Burrichter and Boulder Chorale explore rhythms around the world

Music from Native America, across Latin America, and India, Nov. 2 and 3

By Peter Alexander Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m.

The next concert by the Boulder Chorale starts with drums playing the rhythm of the heartbeat.

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Boulder Concert Chorale. Photo courtesy of Boulder Chorale.

“That’s a great way to start, since that’s the first rhythm we all hear, the heartbeat of the mother,” Vicki Burrichter, Boulder Chorale’s director, says. “I wanted to start there and expand out from there.”

The concert, titled “Rhythm Planet,” will be presented in Boulder Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 3 and 4). The idea behind the concert is that rhythm is found in all cultures, all over the planet. “I wanted a program that focused on rhythm from around the world,” Burrichter says.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Vicki Burrichter. Photo by Glenn Ross.

That first piece, with the heartbeat drumming, will be Mahk Jchi, which she describes as  “a Sioux nation piece. I thought we need to start with our own (North American) cultures. I love this song—I’ve done it for 20 years with other choruses.”

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the music on the program comes from the African musical diaspora in Latin America, and particularly from Brazil, where powerful rhythm is a prominent element of the musical styles that developed there. The second piece on the program exemplifies how the music of Brazil has travelled around the world: “To the Mothers of Brazil: Salve Regina” was written by Swedish composer Lars Jansson, for a visit to Brazil.

“It’s an homage,” Burrichter says. “It’s like a Western chant, except more rhythmic. It layers and layers, the chorus doing sacred texts that just build and build, and the percussion builds—it’s really stunning. I was really happy when I found that piece!”

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Brazilian composer Gilberto Gil

More thoroughly Brazilian will be “Batmacumba” by Gilberto Gil, arranged by Marcos Leite, both renowned Brazilian musicians. Burrichter discovered Leite’s choral arrangements through Brazilian friends who had sung in his vocal groups. “As far as I know, nobody else in the U.S. is doing this piece,” she says.

“It’s a wonderful Tropicalisima piece about combining pop culture—Batman—with Macumba, which is one of the religions of Brazil. In the late 1960s, early ‘70s, there was a lot of experimentation combining pop culture with indigenous African rhythms. It’s a really cool, exciting piece.”

“Batmacumba” is one of two pieces to be sung by the Boulder Chamber Chorale, a smaller group from within the Concert Chorale. The other is “Gede Nibo,” which comes from the Haitian Vodou religious tradition. Because both pieces come from syncretic religions that include African elements, “they make a nice couple,” Burrichter says.

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Karl Albrecht (Bobbi) Fischer

In addition to these shorter pieces, Burrichter wanted a larger piece that could serve as a centerpiece of the concert. She found an unusual work that includes various Latin rhythmic elements and again illustrates the reach of Latin music: the Missa Latina (Latin Mass) by Karl Albrecht (Bobbi) Fischer, who is mostly active in Germany as both composer and performer.

The word “Latina” in the title is a pun, referring to both the setting of the Catholic Mass in Latin, and the use of Latin American musical styles and rhythms—particularly the tango. The Missa is scored for chorus and soloists with violin, bandoneon (or accordion), jazz trio and additional percussion.

“I heard it on YouTube, and it was absolutely wonderful,” Burrichter says. “It uses a lot of tango rhythms from Argentina, but also a little bit of salsa, a little bit of Cuban son, and other rhythms from Latin American countries. I loved it!”

Also on the program will be “Barso Re,” written by A.R. Rahman, a composer and music director who works in India’s film industry. The song came from the award-winning soundtrack for the 2007 Hindi film Guru. “I’ve listened to that song since it came, out, “ Burrichter says.

The first half of the concert ends with a percussion improvisation by Carl Dixon, from the Boulder Samba School; Vincent Gonzalez, who performed on the Chorale’s recent concert of Brazilian music; and Michael D’Angelo, who traveled wit the Chorale to the Netherlands this past summer.

“I have asked the guys to put together a history of percussion in five minutes or less,” Burrichter says, laughing. “I tasked them to see what they could create together in terms of interlocking and building rhythms from different cultures. I think it will be fascinating to see what they come up with.”

The concert concludes with an arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” arranged for the Chorale by Adam Waite, who also arranged the opening piece. “It’s about saving the planet, and it has a beautiful, haunting melody. The message is exactly what I wanted to convey: this is our planet, and we should try to be in rhythm together.”

Burrichter adds one thought, that she does not select pieces to fit a musical trend. Her programs grow out of her own curiosity and fascination with different styles of music. “I listen to music from all over the world, and I’ve done that for 50 years,:” she says.

“This is going to be one of the most exiting programs I’ve done here.”

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“Rhythm Planet”
Boulder Concert Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director
With various guest artists

Correction: 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2 and 3
Pre-concert discussion 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce, Boulder

Tickets

CORRECTION: The dates of the performances were corrected on Nov. 1. The concerts are Saturday and Sunday, as originally stated; the correct dates are Nov. 2 and 3.

Dvořák’s “underrated masterpiece”

Boulder Symphony and Boulder Chorale join forces for the Stabat Mater

By Peter Alexander May 9, 2019 at 9:30 p.m.

Violin

Photo courtesy of Boulder Symphony

Antonín Dvořák has written some of the most, and least, familiar works in the classical music repertoire.

On the one hand are the “New World” Symphony, the Cello Concerto—both written in the United States—and a handful of other pieces that are immediately recognizable to most concertgoers. And on the other hand are many pieces almost never heard outside of the composer’s native Bohemia, including most of Dvořák’s operas and almost all of his sacred vocal music.

Among the latter is the Stabat Mater, a large-scale religious cantata for chorus, orchestra and four soloists, based on the 13th-century sacred hymn text “Stabat mater dolorosa” (Grieving mother, standing at the cross). Now the Boulder Symphony and the Boulder Chorale have joined forces to bring Boulder audiences a piece that conductor Vicki Burrichter calls “an underrated masterpiece.”

Burrichter, who is artistic director of the Boulder Chorale, will conduct the performances Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Spirit”
Boulder Symphony with the Boulder Chorale
Vicki Burrichter, conductor

J.S. Bach: Concerto for oboe, violin and strings
Keynes Chen, violin and leader; Ingrid Anderson, oboe

Dvořák: Stabat Mater
Julianne Davis, soprano; Clea Huston, mezzo-soprano; Jason Baldwin, tenor; and Malcolm Ulbrick, baritone

7 p.m. Saturday, May 11
2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 12
First Presbyterian Church, 1820 15thSt., Boulder

Tickets

Boulder Chorale brings Mardi Gras music from New Orleans

Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band adds solid “second line” sound

By Peter Alexander March 7 at 8 p.m.

Conductor Vicki Burrichter and the Boulder Chorale want their audiences to have a good time.

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Conductor Vicki Burrichter with members of the Boulder Chorale

Mardi Gras just being over, “a good time” suggests New Orleans’s raucous celebration of that festival. And so Boulder Chorale’s next concert this Saturday and Sunday (4 p.m. March 9 and 10 at First United Methodist Church in Boulder) is titled “A Very Boulder Mardi Gras.” With some of the music and the traditions of the famous New Orleans Mardi Gras as part of the performance, it will be, Burrichter says, “pretty fun and rowdy.”

“What I’m trying to do is get as close to an authentic New Orleans experience as we can.”

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans

That means more than just having a few Dixieland tunes played during the concert, she says. “For me that’s not very authentic. There’s so much more to the music of New Orleans than Dixieland.”

To get closer to the real thing, she invited guests, including the Guerilla Fanfare Brass Band, to recreate the atmosphere of the New Orleans “second line” parades. There will be music by New Orleans musicians including Trombone Shorty and Dr. John. The concert program ends with the traditional Mardi Gras song “Iko, Iko,” followed by a second-line style parade out of the church to the music of the Rebirth Brass Band’s “Do Whatcha Wanna.”

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New Orleans second-line parade

If you are unfamiliar with the New Orleans second-line tradition, it can be described as the parade after the parade—the people who follow the official parade, dancing and singing and generally enjoying themselves. This has turned into a form of parade with a brass band leading and a crowd following—what has been described as “a jazz funeral without a body.”

Today second-line parades are a regular part of the New Orleans music scene.

Burrichter was inspired to bring second lining to Boulder when she experienced it first hand. A few years ago she was at a conference in New Orleans and had Sunday off. “I went and joined a second line,” she says. “Every Sunday there’s a band that will do that, and they take different routes through the various neighborhoods.

“You dance and you sing, and it was one of the most incredible artistic experiences I’ve ever had. It was very, very moving and fun, so I thought if I ever do a concert about New Orleans, I want to have a second line band there.“

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Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band

The group she invited to fill that role, the Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band, was founded in 2015 by tuba player Zach Brake and some friends from the University of Colorado. In 2018 they were named Colorado’s best brass band by Denver’s Westword magazine. Today the full group numbers 12 musicians, trumpets, trombones, saxophone and drums.

They play typical second-line tunes from the Rebirth Brass Band, a Grammy winning New Orleans band, as well as traditional jazz, pop covers, and their own original music. “Our big thing is we’re really energetic,” Brake says.

“If possible we try to get off the stage and walk around. The bigger the crowd is, the more we get into it.”

Performing in concert with the Chorale is different from their usual shows, Brake says, but that’s a good thing. “It’s pretty outside what we normally do,” he says. “This one has been pretty exciting to do.”

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Bob Chilcott

In addition to music from the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, there will be one composed piece for choir. The central piece on the program will be “A Little Jazz Mass” by former member of The King’s Singers Bob Chilcott, which Burrichter included to show the influence of New Orleans and jazz around the world

“It’s just a stunning piece,” she says. “The chorus loves it. I think the audience will love it, too.”

Other pieces on the listed program include “Ring Shout/Piece of Mind” from Wynton Marsalis’s Congo Square, arranged by Adam Waite and featuring vocalist Craig Robertson; “I Feel Like Funkin’ It Up” from the Rebirth Brass Band; Dr. John’s “Goin’ Back to New Orleans”; “Basin Street Blues”; and Trombone Shorty’s “Hurricane Season,” as a tribute to New Orleans’s suffering and recovery from hurricane Katrina.

Other guest artists will include a jazz trio for Chilcott’s “Little Jazz Mass”: Neil Dreger, bass; Kyle Liss, piano; and Ari Rubinstein, percussion.

Burrichter stresses that the program is full of fun music for everyone. In fact, outside of the 12-minute “Little Jazz Mass,” there is not any traditional concert music where the choir stands still and sings. “This is a family concert,” she says. “Bring the kids and everybody can dance.

“This is not going to be an uptight concert.”

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“A Very Boulder Mardi Gras”Ripley-BC-adults-12-2016-crop

Boulder Concert Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director
With Guerilla Fanfare Brass Band
4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10
First United Methodist Church. Boulder

Tickets

Boulder Chorale presents the music of Cuba Oct. 27–28

Music of Tito Puente, Buena Vista Social Club, Gloria Estefan is featured

By Peter Alexander Oct. 25 at 9:35 p.m.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Boulder Chorale and Children’s Choirs. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Choral conductor Vicki Burrichter went to Cuba in 2003.

Suzanne Morales

Guest artist Suzanne Morales

It took 15 years, but that trip has led to a concert of Cuban choral music in Boulder. Burrichter is now the artistic director and conductor of the Boulder Chorale, who will present “¡Viva Cuba!” Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 27 and 28). The Chorale will be joined by vocal soloist Suzanne Morales; the Boulder Children’s Chorale Bel Canto Choir, the oldest age-group of the Chorale’s children’s choirs; and the Boulder Chorale Cuban Allstars, an instrumental ensemble hired especially for the occasion.

Bel Canto will sing with the adult Chorale for the opening number, “Chan Chan,” and present a couple of their own pieces as well. Morales and the Cuban Allstars will perform on their own in between the choral sections of the concert.

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Vicki Burrichter. Photo by Bob Evans.

Burrichter has been drawn to Cuban music since she took the Colorado College Women’s Chorus to Cuba in 2003, but the concert is part of a larger mission for her. “My favorite thing is to look for ways to bring music of other cultures into the choral world,” she says. “I’m always trying to bring more cross-cultural music to the world of choral music, along with all the traditional things that we do.

“The Cuban concert is going to be really exciting!”

She also sees a theme behind the theme of Cuban music, explaining, “as Carlos Santana said, ‘I don’t play Latin music, I play African music.’ I’m such a lover of all things that have to do with African rhythms, whether it’s Brazilian music, or Cuban music—I love that.”

Santana and Burrichter are pointing to the cultural origin of the musical styles, and particularly the rhythms, that dominate music through Latin America, in addition to American jazz, blues and gospel styles: the music brought to the Americas by the African slave trade. “I’m going to start the concert with just the percussion doing kind of an African rhythm, so that people get the idea,” Burrichter explains.

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Members of Buena Vista Social Club

For the rest of the concert, the names of the composers may not be familiar, but many of the songs will be, having been popularized by some of the leading Latin performers. For example, the very first piece, “Chan Chan,” was popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club, an ensemble formed in 1996 to preserve the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. Buena Vista Social Club became famous when they toured the United States in 1998 and were the subject of a widely shown documentary film by German filmmaker Wim Wenders released in 1999.

Other parts of the program feature music that is even more familiar to American audiences. “We’re doing Guantanamera, which everybody knows,” Burrichter says.

“There’s a lot of famous salsa songs and Latin dance music. We’ve got [Tito Puente’s] ‘Oye Como Va,’ which was made very famous by Santana. ‘Cúcula,‘ ‘La Vida es un Carnaval’ (Life is a carnival) and ‘Quimbara,’ are Celia Cruz pieces, and ‘Conga’ was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.”

Burrichter doesn’t want you to think of this as another staid classical music concert. “This is not going to be a concert where you’re going to have to sit quietly in your seats,” she says. “If you know the music, you can sing along!”

And she implied that dancing in the aisles will not be discouraged. “The Latin dance medley is going to be really exciting!” she says. “People will love that.”

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The concert represents a collaboration between the Boulder Chorale and Intercambio, an organization that offers English classes for adults, cultural awareness workshops, and other classes aimed at immigrants in Boulder County. Another collaborator is Boulder’s Rayback Collective at 2775 Valmont Rd., where there will be a gathering for musicians and audience members alike following Sunday’s concert.

Slides will be shown during the performance taken by Jenny Desmond of Intercambio, during her visits to Cuba.

Both performances will be preceded by a pre-concert lecture by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center and a scholar of Cuban music.

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 ¡Viva Cuba!

Boulder Concert Chorale with the Boulder Children’s Chorale Bel Canto Choir
Boulder Chorale Cuban Allstars instrumental ensemble
Suzanne Morales, vocal soloist
Vicki Burrichter, artistic director and conductor

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Performances preceded by a pre-concert talk by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Tickets

Jazz sextet, tap dancer, vocalist and choir? It must be Ellington!

Boulder Chorale will present Ellington’s ‘Sacred Concerts’ May 19–20

By Peter Alexander May 17 at 10:15 p.m.

Duke Ellington, jazz legend, pianist and band leader, spent the last decade of his life creating and presenting “sacred concerts.” Described by one critic as “bringing the Cotton Club to church,” Ellington considered them “the most important thing I have ever done.”

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Vicki Burrichter, conductor of the Boulder Chorale

Now conductor Vicki Burrichter and the Boulder Chorale are bringing the Ellington Sacred Concerts to Boulder. Joining Burrichter and the Chorale will be vocalist Joslyn Ford-Keel and tap dancer — a performer specified in the score — David Sharp.

Burrichter lists several reasons to perform the Sacred Concerts. “First of all, I love Ellington,” she says. “I think he was the greatest genius of jazz, as a composer certainly. And I always look for jazz masterworks for chorus. There aren’t that many of them, so when I find something by a composer as elevated by Ellington. It needs to be shared in the community.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director
With Joslyn Ford-Keel, vocalist, and David Sharp, tap dancer

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19
4 p.m. Sunday, May 20
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder

Tickets

Boulder Chamber Orchestra returns to Mozart’s Requiem with Boulder Chorale

Performance will be more transparent than before—and ‘happier’

By Peter Alexander March 29 at 10:15 p.m.

bconew_1Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra are returning to old territory and making new discoveries.

Friday and Saturday(March 30–31) Saless and the BCO are performing the Mozart Requiem, which they first performed in 2011. But there will be a number of differences from that earlier performance: then they performed with Ars Nova singers, now they will perform with the Boulder Chorale Chamber Choir under Vicki Burrichter. Then they had about 50 singers, now they will have 40 singers and a smaller orchestra.

Then Saless left the choral preparation and the coaching of the soloists entirely to Ars Nova’s conductor, Thomas Edward Morgan; now he is taking a larger role in both. And, he says, he performance will be more transparent and more polished.

He almost makes it sound like a different piece. But it’s not the piece that has changed; it’s Saless, who admits to having been intimidated by the work the first time.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Mozart: Requiem
Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chorale
Bahman Saless, conductor
With Ekaterina Kotcherguina, soprano; Clea Huston, mezzo-soprano; James Baumgardner, tenor; and Malcolm Ulbrick, bass

7:30p.m. Friday, March 30, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
8 p.m. Saturday, March 31, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Boulder

Tickets

 

Boulder Chorale seeks the space ‘Between Heaven and Earth,’ March 10-11

Program brings together Western choral music and classical Hindustani music

By Peter Alexander March 8 at 7 p.m.

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Conductor Vicki Burrichter with Boulder Chorale. Photo by Bob Ross.

Boulder Chorale’s next exploration of diverse musical styles will bring sacred music from the Western tradition together with Hindustani music from north India and Nepal.

This is only the latest program where artistic director Vicky Burrichter has taken the Chorale beyond the canon of western choral music. Past performances have included Dave Brubeck’s jazz setting of the mass, a bluegrass mass, a “Brazilian Carnival” concert and tangos by Astor Piazzolla.

The latest program, “Between Heaven and Earth,” will be presented Saturday and Sunday (March 10 and 11). Burrichter will lead the performance, which will feature the full Boulder Chorale, the Boulder Chorale Chamber Singers, soloists from the Chorale, and the ensemble Jam key Jam.

“I wanted to do a program that occupied the space between our earthly experience and whatever lies beyond,” Burrichter says. “I looked to find composers and musical traditions that fit that category. Bach comes to mind first, but also Indian music is something that has always spoken to me.”

Burrichter started the program with composers across several centuries of the European tradition, from the 16th– and 17th-century Englishman William Byrd, to Bach, up to living composers including Gwyneth Walker, Eric Whitacre and Philip Glass. To expand the program further, she decided to bring in traditional north Indian music.

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Jam key Jam

“I wanted to put these two cultures together and find a real collaboration,” Burrichter says. She approached Bijay Shrestha, a sitar player from Nepal and co-founder of a musical group in Boulder called Jam key Jam. Based on the classical ragas of North India and the traditional music of Nepal, Jam key Jam also brings contemporary elements into their performances.

The collaboration will progress over the course of the concert, starting with the simple alternation of choral composition sung by the Chorale with Hindustani classical music played by Jam key Jam. At the end, the two groups will perform together.

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Eliza Gilkyson

For the Chorale alone, the heart of the program will be three pieces that fall in the middle of the concert, starting with Requiem by folk musician/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson. Written after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Indonesia, the original piece was described by the composer as “a song of comfort.” It has been arranged for chorus by Craig Hella Johnson.

“No one can hear it and not be moved,” Burrichter says.

Next will be “Prayer” by René Clausen, a setting of a text by Mother Theresa extoling service. And closing this portion of the concert will be Dona nobis pacem (Give us peace) from J.S. Bach’s B-minor mass.

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Susan Olenwine

Other pieces that explore the joining of music and spiritual experiences will include “Gitanjali Chants,” Johnson’s setting of a text by Rabindranath Tagore, and “Moon Art,” Adam Waite’s choral arrangement of music by Shrestha and Jam key Jam. Boulder Chorale accompanist Susan Olenwine will play a piano etude by Philip Glass, a practicing Tibetan Buddhist who has also studied Indian drumming.

The concert will end with three pieces that bring the Hindustani musicians and the chorale together. The first will be the theme from Game of Thrones, which Jam key Jam has arranged for their own performances. Waite, the minister of music at Montview Presbyterian Church in Denver, has written vocal parts for the Chorale to sing with Jam key Jam.

Next, they will collaborate for Waite’s arrangement of a traditional Hindustani raga, Raga Hansadhwani. For this performance, the Chorale had to learn tradition Hindustani musical syllables, or solfège—the equivalent of the familiar do-re-mi syllables used in Western music.

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Bijay Shrestha

Shrestha mapped the way for the collaboration, Burrichter says. “When we were beginning to figure out the (Hindustani) solfège, I said ‘How do you want the vocal tone to sound?’ And he said, ‘I want you to do your Western choral thing, and I want us to do what we do and let’s meet in the middle.’

“That is a true collaboration. And his openness has created a beautiful thing that neither of us has experienced.”

The final work on the program will be definitely multi-cultural. The Boulder Chorale will sing “Tambourines,” a setting by Gwyneth Walker of a Langston Hughes poem, with Jam key Jam arranging their own parts to go with the performance.

Hughes’s poem celebrates the role of the tambourine in Black churches, which Burrichter sees as similar to the sacredness of musical instruments in Hindustani culture. “So we have a piece that ends with the sacred instruments of the Hindustani tradition combined with a sacred instrument of the African-American tradition,” she says.

“What we’re trying to create with this is a connection for everyone— to the person sitting next to you, to the music itself, to something beyond all of us.”

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Boulder Chorale

“Between Heaven and Earth”
Boulder Chorale, Boulder Chorale Chamber Choir and soloists,
Vicki Burrichter, conductor
With Jam key Jam

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10
4 p.m. Sunday, March 11
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Tickets

Edited March 8 at 8:15 p.m. to correct the spellings of Eliza Gilkyson and Bijay Shrestha and other minor typos.