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



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.


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.

JAMkey Jam.3

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.


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.


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.


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


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

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

By Peter Alexander


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.



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


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

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.

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

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


From ‘Bachtoberfest’ to Carnival in Brazil, Boulder’s musicians plan celebrations

Boulder Bach Festival, Boulder Chorale announce 2017–18 seasons

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Bach Festival and Boulder Chorale have announced their 2017–18 seasons, with globe-trotting celebrations from “Bachtoberfest” to Brazil to Venice.

imageOf the two, the Boulder Bach Festival (BBF) gets underway first with the “Bachtoberfest” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday , Oct. 12 in Boulder’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. The program will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium.


Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg

The concert—which actually has nothing to do with beer—will feature four guest soloists: violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock from the faculty of the Juilliard School; Guy Fishman, principal cellist of the Handel-Haydn Society of Boston; Chris Holman, historical keyboardist of the Bach Society in Houston; and Dutch soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, who has appeared with the BBF several times in the past.

Violinist Zachary Carrettin, artistic director of the BBF will also play on the concert of 18th-century chamber music. The program includes trio sonatas and arias by Handel, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and Telemann.

A particularly interesting item on the program that continues the BBF’s exploration of historical rarities is listed as a “Keyboard Concerto in G major” by Johann Christian Bach, arranged by Mozart. Known as “The London Bach” for having had a very successful musical career in that city, Johann Christian was the youngest of J.S. Bach’s sons. Mozart visited London while on tour with his family during the years 1763–66, when he was seven to 10 years old. He became friends with Bach, around 30 at the time.


Johann Christian Bach, portrait by Thomas Gainsborough

In order to learn how to write concertos, the young Mozart arranged three of Bach’s solo sonatas as concertos by adding passages for orchestra. These arrangements were originally included in Mozart’s works under the listing K107 nos. 1–3; the Concerto in G major is the second of the three. Rarely performed, because they are not strictly “by” either J.C. Bach or Mozart, they are nonetheless fascinating historical documents, revealing the young composer’s learning process.

There are two new scheduling features for BBF’s 2017–18 season: Boulder performances will all be on Thursdays, to avoid conflicts with other performing organizations; and the performances will be split between Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium. Some concerts will be presented in both venues, and others only in one or the other.


1895 Érard piano

For example, the second event on the season, a concert titled “A World Transformed,” will only be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, in the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont. The performance will feature Mina Gajić performing on her 1895 Érard grand piano together with Richie Hawley performing on a 1919 Parisian clarinet and Carrettin playing a  gut-string violin. They will play music of the early 20th century by Bartók, Ives, Berg and Antheil.

Likewise, the major Bach performance of the year will only be presented once, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, in Boulder’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. Titled “The Eternal Spirit,” the program comprises four of Bach’s great sacred cantatas. Zachary Carrettin will lead the BBF Chorus and Orchestra with vocal soloists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass-baritone.


Flutist Ismael Reyes

The final concert of the season will honor the musical heritage of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, with music by  prominent Venetian Baroque composers: Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Gabrieli, Tarquino Merulo and Antonio Vivaldi. The concert will end the season with one more piece by J.S. Bach, the Orchestral Suite in B minor with Ysmael Reyes playing the flute solos.

You can see the full Boulder Bach Festival season here.

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The Boulder Chorale (BC) opens its 52nd season with “Carnival Brazil,” at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in Boulder’s First United Methodist Church. Titled “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” this will be BC’s ninth season combined with the Boulder Children’s Chorale and the third with artistic director Vicki Burrichter.



Carnival Brazil (Oct. 28) will see the BC sharing the stage with the Brazilian-music band Ginga and the Bateria Alegria, the percussion ensemble of the Boulder Samba School. That is only the beginning of the collaborative performances in a season that the BC is describing as “an adventurous exploration of different genres.”

The BC will be joined by JAMkeyJAM, a duo of Nepalese musicians who aim to combine ancient traditional music with contemporary sounds, March 10 and 11. The joint program, “Between Heaven and Earth,” will include a performance of Eliza’s Gilkyson’s Requiem, written in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

© Glenn Ross |

Vicki Burrichter

Later the same month, the chorale will appear with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem (March 30 in Broomfield and 31 in Boulder), and they will close out the season May 19 and 20 with Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, performed with a jazz combo.


The full Boulder Chorale season, including ticket information and performances by the Boulder Children’s Chorale not mentioned in this article, can be found here.

NOTE: Typos corrected 9.8.17




It will be ukuleles and a witch for the holidays

By Peter Alexander

Ah, the holiday season. That wonderful time for your favorite carols, colored lights, egg nog and — ukuleles?

Sure enough, it’s all part of the eclectic mix of holiday music on the Boulder classical scene, featuring not only the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, but also Elphaba from the Broadway hit Wicked, alongside other events that have become part of the annual December concert schedule. The perennial best-sellers — the Nutcrackers and the CU Holiday Festival — are already behind us, but there is still plenty of music to look forward to.


The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will be at Macky Auditorium Thursday (7:30 p.m. Dec. 8) as part of the CU Presents series. Known for their iconoclastic, not to say wacky, programming, the group promises to perform their usual combination of rock and pop covers, including music from Joni Mitchell and Pharrell Williams, some jazz and country songs, and classic Christmas carols.


Dee Roscioli

The Wicked Witch of the West sneaks into the Christmas schedule with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, who are presenting A Wicked Good Christmas Saturday in Macky (7:30 p.m. Dec. 10). Scott O’Neil will conduct the performance, which will feature vocalist Dee Roscioli, who played the role of Elphaba in the Broadway and national touring productions of Wicked, and the Fairview High School Festival Choir.

Read more at Boulder Weekly.

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Holiday Events in Boulder

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8
Macky Auditorium

A Wicked Good Christmas
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Scott O’Neil, conductor, with Dee Roscioli, vocalist
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
Macky Auditorium


Boulder Chorale and Children’s Chorus

A Thousand Beautiful Things
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor, and the Boulder Chorale Children’s Chorus
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder


Kathryn Harms

Christmas with Ars Nova
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor, with Kathryn Harms, harp.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
St. John. Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder

2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave., Cherry Hills Village



Dark Horse Consort

Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem: Christmas Music of Praetorius
The Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Evanne Browne, conductor, with the Dark Horse Consort.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce, St., Boulder

Candlelight Concert
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, David Rutherford, conductor
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15
Westview Presbyterian Church, 15th and Hover, Longmont


Adventures in geography and gender

Seicento Baroque Ensemble and Boulder Chorale go exploring

By Peter Alexander

UPDATE: Boulder Chorale announced Friday, Oct. 22, that “due to a family emergency Dominique Christina will not be able to perform with the Boulder Chorale this weekend.” In her place, the Chorale has announced that Colorado singer Sheryl Renee will appear on the concert Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Renee has sung with the Colorado Symphony under the late Marvin Hamlisch and sung the National Anthem for President Barrack Obama.

Two of Boulder’s choral groups will separately spend the weekend exploring geography and gender. Happily, both programs will be given twice in the Boulder area, so if you are looking for musical adventures, you can experience both journeys.


Vocalist Sheryl Renee will replace Dominique Christina in the weekend performances.

The Seicento Baroque Ensemble and director Evanne Browne will travel back to the music of 16th- and 17th-century Spanish America. They will perform music by Spanish missionaries and converted Christian natives in Central and South America, sung in Spanish and Latin as well as Nahuatl, the indigenous language of the Aztecs.

At almost the same times, in Boulder and Longmont, Boulder Chorale will be delving into music by and about women. Their program, “Women’s Work: Poetry and Music” will feature the chorale and director Vicki Burrichter performing music from Hildegard to Carly Simon, and settings of religious texts extolling the Virgin Mary. Bringing the performance up to 2016, five-time national poetry slam winner Dominique Christina will poetically address modern social issues that affect women.


Seicento Baroque Ensemble and director Evanne Browne (far right)

Seicento’s mission is to present “worthy but rarely-heard music of the early Baroque period.” That time — around 1600 — coincided with the Spanish colonial era in the Americas. The Spanish missions were rich with musical activities, including choirs of Native Americans who brought their own lively traditions to the performances and in some cases wrote music themselves.

Browne says “there’s been a surge of publications and information about this repertoire. I spent the last year listening and researching and seeing what was online, and thought, ‘This would be really fun!’”


Hildegard of Bingen

Boulder Chorale’s concert of “Women’s Work” opens with music by one of the most revered female musicians of European history, the medieval Benedictine abbess, Christian mystic, composer and polymath Hildegard of Bingen. “For me, Hildegard’s O Splendidissima Gemma (O resplendent jewel) is the foundational piece” on the program, Burrichter says.

For the rest of the concert, she says, “I wanted to show the variety of music composed by women and about women, and try to touch on as much of that as I could.” And variety there is, from the medieval mysticism of Hildegard, to a traditional South African song arranged in the spirit of Miriam Makeba, to American modernist Meredith Monk’s “Panda Chant II.” The program ends with a choral arrangement of Carly Simon’s anthem “Let the River Run,” written for the 1988 film Working Girl.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Colonial Latin American and the New World”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Evanne Browne, artistic director and conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21
St. Paul Lutheran & Roman Catholic Church, 1600 Grant St, Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder

3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, Longmont Museum Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Rd., Longmont

“Women’s Work: Poetry and Music”
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director, with Sheryl Renee, guest artist
(Please note the change in the guest artist)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave.


Boulder Chorale Brings Brubeck Mass to Colorado

Hope and celebration mark the end of 50th-anniversary season

By Peter Alexander


Boulder Chorale

The Boulder Chorale will close its 50th-anniversary season this weekend with hope and a celebration.

To be more precise, the Chorale and artistic director Vicki Burrichter will close the season with the first Colorado performance of “To Hope—A Celebration,” a setting of portions of the Catholic Mass by Dave Brubeck as arranged by Adam Waite. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at First United Methodist Church in Boulder (tickets).



Joining the chorale for the Brubeck performance will be vocalist Joslyn “JoFoKe” Ford-Keel and a jazz quintet featuring Waite on piano, bassist Ken Walker, and other local jazz musicians. The remainder of the program, forming the first half of the concert, will be music of the African Diaspora sung by the full Chorale and the 24-voice Chamber Chorale.

Saying they are performing Brubeck’s Mass is actually a tricky statement for anyone to make. Brubeck wrote the piece for orchestra and chorus, but he performed and recorded it with his own quartet performing alongside the orchestra. As Burrichter explains, “When I got the score, it did not have the jazz combo that the recording does. I said, ‘Where are the combo parts?’ and (the publisher) said, ‘Well, they’re not available.’”


Dave Brubeck

With or without the combo, the orchestral version posed several problems: “It’s a really odd orchestra with unusual instrumentation, and it’s difficult to find a space in Boulder where we could do that,” Burrichter says. “And I really liked the whole jazz combo feel. To me, that was the whole point of the piece.”

She found a version on YouTube with jazz quintet—piano, bass, drums, trumpet and trombone. She tracked down the arranger of that version, who was Adam Waite. She contacted him by email and he replied that he had just taken a job as director of music at Montview Presbyterian in Denver and would be moving to Colorado in two months.


Adam Waite

“I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’” Burrichter recalls. “Talk about fate or something!

“That’s how we found it, and Adam will play and work with the band. I’m very excited because it’s the first time it’s been done in Colorado in this setting.”

Another complication in performing the piece is how much of what Brubeck wrote to perform. According to Burrichter, not all of the movements are suitable for a jazz combo arrangement. Besides, she says, “Brubeck says very clearly that he wants people to change it if it’s for a concert setting as opposed to a church setting, and he gives his thoughts on how to do that.

“We left out four or five of (Brubeck’s original) movements. How Waite described it to me is, we’re leaving out the parts that are aimed more at a church service instead of a concert setting. Because we’re not offering mass, we’re leaving out some.”


Burrichter with Boulder Chorale. Photo by BobEvans

As Burrichter describes the movements included on the program, “We’re doing a processional, which is a great opening. Then the cantor and choir sing ‘Lord Have Mercy’—the Kyrie (of the Catholic Mass)—then the soloist does ‘In the Desert and the Parched Land,’ which leads into ‘The Peace of Jerusalem.’ That sounds very middle eastern (with) a great drum background.”

Among the familiar movements of the mass that are omitted is the Gloria. “Instead we’re doing an Alleluia that’s in 5/4 time, so it’s wonderfully disjointed,” Burrichter says. “Then ‘Through Him, With Him,’ leading to a great Amen, the Doxology, ‘The Lamb of God’ (Agnus Dei) and then the last movement, ‘All my Hope,’ which is a gospel piece. It builds to a big climax with lots of improvisation and the choir functioning as a big band in the background. It’s a really exciting way to end it.”

Before intermission, Burrichter and the chorale will perform music from the African Diaspora in America, starting with the spirituals “My Lord, What a Mornin’” and “Elijah Rock” as arranged by Moses Hogan. A smaller group out of the full chorale, the Chamber Chorale, will perform music by Mary Lou Williams.


Mary Lou Williams

A prolific jazz composer and pianist who wrote for Ellington, Williams later taught some of the jazz players of the next generation, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. The Chamber Chorale will sing two pieces from “Mary Lou’s Mass,” which in 1964 became the first jazz mass performed in the Catholic Church.

Rounding out this segment of the concert will be “Orange Colored Sky,” a jazz standard that was first popularized by Nat King Cole, and “Total Praise.” “I just wanted to touch a little bit on the African-American traditions, starting with the earliest forms,” Burrichter says.

“To me, (the music on the program) is all basically the same—it’s music of the African Diaspora. Sure, Dave Brubeck was a Caucasian guy, but he was immersed in America’s classical music, which is jazz.

“This concert is an opportunity to hear something that’s never been done here. It’s fun and moving, and it’s a great chance to have a really exciting night and hear some of the best jazz players in the state.”

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To Hope! A Celebration—The Boulder Chorale’s Next 50 Years
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, artistic director and conductor
With Joslyn “JoFoKe” Ford-Keel
Adam Waite, piano, and jazz quintet

7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13
4 p.m. Sunday, May 15
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder


Edited 5/7/16 to correct the title of “Total Praise” and clean up syntax in two quotes.

Brahms’ destiny, Denler’s melodies and Fielder’s photos at Boulder Phil.

Thoreau quotes compliment world concert premiere of Denler’s Portraits in Season.

By Peter Alexander

Charles Denler

Charles Denler

Composer Charles Denler has always felt close to nature, so it makes sense that the world concert premiere of his Portraits in Season for piano and orchestra would be supplemented by the work of two other nature-loving artists: the American essayist Henry David Thoreau and Colorado photographer John Fielder.

Saturday’s performance by the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman will feature Denler as piano soloist (7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in Macky Auditorium; tickets). During the performance, Fielder’s photographs will be projected on a screen above the orchestra, where quotes from Thoreau will appear before each of the score’s movements.

Denler’s Portraits will be bookended by two pieces by Brahms, a composer who also enjoyed the natural world on his solitary walks in the Vienna woods. The concert will open with the Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny), performed with the Boulder Chorale in celebration of their 50th anniversary, and end with the Symphony No. 2 in D major.

Sneffels Range Spring, San Juan Mountains. Colorado. Photo by John Fielder

Sneffels Range Spring, San Juan Mountains. Colorado. Photo by John Fielder

Butterman says that the idea of having images accompany Denler’s music occurred to him the very first time he heard it. Denler had compiled digital recordings of the music—now released on an album—as he was working on it.

“I thought it was very fun music,” Butterman says. “But as I was listening to it, I wanted to see something. I wrote back and said this fits with our focus on local composers, and also nature and music together, but what about adding some visuals? He said ‘fantastic!’”

Adding images to Denler’s music was more than logical, since he is best known as a film composer. And Fielder, known for his nature photography throughout Colorado, seemed an ideal choice, too. For one thing, his photos have often been featured with music: this will be the fourth performance by a Colorado orchestra this year to use his photos.

Boulder audiences will remember that Fielder’s work was featured by the Colorado Music Festival last summer in performances of music by Sibelius and Beethoven. His photos were also featured in performances in Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.

John Fielder. Photo by Cari Linden.

John Fielder. Photo by Cari Linden.

“I’ve been putting music to my slides for years,” Fielder says. “I love the experience—the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when you put music and imagery together.”

Fielder, who is recognized for his books and calendars of Colorado scenes, is deeply devoted to the outdoors. “I regard nature as not just views,” he says. “I enjoy being outdoors in the wilderness. The sound, the smell, the taste and the touch, as well as the views, are what make nature sublime for me.”

Portraits in Season has movements that pass through two complete years, and then suggest the start of another of life’s continuing cycles. And Denler intends this very much as a metaphor.

“The underlying meaning is walking through life,” he says. “I want people to think about that— to listen to this music and see that growing older is a gift. We should celebrate every single day and embrace the idea of aging.”

Denler’s music is often inspired by visual images, whether films that he is writing for, or personal experiences for his concert music. “This particular suite is based on visuals that I have from hiking the ponds and lakes (of) South Platte Park, walking along the Highline Canal, and even in my backyard,” he says.

Each movement is associated with a specific memory, even though the listeners will not know the locations they are associated with. And the Thoreau quotes are not directly associated with the locations, either.

“I’m a native New Englander, and I always gravitated toward (Thoreau’s) work,” Denler explains. “He wrote about nature from the context of living inside of it, and I wanted that reflected in the music. Sometimes, the quote just made sense for that season, (so) it may not reflect particular areas here in Colorado.”

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

Butterman chose Brahms for Denler’s companion on the program, because he sees a connection between Denler, nature, and the Viennese composer. “Brahms never wrote anything that he called ‘Babbling Brook’ or something,” he says. “But yet, when I think about composers who drew nourishment from nature, he’s actually the first composer that comes to my mind.

“The energy and the centeredness that he drew from long walks in the Vienna Woods strikes me as a little bit like Thoreau—somebody who needed to be away from people and by himself in nature. They (both) found their batteries recharged by the experience.”

Of the two works by Brahms, the Second Symphony will be the most familiar. “It’s full of all of the hallmarks of Brahms’s music that I really love,” Butterman says. “The rhythmic ambiguity, his ability to mix the serenade-like quality of his woodwind writing with much more accented and aggressive writing in the strings. But there’s an overlaying of sort of a placid character to it.”

Michael Butterman

Michael Butterman

The Schicksalslied, on the other hand, has placid moments, but they are definitely not part of Brahms’s depiction of human destiny, which is one of turbulence and forces beyond human control. “I love the beauty of the outer segments,” Butterman says, “and then the turbulence of what the chorus sings in the middle is a dramatic contrast.”

The beginning seems to be a description of Elysium, but that peaceful realm is contrasted with our life on earth. In the central choral section, “we are buffeted by fate, thrown hither and yon by forces that we have no ability to influence or control,” Butterman says. “It basically says that things are really nice up above, wherever that may be, but down here it’s every man for himself.”

Henry David Thoreau


The text ends there, but Brahms has added a closing orchestral section that provides a ray of hope for a better existence at the end. Which brings us back to Denler’s contemplative and comforting Classical/New Age score, which seems to evoke the peace that Brahms only hinted.

Or in the words from Thoreau’s Walden that Denler has chosen for one of the movements, when “the day and night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs . . . all nature is your congratulation and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself.”

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Portraits in Seasons

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, music director,
with Boulder Chorale, Charles Denler, piano, and photos by John Fielder

World concert premiere of Portraits in Season for piano and orchestra, by Charles Denler
Johannes Brahms: Schicksalslied and Symphony No. 2 in D major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14
Macky Auditorium


Related events:
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11: Free Café Phil open rehearsal at the Dairy Center for the Arts
6:30 p.m. Saturday Nov. 14, before the concert: Pre-concert talk at Macky

Charles Denler’s CDs and John Fielder’s books will be on sale in the lobby before and after the performance.