entire life in or near Rome, having been born just outside the city. He served for many years as director of the Capella Giulia, the papal choir at St. Peter’s Basilica. His reputation then and later was so great that he was long and falsely credited with having “saved” polyphonic (multi-voice) sacred choral music during the Council of Trent, which was tasked with purging and clarifying church doctrine as part of the 16th-century Counter-Reformation.

It was Palestrina’s mastery of counterpoint that was so widely admired by musicians and theorists. The teaching of counterpoint for several generations after was based on his works, which were characterized by the smooth movement of voices, with very few leaps between notes, and careful control of dissonance. In fact, his style is still taught today as “Renaissance polyphony.” It has been the verdict of history that he was the greatest composer of sacred music of his generation.

Palestrina wrote at least 104 polyphonic settings of the mass, more than 300 motets, 35 magnificats, and 140 madrigals, among other works. From this vast output, Are Nova will perform a Missa Brevis (short mass), a movement from another setting of the mass, and three motets. 

John Tavener

Twentieth/twenty-first century composer John Tavener (1944-2013) was also known for his extensive output of sacred choral music. His “Song for Athene” became particularly well known when it was performed in 1997 at the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales. The “Exhortation” is written for double chorus. It was commissioned for the 2003 Festival of Remembrance in London’s Royal Albert Hall and is based on the poem “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, which begins “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.”

Like much of Tavener’s music, “Exhortation” conveys both serenity and a mystical quality that seems related to his extensive spiritual exploration by means of Russian and Greek orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Tavener described himself as “essentially Orthodox,” which became an important aspect of his musical identity.

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Ars Nova Singers
Thomas Morgan, director
2021–22 Season

“Made Perfect”

  • Palestrina: Missa Brevis
  • Surge amica mea
  • Diffusa est gratis
  • Accepit Jesus calicem
  • Agnus Dei (Missa Benedicta es)
  • John Tavener: Exhortation

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15
St. Paul’s Community of Faith
1600 Grant St, Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16
First United Methodist Church,
1421 Spruce St, Boulder

In-person and livestream TICKETS

“Made Merry”

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10
St. Paul’s Community of Faith, Denver

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12
United Church of Christ, Longmont

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder

7:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 17
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

“Made Fragile”

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022
St. Paul’s Community of Faith, Denver

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

“Made Light”
With Sandra Wong, nyckelharpa and violin; Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba

Regional tour: March 24, Pueblo, Colo.
March 25, Albuquerque, N.M.
March 26, Santa Fe, N.M.

April 1: Central Presbyterian Church, Denver
April 2: First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Not as Simple as it Seems

Ars Nova Singers, Stratus Chamber Orchestra present ‘Music that Connects’

By Peter Alexander Oct. 4 at 1:50 p.m.

Have you ever been stranded in an airport between flights?

Stratus

Stratus Chamber Orchestra, David Rutherford, conductor

If so, Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers and Denver’s Stratus Ensemble have a musical program for your playlist. “Intermezzo! Music that Connects” will be performed Friday and Saturday (Oct. 4 and 5) in Denver, and Sunday afternoon (Oct. 6) in Boulder.

“Intermezzo” features works written to connect scenes in operas, or to make other types of connections. The Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, the “Humming Chorus” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Mozart’s Regina Caeli (Queen of heaven), could be part of a playlist for stranded travelers.

But they are great works of music as well, as are the other works on the program. Conducting will be shared by David Rutherford, conductor of Stratus, who will lead pieces with orchestra; Tom Morgan, musical director of Ars Nova; and Ars Nova’s assistant director, Brian Dukeshier, who will lead one piece.

The Mascagni and Puccini works are theatrical intermezzos, linking acts of operas. Regina Caeli is a hymn that is part of Vespers, the Roman Catholic evening service that connects day to night. The other major work on the program is Randall Thompson’s Frostiana, a setting of poems by Robert Frost; here the meaningful connection is between the music and Frost’s poetry.

Other works on the program include four a capella works to be sung by Ars Nova. Stratus will open the concert with movements from the Serenade for Strings by Norwegian composer Dag Wirén, music you may recognize even if you don’t know the title.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Intermezzo! Music that Connects
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, director, with
Stratus Chamber Orchestra, David Rutherford, conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct 4, First Plymouth Congregational Church, 3502 S. Colorado Blvd, Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oc.t 5,Augustana Lutheran Church, 5000 E. Alameda Ave., Denver
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce, St, Boulder

Tickets here or call 303-388-4962

Ars Nova Singers’ Shared Visions 2 brings together visual art, poetry, music

“A Celebration of Colorado Artistry,” April 26 and 27

By Peter Alexander April 24, 2019 at 2:15 p.m.

Works of art can inspire other works of art. A poem may inspire a composer to write songs or choral music with the poem as the text. Operas and films are often based on literary works.

pondreflect

Ars Nova Singers

Paintings can also inspire music—think for example of Mussorgsky’s great piano piece, best known in various orchestral versions, Pictures at an Exhibition. Debussy’s La Mer was inspired in part by Hokusai’s painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” and there are other examples.

Thomas Edward Morgan, director of Ars Nova Singers, has decided to help the inspirational process along while adding another layer with a project titled “A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2,” which culminates this weekend in two concerts by Ars Nova (Friday in Cherry Hills Village, Saturday in Boulder; details below).

This is the second iteration of Shared Visions, which Morgan and Ars Nova first presented in 2016. The process of getting from one artwork to another was the same both times: Colorado visual artists were invited to submit artworks for consideration; Colorado poets were then asked to write a new poem inspired by one or more of the artworks; and Colorado composers were invited to choose one of the resulting poems to set for chorus to be premiered by Ars Nova.

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“Synapse Tapestry” by John Bonath, one of the artworks included in Shared Visions 2, 2019

For the current project, Ars Nova assembled an online gallery of 24 artworks by eight visual artists in the summer of 2018. Eight poets viewed the gallery and used the images as a basis for poetry. The resulting 47 poems were gathered into an anthology of poems and images of the artworks, and Ars Nova then commissioned four composers—Paul Fowler, Leanna Kirchoff, Jeff Nytch, and Morgan—to select poems from the anthology to be set as new works for chorus.

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“Healing Grace—Lungs” by Grace Gee, one of the artworks in Shared Visions 2

The poets whose work they selected to set are Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (two works), Erin Robertson and Christine Weeber. The visual artists who inspired the poems are John Bonath. Elizabeth Woody, Grace Gee and Kimmerjae Macarus.

“It was so successful when we did it three years ago that we decided that we would do it again in about three years,” Morgan says. “It takes a couple of years to pull it together.”

The rules for the composer were to write a piece for mixed chorus, either a capella (unaccompanied), or with a single solo instrument other than piano. As it turned out, all the pieces this year are for voices alone.

Morgan says the four pieces are quite different. “They come from different aesthetic places,” he says. “All of our composers have done really interesting stuff with these texts.

“The last time we did this project it was just the energy of these people meeting. It really is unique to see the chain of inspiration, and see (the artists) connect on a human level because the painters and visual artists are having their works sung to them.”

Sometimes, Morgan says, the connections made through the project reach beyond the initial collaborations and performance. “It has opened up some connections for some of (the artists) already,” he says. “I know that Paul Fowler and Rosemary Trommer have done a couple of other projects together since the last one.

“We had one poet, Karen Robertson, who was so taken with the project (this year) that she wrote a poem for each visual art piece in the gallery, and another poet, Rosemary Trommer, wrote 14 poems.

“Getting that level of engagement out of our literary artists was really quite gratifying.”

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arsnova_018b.jpg

Ars Nova Singers

“A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions”
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, director

Paul Fowler: Synapse (poem by Rosemerrry Wahtola Trommer; visual art by John Bonath)
Leanna Kirchoff: Holy Water (poem by Erin Robertson; visual art by Elizabeth Woody)
Jefffrey Nytch: Thank You Letter to My Lungs (poem by Rosemerrry Wahtola Trommer; visual art by Grace Gee)
Thomas Edward Morgan: Heart Vessels (poem by Christine Weeber; granite sculpture by Kimmerjae Macarus)

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder

Tickets: April 26; April 27

Ars Nova Singers offer “The Earthquake Mass,” but no actual earthquake

Twelve-voice Mass setting by Antoine Brumel

By Peter Alexander Feb. 21 at 4:50 p.m.

Morgan.mtntop

Thomas Edward Morgan

Conductor Thomas Edward Morgan and Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers must really like Renaissance music that has many more than the usual four or five separate voice parts.

About this time last year, they performed a 36-voice canon by Johannes Ockeghem. The year before that, it was a 19-voice motet by Robert Carver. And in 2016, it was two separate pieces for 40 voices, the largest number ever called for in the Renaissance, by Thomas Tallis and Alessandro Striggio.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 4.52.04 PM

The original manuscript of Brumel’s “Earthquake Mass” (1570)

This year’s offering is not quite on that scale, but it is unusual: a Mass by Antoine Brumel for 12 voices—the only Renaissance choral setting of the Mass for such large forces (performances Saturday in Boulder and Sunday in Denver). It is known as “The Earthquake Mass,” not because of the earth-shaking nature of the music, but because it is based on a tiny bit of sacred chant, originally sung to the words “Et ecce terra motus” (“And behold, the earth moved”).

It was customary in the Renaissance to build larger pieces on a short phrase of chant. This is not unlike jazz that is based on the bass line from a standard song, except that in the Renaissance the quoted phrase would be placed in an inner voice and might not be heard or recognized by the listener.

In this way, Brumel’s Mass was composed “just from that one little snippet of chant, which is the basis of the whole thing,” Morgan says. On the other hand, he adds, “there’s a section where he probably was thinking about the ground moving or something dramatic, because there’s a couple of vigorous and dramatic shaking moments in the piece.”

Such a large number of different voices creates a rich sound that Morgan and the choir relish. “For the ensemble it’s fun because there’s not many groups that can have 12 independent lines and really be confident that they’re going to all be there,” Morgan says.

“So it’s building on the capabilities of the group, but I just find that there’s nothing quite sonically like it again until the 20th century. I find (multi-part pieces) to be very interesting, because you’re listening for small changes in texture, and being able to hear it go from large sonic structures to much more intimate things, and to hear places where the voices come together and present something at the same time.”

At the same time there is a drawback to presenting music with so many parts intricately woven together. “It’s very dense, to the point where you just hear a lot of activity in the voices, and you hear little snippets of melody that go around the choir. Some (fragments of melody) are very clearly presented one after the other and some are layered in such a way that you can’t even perceive them any more because they’re right on top of each other.”

Morgan has structured the program so that the more dense music is not heard in a single, unbroken stretch. The five movements of the Mass will be performed in three sections at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the program, with other, more intimate pieces presented in between.

ann-marie-morgan

Ann Marie Morgan

Ann Marie Morgan, a member of Ars Nova and an internationally known instrumental performer, will play a variety of music on the viola da gamba, and at one point the singers will present a four-voice motet by Josquin Des Prez, conducted by Brian Dukeshier, Ars Nova’s new assistant conductor.

“I decided to give the singers a little break, and when you have a world-class viola da gamba player in your midst, it’s nice to use her occasionally,” Morgan says. “She’s put together a couple of little sets of (pieces). The intention is to create a context that draws the ear of the listener out of these large, dense textures and into a very intimate space.”

The viola da gamba pieces would not have been heard in services of the Mass in Brumel’s time, but it is not inauthentic to interrupt the larger musical portions of the program. In the church of the time, the various movements of the Mass would be heard at different times during the service, with chant and other events between, so that the listeners would not sit straight through 30 minutes of dense choral music.

Renaissance music is often performed that way in concerts, but listening that way “can be a bit of a challenge,” Morgan says, “because it’s just so much of the same kind of texture. Even within the mass we’re varying the texture in that we have sections that are being done by one voice on a part. So we have two little 12-tet groups that are presenting certain parts.”

Josquin’s motet introduces another kind of variety into the program. “It’s a four-part piece in the midst of all of this,” Morgan says. “It’s for choral variety, but it’s also a little bit for tessitura (voice range) variety, because it’s a considerably higher-pitched piece than the Mass. So we hear the sopranos go up in their register a little bit.”

Morgan has no hesitation recommending the Brumel Mass to new listeners of Renaissance music. “It’s so sonically lush that I think people will enjoy it,” he says. “You don’t perceive the underlying chant, but you hear the changes of harmony, and when it moves from one large tonal area into another, it has this kind of surge like a wave that arrives and then it recedes.

“It’s very gracious to listen to. I find it meditative in a way, because it does transport you into a place where you’re not trying to figure it out.”

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arsnova_018

Music of the Renaissance: “The Earthquake Mass”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, artistic director
With Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba

Antoine Brumel: Missa Et ecce terra motus (“The Earthquake Mass”)
Josquin Des Prez: Ave Maria…virgo serena
Music and arrangements for viola da gamba by various composers

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, St. John’ Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder
Tickets

4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, St. Paul Community of Faith, 1600 Grant St., Denver
Tickets 

Three Classical Music groups announce seasons for 2018–19

Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova and Boulder Opera set their schedules

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 1:45 p.m.

Three different classical musical organizations in Boulder—Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova Singers and Boulder Opera—have recently made public their planned season for the coming year. The full season for each group is listed below.

First out of the blocks will be the Boulder Opera Company, with a free concert in the Boulder Bandshell at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. The performance with piano, co-sponsored by the City of Boulder, will feature highlights from Puccini’s La Bohème and other popular operas.

Boulder Opera

Boulder Opera Company

Over the three days span Dec. 7–9, Boulder Opera will present the Colorado premiere of Little Red Riding Hood by Russian composer Cèsar Cui. All six matinee performances of this 35-minute work will be accompanied by piano and string quartet, and will offer the opportunity for children to sing ensemble parts. Part of Boulder Opera’s educational program, Little Red Rising Hood will also be taken to after-school programs and the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette.

The season will conclude May 3 through 12 with the paring of two one-act operas, the comedy Signor Deluso by Thomas Pastieri, sung in English; and the tragic Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni, sing in Italian with English titles.

In addition to these performances, Boulder Opera will present a public masterclass in Italian opera Tuesday, Aug. 14, and a fund-raising Gala Concert, featuring highlights from the season Friday, Oct. 12.

Executive/artistic director of Boulder Opera is Dianela Acosta. More information on Boulder Opera can be found here.

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Ars Nova Singers

Ars Nova Singers title their 2018–19 season “New Horizons.” Over four concerts the season covers a wide musical spectrum, from the opening concert of “Sacred Jazz” in October, featuring Will Todd’s Mass in Blue for soprano, choir and jazz ensemble, described as “religious doctrine meets funk”; to February’s program featuring the Renaissance “Earthquake Mass” of Antoine Brumel, which has been called “one of the true marvels of Renaissance choral writing.”

The annual Ars Nova Holiday concert in December will feature the Colorado premiere of The Consolation of Apollo by Kile Smith, a work celebrating the 1968 Christmas Eve broadcast by the crew of Apollo 8. The program will also include music for the holiday season.

Ars Nova will conclude the season with “A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2.” The Arts Nova Web page describes this multi-disciplinary collaborative project: “In the summer of 2018, an online gallery of works by Colorado visual artists will be assembled. Then, poets from across the state will view the gallery and use the images as a basis for writing new poetry. This new poetry will be assembled into an anthology, and Arts Nova will commission four Colorado composers to use this anthology to create new music for chorus.”

The artistic director and conductor of Ars Nova is Thomas Edward Morgan. More information on Ars Nova Singers can be found here.

Boulder Chamber Orchestrawill present five full orchestral concerts during the year under music director Bahman Saless, plus a season-opening chamber music concert by violinist Lindsay Deutsch and her piano trio Take 3, with pianist Susan Boettger and cellist Lila Yang.

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra

Over the season, the BCO will feature several soloists from the CU faculty: pianist David Korevaar playing Mozart in December; violinist Edward Dusinberre, also playing Mozart in February; and violist Geraldine Walther playing an arrangement for viola and strings of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet. Violinist Chloe Trevor will be a guest soloist in November, playing the Vivaldi Four Seasons concertos as well as the Piazzolla Four Season of Buenos Aires.

In addition to Mozart, the December program will include Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” and settings of holiday carols. Among the latter will be one of the more unusual pieces of the BCO season, Weihnachtsmusik by Arnold Schoenberg, which is actually a little known but perfectly lovely setting of the familiar German Christmas hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (known as “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming”).

The season will end in May with a concert featuring BCO members Cobus DuToit, flute, and Bridget Kibbey, harp, playing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Not on the schedule this year will be a New Year’s Eve concert, which BCO has made part of their season for several years. According to Saless, more and more orchestras are filling that slot in the calendar, so the BCO performance was no longer unique.

More information on the Boulder Chamber Orchestra can be found here.

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BOULDER OPERA
Dianela Acosta, artistic director
2018–19 season

Italian Opera Masterclass with Anthony Michaels-Moore
Congregation Nevei Kodesh, 1925 Glenwood Dr., Boulder
2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14

Opera in the Park
Boulder Bandshell
7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18
Free

Gala Concert
The Studio, 3550 Frontier Avenue, Boulder
7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

Family Series
Cèsar Cui: Little Red Rising Hood
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
1 & 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7
2 & 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
1 & 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Sung in English

Thomas Pastieri: Signor Deluso (Sung in English)
Pietro Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana (Sung in Italian with English titles)
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11
3 p.m. Sunday, May 12

More information here

ARS NOVA SINGERS
Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director
2018–19 Season
“New Horizons”

Sacred Jazz
7:30 p.m. Friday, October 5, SJE (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oc.t 6, BLC (Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village)
Will Todd: Mass in Blue

In the Moon of Wintertime
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 9, SPDen (St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, SJE
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, FCC (First Congregational Church, Longmont)
Kile Smith: The Consolation of Apollo(Colorado premiere)
Holiday Music

Music of the Renaissance: The Earthquake Mass
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, SPDen
Antoine Brumel: Missa Et ecce terra motus (Mass “And behold the earth moved”)

A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, BLC
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, SJE
New works by Colorado composers

More information here

BOULDER CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Bahman Saless, music director
2018–19 Season

Saturday October 6, SDA (Seventh Day Adventist Church)
Take 3: Susan Boettger, piano; Lindsay Deutsch, violin; and Lila Yang, cello

Friday Nov. 30, BA (Broomfield Auditorium); Sat. Dec. 1, SDA
Chloe Trevor, violin
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Piazzolla: Four Season of Buenos Aires
Janáček: Suite for strings

Friday Dec. 21, BA; Sat. Dec. 22, SDA
David Korevaar, piano
Mozart: Piano Concerto in B-flat Major, K595
Handel: Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 1
Corelli: Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, “Christmas Concerto”
Schoenberg: Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music)
Selected Holiday Carols

Friday Feb. 1 (BA); Sat, Feb. 2, 2019 (Boulder)
Edward Dusinberre, Violin
Mozart: Violin Concerto in G major, K216
Sibelius: Suite Mignonne
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Friday March 29, (BA); Sat, March 30 (SDA)
Geraldine Walther, viola
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet, arranged for viola and strings
Verdi: String Quartet, arranged for string orchestra

May 12 (SDA) (Sunday Matinee)
Cobus DuToit, flute; Bridget Kibbey harp
Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp, K299/291c
Debussy: Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun
Mozart: Symphony No. 33

More information here
Season tickets

Ars Nova present ‘Hidden Masterpieces’

Program includes the first performance in 400 years of a 16th-century motet

By Peter Alexander Feb. 22 at 11 p.m.

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Ars Nova Singers and director Thomas Edward Morgan

The young composer Orlando di Lasso wanted to impress Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria.

The year was approximately 1555, Lasso was in his 20s and Albrecht was one of the most important and powerful patrons of music in Europe. Lasso decided to write a set of choral pieces — motets — on the mystical Christian texts known as the Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Sybylline Prophecies) and write in the most advanced musical techniques of the time: harmonically complex and highly chromatic. It was a way of saying, “Look what I can do!”

Because the pieces are difficult, they have not been performed often. This makes them perfect for a concert called “Hidden Masterpieces of the Renaissance,” to be presented by conductor Thomas Edward Morgan and the Ars Nova singers, with the male quintet Solis as guests.

The concert will be sung a capella, with no instrumental accompaniment. In addition to music by Lasso, the “hidden masterpieces” will include pieces by John Taverner, Johannes Ockeghem, Orazio Vecchi, William Byrd and other 16th-century composers.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Hidden Masterpieces of the Renaissance
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan director, with Solis

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, Heart of Longmont United Methodist Church, 350 11th Ave
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, St. John Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb 25, St. Paul’s Community of Faith, 1600 Grant St., Denver

Tickets

Boulder’s holiday musical banquet serves ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful,’ ‘Fire and Ice’

By Peter Alexander

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Dianne Reeves will be at Macky Auditorium Dec. 16. Photo courtesy of CU Presents

The musical banquet that is the holiday season this year brings us “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” “Holiday Memories,” “Fire and Ice,” and Diane Reeves.

Read more about Centennial State Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, and holiday concerts by Ars Nova Singers (“Fire and Ice”), Diane Reeves at Macky Auditorium (“Christmastime is Here”), Boulder Chorale (“All Things Bright and Beautiful”), The Longmont Symphony (Candlelight Concert), and a special performance for dementia patients and caregivers by the Boulder Symphony (“Holiday Memories”) in Boulder Weekly.

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Fire and Ice: Christmas with Ars Nova
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, Heart of Longmont United Methodist Church, 350 11th Ave., Longmont
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, Sgt. Paul Community of Faith, Denver
7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday, Dec. 14 & 15, St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder
Tickets

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Centennial State Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
Centennial State Ballet
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15
2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17
Tickets

Diane Reeves: Christmastime is Here
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
Macky Auditorium
Tickets, or call 303-492-8008

All Things Bright and Beautiful
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, artistic director, with Chamber Singers, Children’s Chorale, and Sheryl Renee, guest artist vocalist
4 p.m. Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 16 & 17, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St, Boulder.
Tickets

Candles-at-Christmas_W500xH500Candlelight Concert
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, Westview Presbyterian Church, 1500 Hoover St, Longmont
Tickets

Holiday Memories
A Dementia-Friendly Concert
Boulder Symphony, Devin Patrick Hughes, artistic director
3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20
First Presbyterian Church, 1820 15th St., Boulder
Free; reserve tickets