Grace Notes: Boulder’s Choral Groups’ 2022–23 Seasons

Ars Nova Singers, Boulder Chorale and Seicento lay out plans for 2022-23

By Peter Alexander Oct. 12 at 2:52 p.m.

The Ars Nova Singers, the Boulder Chorale and Seicento Baroque Ensemble—three of Boulder’s leading choral groups—have distinct qualities, in terms of repertoire and performance style. All three groups have now announced their concert schedules for the 2022–23 season:

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Under director Tom Morgan, Ars Nova generally avoids the historical middle of standard repertoire, preferring music either side of the 18th and 19th centuries—the Renaissance or the 20th and 21st centuries. Their concerts are challenging to the singers, and can be equally so to audiences, but they are always interesting as well.

On Nov. 4 they will be the first of the three to present a concert this season (see time and place below). Their opening program is devoted to one of the most fascinating figures of the late Renaissance. Carlo Gesualdo, the Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, was the composer of harmonically advanced, highly chromatic madrigals unlike anything else of their time. He was also known for having murdered his first wife and her lover when he found them together in bed, a fact that has not gone unnoticed in appreciation of his extreme music.

Performances of Gesualdo’s music are rare, as is often the case with Ars Nova programming, so this performance is worth noting.

One major event of the Ars Nova season will be the presentation in March of the world-touring British a cappella group Voces 8. Their two performances under Ars Nova’s auspices will be Wednesday March 1, 2023 in Macky Auditorium (7:30 p.m., details below) and Thursday, March 2, at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver (7:30 p.m.; tickets on sale Oct. 15). Please note that these are two separate programs. (details below).

Here is a full listing of the Ars Nova 2022–23 season:

Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
With Sandra Wong, violin and nyckelharpa, and Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba
Carlo Gesualdo: Madrigals from Books 5 and 6

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4
    St. John Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov5
    Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum
  • 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6
    St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver 

Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
With John Gunther, woodwinds
Music for the Winter Solstice and Christmas

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9
    First Congregational Church, 1500 9th Ave., Longmont
  • 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
    St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver

Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb 10, 2023
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St, Boulder
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023
    Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., Denver

“Choral Dances”
Voces 8
Music by Byrd, Bach, Britten and Berlin

  • 7:30 pm. Wednesday, March 1
    Macky Auditorium


“Lux Aeterna”
Voces 8
Music by Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Monteverdi

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2
    St. John’s Cathedral, 1350 n. Washington St., Denver

TICKETS available Oct. 15

Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
Music by Mahler, Thomas Jennefelt and Caroline Shaw

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22
    Bethany Lutheran Church, 400 E. Hampden Ave. Cherry Hills Village
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3
    TANK Center for Sonic Arts, 233 County Rd. 46, Rangely, Colo

(This program will also be performed on tour in Colorado and New Mexico.)

See more information on the Ars Nova Web page

CORRECTION: The two programs by Voices 8 March 1 and March 2 were originally listed incorrectly. The correct information is “Choral Dances” on March 1 and “Lux Aeterna” on March 2, as now shown above.

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The Boulder Chorale is actually three different groups, and serves a role in music education as well as performance—in the words of the Web page, “for singers aged 5 to 85.” The Concert Chorale, the Chamber Chorale and the Children’s Chorale—the last divided by age into four different ensembles—perform separately as well as together. Under director Vicki Burrichter, the repertoire of the adult groups is eclectic, notably including world music, traditional styles from both European and non-European sources, and new works. As in the current season, their repertoire has often included work for chorus and orchestra.

Boulder Chorale opens their season Nov. 5, one day later than Ars Nova. Their opening weekends overlap, but you can easily plan to attend both. The chorale’s program is an example of their pursuit of world music. Titled “Origins: The Fertile Crescent,” the program highlights music from the Middle East and North Africa, including the Chorale’s own arrangements by Adam Waite of music from Israel, Afghanistan, Spain, Morocco and Syria.

Later in the year, the Chorale partners with the Longmont Symphony for performances of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 17) and a Messiah  singalong (Dec. 18; details below); and with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra for performances of Beethoven’s Mass in C.

Here is the full listing of the Boulder Chorale 2022–23 season through April 2023:

“Origins: The Fertile Crescent”
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor, with Catrene Payan, vocalist, and Middle Eastern instrumental ensemble, David Hinojosa,leader

  • 4 pm. Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO

“A Celtic Winter”
Boulder Chamber Chorale and Concert Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director, and Boulder Children’s Chorale, Nathan Wubbena, director

  • 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11
    First United Methodist Church, Boulder 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO

Handel’s Messiah
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • 4 p.m. Dec. 17
    Westview Presbyterian Church, 1500 Hover St., Longmont

“Hallelujah! A Messiah singalong”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • 4 p.m. Dec. 18
    Westview Presbyterian Church, 1500 Hover St., Longmont

“A Nation of Immigrants
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor

  • 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO

Beethoven Mass in C
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1
    Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

For more information on these and other concerts, visit the Boulder Chorale Web page.  

CORRECTION: The concert “Story of My life,“ previously listed here, was included by error. That is a performance by the Boulder Children’s Chorales, and has been removed from this listing. Also, clarification has been added as to which of the three chorales is performing in each of the concerts.

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Seicento specializes in Baroque music of the 17th (“Seicento” in Italian) and 18th centuries performed with, to use the currently accepted language, “historically informed” performance practice, including period instruments. Today they are directed by the group’s founder, Evanne Browne.

Founded in 2011, Seicento launches its second decade in December with “Nöel: Christmas in the late Renaissance and Early Baroque” (December 2–4), a program that includes carols still familiar today as well as little known choral works. The major event of the season will take place in May, when Seicento will be joined by an orchestra of historical instrument performers to present Colorado’s first historically informed performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion.

Here is the full listing of Seicento’s season:

“Nöel: Christmas in the late Renaissance and Early Baroque”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Evanne Browne, conductor

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 2
    St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4
    First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1500 9th Ave., Longmont

J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion (BWV 245)
Seicento Baroque Ensemble and historical instrument orchestra, Evanne Browne, conductor

  • 7 p.m. Friday, May 5
    Arvada United Methodist Church, 6750 Carr St., Arvada
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, May 6
    St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7
    Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder 

For more information, see Seicento’s Web page.  

Doing an intricate dance, Seicento switches directors, then back again

The 2022–23 season features “Christmas in the Late Renaissance” and J.S. Bach

By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 11:32 a.m.

Changes in leadership for performing organizations happen all the time, but Seicento—Boulder’s semi-professional chamber choir and Baroque performance group—has pulled a double switch that is at least unusual.

Founding, and current, director Evanne Browne leads a concert by Seicento. Photo by John Lamb.

They just recently announced a change in the artistic director position, but to fully understand, you have to go back to the founding of the group in 2011.

Seicento was founded by Evanne Browne, an experienced early-music singer who served as artistic director until 2018, when she moved to Arlington, Virginia—“for love,” she says, moving to “explore a relationship that ended up wonderfully.” Amanda Balestrieri, a long-time friend who had performed alongside Browne in early music groups in the D.C. area and later moved to Boulder, took over and directed the group through COVID.

Now Browne and her husband, John Butterfield, have returned to Boulder, and by a total coincidence it’s Balestrieri who is moving to Virginia at the same time. It’s love again, but in this case a daughter and a grandchild.

Newly returned to Colorado, Browne told Seicento’s board, “I’m available!” And so she is returning to the organization she founded.

Musical pals and alternating Seicento directors Evanne Browne (l) and Amanda Balestrieri (r)

Have you got that? Today the artistic director is whichever of the two is not living in Virginia. Mostly.

That has worked out quite well, since Browne and Balestrieri have worked together enough that they know each other and trust each other explicitly. “That’s the beautiful thing about the two of us having both led Seicento,” Balestrieri says. “Even though Evanne or I leave Seicento, it’s going to be led the way that we both think it should be.”

The two musical partners arrived at this mutual respect from different backgrounds: Balestrieri from England, where she studied German and French at Oxford, and also studied voice in London and in Milan, Italy; and Browne from a musical education in the U.S., including voice studies at Rice University and post-graduate work in choral conducting.

“We come from different emphases and knowledge bases,” is the way Balestrieri puts it. But “the groundwork is always the note.”

In early music performance, not everyone always agrees even about the note, because the mists of time have left a lot to the interpretation of the performer. That’s where the shared background puts Browne and Balestrieri in agreement about the note, and much more. Their common professional experiences have led them to a mutual understanding of early music styles, and a shared interest in exploring the repertoire.

Balestrieri and Browne ended up in the Washington, D.C., area largely by chance, performing with early music ensembles including the Folger Consort and the Smithsonian Chamber Players. As they sang together in the same groups, they soon found great compatibility as singers. In fact, Browne says, “There were times where we could adjust our voices to be so similar that even I would sometimes go, who’s on which line?”

For a while their careers went in different directions. Balestrieri’s singing career took off, while Browne worked at the Smithsonian in Washington, picking up business skills that she has used with Seicento. Then it was again mostly by chance that they both ended up in Colorado.

Former director Amanda Balestrieri with Seicento

“That’s the beautiful thing, because we were not singing and performing together for quite a while,” Balestrieri says. “I wasn’t even assuming we’d see each other again musically, but it was lovely to reconnect, because we did have that background—even though it was not a continuous one.”

The best part of the saga is Balestrieri’s move to Virginia. She was well settled in Boulder, and had an ongoing relationship with Charley Samson of Colorado Public Radio. They both kept their homes, hers in Boulder and his in Denver, but were often together.

“I have two daughters, one was living in Virginia and one in San Francisco,” Balestrieri says. “The one in San Francisco said ‘Mom, are you going to move here?’ What was I supposed to do, choose? And so she moved to Virginia to call my bluff! She had a baby last December and bought a house. I was visiting her and the house next door came up for sale.”

Thinking that she would like to have a place to stay in both Colorado and Virginia, Balestrieri bought the house next door to her daughter. “I was struggling with leaving (the house in Boulder),” she says. “So I called (Samson) from Virginia and said, ‘Guess what I did! But I have this great idea.’

“So what we’ve done is, Charley sold his house, I bought the house next door to my daughter and I’m selling my house to Charley!”

Just like that, Balestrieri will have a base of operations in both places. She hopes to return to singing in D.C., where she still has many friends and professional contacts, and she has plans to perform in the Boulder area as well, both as a visitor with Seicento in the coming season and with other people she knows in this area.

In the meantime, Browne is going full steam ahead for the coming season of Seicento. The repertoire for two concerts—one in December and the other in May—has been set. The holiday concert, scheduled for December 2–4 with a venue tbd, is titled “Seicento’s Roots: Christmas in the late Renaissance.” The program will illustrate the transition from the choral style of the late Renaissance to the more ornate style of the Baroque period. The program will feature carols that are still familiar today, including “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” by Michael Praetorius.

The spring concert, scheduled for May 5–7, will be a 300th anniversary performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, with Balestrieri as featured soloist. As far as Browne knows, this will be the first performance in Colorado of this passion setting with original instruments. This is by far the greater challenge, since it requires hiring specialist performers on the instruments of Bach’s time, but Browne is unafraid.

“Seicento needs to do this because when we do something that everybody wants to come see, and sing, then you get the response that you want,” she says. “I could have picked something very obscure that didn’t have Baroque oboes or Baroque flute players, but the joy of Seicento and the passion for the music is to find these pieces.”

In the meantime, Balestrieri and Browne both believe that Seicento has put the travails of COVID behind them and can return to the level they had achieved before. “I’m excited to see Seicento get the energy back after COVID,” Balestrieri says.

The group’s most recent concert this past April, which she directed, “had a very good feel,” she says. “The cohesion and spirit was back. The audience reviews were great. I’m just excited to see it and to be there when I’m in town.”

NOTE: The announcement of concert venues and tickets for Seicento’s 2022-23 concerts will be available on the group’s Web page.

Exploring a new realm, Seicento offers “silly entertainment” March 16–18

Artistic director emeritus Evanne Browne returns to lead “Mad Madrigals

By Peter Alexander March 16 at 2:48 p.m.

Evanne Browne 009a Color

Evanne Browne

Evanne Browne, the artistic director emeritus of Seicento Baroque Ensemble, has returned to Colorado to conduct performances by Seicento Baroque Ensemble, the group she founded in 2011.

The program, titled “Mad Madrigals,” is one Browne had partially planned last year, before she left Seicento. After Browne moved from Boulder at the end of last season, Kevin Padworski was appointed to succeed her as artistic director.

When Padworksi was unable to conduct the concert scheduled for this weekend (March 16–18), Brown came to the rescue, flying from the east coast to take over leadership of performances scheduled in Denver, Boulder and Longmont. She will share the conducting duties with Amanda Balestrieri, Seicento’s associate artistic director.

In addition to the full Seicento chorus, members of the ensemble will be featured as soloists and in smaller groups. Additional musicians will be Paul Holmes Morton, theorbo; Sandra Miller, Baroque cello; Gerald W. Holbrook, harpsichord; Linda Lubeck, recorder; and Steve Winograd, recorder, pipe and tabor, and Morris bells.

Seicento 3

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

The program is well outside the usual repertoire of Seicento in the past, which has focused on major choral works of the Baroque period. The anchor work on the program, filling most of the second half, will be Festino nella sera del giovedì grasso avanti cena (Fête for the evening of Carnival Thursday before supper), a “madrigal comedy” by Adriano Banchieri.


Adriano Banchieri

This is the most famous of the many madrigal comedies written around the year 1600, including several by Banchieri. Like all madrigals, they were written to be sung by amateurs as informal entertainment, often after dinner, and they are generally filled with comic vignettes poking fun at social conventions and stereotypes.

“This is definitely silly entertainment,” Browne says. “I had come across Il Festino a number of years ago. To come across a set of things that are just plain silly, like the madrigal comedies are, was a way to balance what Seicento usually does. It’s very funny.”

For example. Brown mentioned one of Banchieri’s madrigals that has become popular among fans of Renaissance music: Contrapunto bestiale alla mente, or “The Animals sing in counterpoint.” Browne explains: “There is counterpoint for animal sounds. The (text) is ‘bau, bau,’ which is what the dogs say in Italy, and ‘miau, miau,’ and ‘chiu’ and ‘cucu, cucu,’ and the madrigal part is that it has a ‘fa-la-la’ chorus.”

It is the second half of the program that is filled with the silly madrigal comedies. The first half is a survey of madrigal and other informal vocal styles from around the 16th century. “There are some very, very beautiful pieces in the first half,” Browne says. “It will be musically sophisticated on the first half, very comic the second half.”

Musica TrasnsalpinaThe madrigal started as in-home entertainment in Italy but it was spread to England in 1588. In that year an important book, Musica Transalpina (Music from across the alps), was published in London containing Italian madrigals with their texts translated into English. This started a craze for madrigals in England.

“The first half of the program is a view of madrigals starting out with Thomas Morley’s “Sing we and Chant It,” and the Italian version of that (from) Musica Transalpina, which got everybody intrigued and enamored by what was happening in Italy. We’re also doing some music by Monteverdi and Barbara Strozzi, who has become much more well known recently because she’s a female composer.”

Other works on the first half of the program include Gagliarda XI and a Prelude-Passacaglia pair by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger for Chitarone (a bass lute also known as theorbo), which will be performed by Morton; a 15th-century French drinking song; and madrigals by Giles Farnaby, Jacques Arcadelt, and Luca Marenzio.

Browne stresses that the program touches only a tiny part of the madrigal repertoire. “In one account I read, there were 40,000 madrigals published before 1630!” she says.

“This will be entertainment, in a way we don’t know how to do any more—where you’re at home and pull out your madrigal books and sing one of the 40,000 madrigals! So the audience should be prepared for a completely different concert than we have done before.

“It’s going to be lots and lots of fun”

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“Mad Madrigals”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble
Evanne Browne, artistic director emeritus and conductor
Amanda Balestrieri, associate conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 16, Montview Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St, Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
3 p.m. Sunday, March 18, First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 805 3rd Ave., Longmont


Seicento Baroque Ensemble appoints new artistic director

Kevin T. Padworski will succeed founding director Evanne Browne

By Peter Alexander

Seicento Baroque Ensemble, a Boulder-based choral organization specializing in the music of the early Baroque period, has appointed composer/conductor/organist Kevin T. Padworski to succeed Evanne Browne as artistic director.

At the same time Amanda Balestrieri, a soprano who is well known for her early music performances, has been selected as assistant conductor of the group.


Kevin T. Padworski has been appointed artistic director of Seicento

Browne founded Seicento in 2011 with the goal of “performing worthy but rarely heard music of the early Baroque musical period,” their Web page states. Under Browne’s leadership the auditioned choir has employed historically informed performance practice and period instruments in their performances.

In a statement released by Seicento, Browne praised the choice of Padworski as artistic director, saying, “Seicento is honored to have a musician of this caliber lead our group into the future.”

“Evanne clearly has kind of established a little bit of a legacy here in Colorado,” Padworski says. “I’m following an incredible woman in her field, and I’m excited to work on the repertoire. I’m excited about being able to perform Baroque repertoire up to historically informed performance practice.”

The transition has been made easier by planning that already taken place for the 2017­–18 season. Themes have been selected for two concerts during the year. “The fall theme will be ‘Luther to Bach,’ and that can mean a whole bunch of things,” Padworski says. “That’s really exciting because Luther’s influence was widespread in Europe, so that leaves a lot of composers available to explore.

“Then in the spring they had established a theme called ‘Mad Madrigals.’ It gives us a breadth of madrigal repertoire from a couple of centuries. As I look at that, my initial reaction would be to try to make that as broad as possible.

“I see it as a privilege to work with and collaborate with the people in the ensemble, and to offer music to greater Boulder.”


Amanda Balestrieri will be assistant conductor of Seicento

Balestrieri has been a frequent soloist with Seicento, most recently for Browne’s last performances with the group March 24–26. She worked closely with Browne and the ensemble over the past six years, and has also appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival, Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, and other performing organizations in Colorado.

“I think it’s going to be a really good collaboration,” she says of her role working with Padworski as assistant conductor. “Kevin’s skills are huge. He’s a singer and a conductor and a keyboard player, and he has energy and wonderful musicianship. What I bring is how to technically execute some of the more difficult parts of the early music style, and a much longer experience in the early music movement.”

Padworski is a doctoral student in choral conducting at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is artistic director of the Colorado Chorale and director of music and organist at Calvary Baptist Church in Denver. He is the composer of both choral and instrumental works, available through MusicSpoke and Santa Barbara Music Publishing.

He performs as an organist, singer, pianist and harpsichordist with an interest in early music. He has appeared professionally with the Jubilate Deo Chorale and Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Colorado Choral Arts Society, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Symphony Chorus, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Opera Colorado and American Baptist Churches USA, among other organizations.

Padworski holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern University, a certificate in leadership from the Foundations program at Duke Divinity School, and a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.  He has been a conducting fellow with the Sarteano Chamber Choral Workshop and with Chorus America.

Evanne Browne says farewell with Handel

Seicento performs two early psalm settings composed in Italy

By Peter Alexander

Seicento 3

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

Over the weekend—Friday to Sunday, March 24–26—Evanne Browne will conduct her farewell concerts with Seicento, the Baroque performing group that she founded only six years ago.

Evanne Browne 009a Color

Evanne Browne

The program comprises entirely music by Handel, including settings of Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus, and Psalm 117, Laudate Pueri. Both are set for choir and soloists with strings and will be accompanied by a small orchestra of period instruments, including harpsichord and small organ. There will also be sections of secular cantatas to fill out the program. Performances will be in Denver, Boulder and Estes Park (see below for details).

“It’s my last concert, but it’s the beginning of a new energy with Seicento,” Browne says. “We’re financially sound, we’re finishing the sixth year, and we’ve been well received. People say, ‘oh, that’s your baby,’ but the baby has grown up and is ready for a new influence.”

Interviews have already been held for a new director and auditions will be conducted next week. Browne said the board hopes to announce the new director in April.

Browne moved to the Washington, D.C., area, where she had lived and worked before coming to Boulder, in September and has travelled back to Colorado for all the Seicento’s concerts this year. In the meantime, she has been singing professionally and teaching in the D.C. area since her move.


Amanda Balestrieri

She picked the program for the concert before she knew it would be her last with Seicento, but the choice is appropriate. “I have known Dixit for along time and wanted to do it,” she says. “Dixit is one of his most incredible choral pieces, and both pieces are chorally flamboyant, and difficult choral singing. If you think Messiah has lots of runs, Dixit is that times two or three.”

The second Psalm setting, Laudate Pueri, was pointed out to Browne by Mark Alan Filbert, who has served as musical director in Browne’s absence this year. Both pieces were written in 1707, when Handel was 22. He was living in Rome, where the Pope had banned opera but sacred music filled the void. Roman choirs of the time seem to have been particularly capable, which explains the difficulty of the music in both Psalm settings.


Kathryn Radakovitch

While living in Italy, Handel “was influenced by Corelli and other Italians,” Browne says. “He was into an Italian expressiveness, which is so much about word painting and florid vocal lines. And the crunchiness of the dissonances is very Corelli-like. He took that style into his later works, his operas and his oratorios, but I think he’s really exploring the craft here.”

The two Psalm settings do not quite make an hour of music, so Browne selected movements from three of Handel’s cantatas to fill out the program. She chose them, she says, because they contain music that the audience will recognize—the original versions of melodies that appeared later in Messiah.

“People will recognize [the tunes],” she says. “One is ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born,’ and the other is ‘And He shall Purify.’ It’s great fun to hear these Italian texts and especially the Messiah melodies that we know so well in their original form. It’s so familiar but it’s so different.”


Barbara Hollinshead

Soloists for the performances will be sopranos Amanda Balestrieri and Kathryn Radakovitch and tenor Todd Teske, all from the Boulder area, and mezzo-soprano Barbara Hollinshead who performs in Washington, D.C. There will also be short bass solos from members of Seicento.

“We have fabulous soloists,” Browne says. “There are two duets and one solo cantata, and the women who are doing the cantatas—oh my gosh, they can sing runs, and beautifully! It’s going to be a lot of fun to hear that.”

Just six years ago, Seicento became one of the first historical performance groups in the Boulder area. “When I first came to Boulder, there was very little Baroque vocal music going on, and a little bit of Baroque stringed period-instrument music,” Browne says, pointing out how much more there is now. “I am very, very proud of this organization and the way it has been managed,” she says.

“I’m grateful and I’m excited for the future of Seicento.”

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Seicento Baroque Ensemble
Evanne Browne, artistic director and conductor
Sopranos Amanda Balestrieri and Kathryn Radakovitch, mezzo-soprano Barbara Hollinshead and tenor Todd Teske

Handel: Dixit Dominus and Laudate Pueri
Selections from Italian secular catnatas

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 24
St. Paul Lutheran Church & Catholic Church, 1600 Grant. St. Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25
First United Methodist Church, 2412 Spruce St., Boulder

2 p.m. Sunday, March 26
Stanley Hotel Concert Hall, 333 east Wonder View, Estes Park



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.


Seicento Celebrates Scarlatti and Son

By Peter Alexander

Evanne Browne, artistic director of the Baroque vocal ensemble Seicento, wants you to know that she is excited about their next concert. Very excited.


Seicento Baroque Ensemble with director Evanne Browne, center

“I was thrilled to get to put this together,” she says. “This is a joyous concert. It’s just magical!”

This magical concert will be presented Friday through Sunday with performances in Denver, Boulder and Longmont. And although the title, “Scarlatti, Father and Son,” might sound like a trendy Italian trattoria, it actually refers to an important musical family of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Alessandro Scarlatti spent most of his career at the court in Naples, where his brother Francesco was first violinist. His two children also pursued musical careers, Domenico primarily in service to the royal families of Spain and Portugal, and Francesco in London and Dublin.


Domenico Scarlatti

Almost anyone who has taken piano lessons as a child—or whose children have taken lessons—knows of Domenico Scarlatti, the titular son of the program. He famously wrote more then 500 one-movement keyboard sonatas that range from short, easy pieces in every teacher’s lesson book to challenging workouts that find their way into virtuoso recital programs.

Browne’s aim is to open up much more of the Scarlatti legacy than the well known sonatas—written for harpsichord but today played mostly on piano. Domenico wrote other works, from operas and cantatas to sacred motets and a 10-voice Stabat Mater that will end the concert. And his father Alessandro was one of Italy’s leading Baroque opera composers, dominating opera in Naples in the 1690s. He also wrote cantatas and other vocal works, and an almost unknown set of madrigals that will be on the program.

Read more at Boulder Weekly.

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Scarlatti, Father & Son
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Evanne Browne, artistic director, with guest artists

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
3 p.m. Sunday, March 13, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont




Seicento and guest artists give a splendid realization of a musical monument

Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers needs to be seen as well as heard

By Peter Alexander

Title page of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers

Title page of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers

Let’s start here: Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers is one of the greatest, and least known, monuments of European music.

That being the case, we should be especially grateful that conductor Evanne Browne, the Seicento Baroque Ensemble, and artists gathered from the world of historical performance gave us a splendid realization of Monteverdi’s masterpiece, Saturday night in Boulder and Sunday afternoon in Denver (Oct. 24–25).

Printed in Venice in 1610, the Vespers burst upon the musical world at a critical moment in history. The style that had dominated written European music for generations, based in the chant and the modes of sacred music, was giving away to a dramatic style that opened deep levels of personal expression and musical relationships based on major and minor keys. This style led to the creation of opera as we know it, the concerto, the symphony, and ultimately most of the music we hear today.

Claudio Monteverdi. Portrait by Bernardo Strozzi.

Claudio Monteverdi. Portrait by Bernardo Strozzi.

More than just a single work, the Vespers comprise an anthology of the musical styles of the early 17th century. Their 90 minutes of music include deeply expressive songs and brilliant instrumental flourishes out of early opera; stunning virtuoso vocal ensembles from late Renaissance courtly madrigals; and powerful choral passages that anticipate Bach in brilliance and contrapuntal complexity. A composer of great genius, Monteverdi here created a work of overwhelming impact.

Or as a scholar of my acquaintance remarked, with only slight hyperbole, “It’s a piece of music that we as a species do not deserve.”

In spite of such veneration from performers and scholars, the Vespers remain little known to the general musical public, because performances are relatively rare. To present them in their entirety requires both technical skill and expertise in the performance styles of the early Baroque. Happily, Seicento’s presentation was on a very high level in both respects. Browne’s apparent ease in managing such a large undertaking and leading a taut, well-paced performance are a testament to her skill as a conductor of Baroque music.



It is a sign of the depth of the resources available today in the recreation of historical musical styles that a splendid ensemble of specialist players and soloists can be assembled from around the world for performances in Colorado. In addition to singers skilled in the Baroque style, Browne brought together specialized instruments including cornettos (an early wind instrument that has a mouthpiece like the trumpet and fingerholes like the recorder, made of wood and covered in leather), sackbuts (a precursor of the modern trombone) and theorbo (a large lute).

Evanne Browne, artistic director of Seicento

Evanne Browne, artistic director of Seicento

And music lovers in Boulder and Denver can take great pride that a superb conductor, chorus and local soloists formed the foundation of these performances.

In the Sunday performance that I heard Seicento showed great skill with the Baroque style, handling the intricacies of Monteverdi’s vocal parts and filling St. Paul Lutheran and Roman Catholic Church in Denver with a splendid sound. My only reservation was that the size of the group—approximately 40 singers—and the resonance of the space conspired to obscure some details, including parts of the text and some instrumental flourishes. For example, the opening movement, Deus in adjutorium, incorporates the fanfares that also open Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo, but played by Baroque cornettos they could not cut through the choral sound.

On the other side of the same coin, when needed the chorus could create a glorious climax. Their entrance in Audi Coelum, following a series of delicate echo passages, made a powerful impact.

The soloists assembled for this performance were quite impressive. I don’t want to risk slighting anyone by singling out any one for praise, but I have to mention the solo aria-like Nigra sum, the virtuoso ensembles Laetatus sum and Duo Seraphim (the latter more than a duo, and performed without conductor in the manner of a madrigal), and the male quintet of Et misericordia as especially memorable.

Anyone who remembers the bad old days when historic instruments were played inexpertly and out of tune if at all will have been delighted with the quality of playing and accuracy of intonation. With players from the east coast and Europe, Browne assembled an ensemble equal to many specialized groups today. Indeed, some of the players have performed the Vespers dozens if not hundreds of times, and it was a great pleasure to hear a historical performance of such quality.

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

There were many high points in the performance, of which I will mention only a few. The convergence on a unison for the “Amen” of Laudate pueri was a moment of arresting beauty. To the vocal ensembles previously listed, I should add Pulchra es, another unconducted piece of chamber music. The brilliant Sonata sopra Santa Maria ora pro nobis—itself a miniature masterpiece of early Baroque style—elicited equally brilliant playing from the instrumentalists. And the combination of florid instrumental parts with the serene choral sound in Deposuit potentes was breathtaking.

Finally, the Vespers need be seen as well as heard. There are several wonderful recordings, but none can replace the experience of hearing the Vespers in space, seeing the placement of singers and players, observing as well as hearing the ever-changing combinations of voices and instruments, and hearing the echo effects within the airy space of a church.

And so again: deep gratitude to Browne, to Seicento, and to all the soloists and guest artists for bringing us a performance to be remembered.

Seicento performs the jazz of the 17th century

Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers: ‘An album that doesn’t have a bad track’

By Peter Alexander

Claudio Monteverdi. Portrait by Bernardo Strozzi.

Claudio Monteverdi. Portrait by Bernardo Strozzi.

Claudio Monteverdi was unhappy in his job.

The year was 1608 and the composer was working in Mantua for the spendthrift Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga. Monteverdi was overworked, he was paid late if at all, and he hated the swampy environment of Mantua. So he did what any artist would do: he put together a portfolio showing skill in all the latest styles, hoping to be hired away from Mantua—hopefully by the Papal Chapel in Rome.

That is the likely story behind Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Virgine (Vespers of the Blessed Virgin), known as the “1610 Vespers” for the date the collection was published in Venice. Considered one of the great musical products of the Baroque era, the Vespers return to Boulder and Denver this weekend for performances by Seicento Baroque Ensemble and guest artists under conductor Evanne Browne.

Evanne Browne

Evanne Browne

The guests include vocal soloists and players of historical instruments from the local area, Boston, and Washington, D.C., and Baroque violinist Mimi Mitchell from Amsterdam.

Performances of the complete Vespro della Beata Virgine will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 at First United Methodist Church (1421 Spruce St.) in Boulder, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 at St. Paul Lutheran Church (1600 Grant St.) in Denver. There will be a separate concert by the guest soloists, featuring virtuoso vocal music and historical instruments including cornetto and sackbut, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, at St. Paul Lutheran in Denver. Tickets to all three performances are available here.

Title page of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers

Title page of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers

To create a musical résumé, Monteverdi put together an anthology of Baroque musical styles. It is, in the words of Mark Dobell of the early-music group The Sixteen, “a really great album that just doesn’t have a bad track.”

The ambitious extent of the Vespers, and its compilation of the radical new styles that were to transform music, are what make the Vespers an important work and one that is widely revered by musicians.

The Vespers are not often performed, however, because the challenges they present are monumental: It’s a long work with virtuosic vocal parts and a choir that divides into up to 10 parts. In many ways, Monteverdi’s notation is only an outline of a finished product: the soloists are expected to add ornamentation, and the instrumental parts don’t indicate what instruments should play.

“It’s the jazz of the 17th century, in that we don’t have everything given to us,” Browne says. “We are expected to modify what’s on the page.”

Read more at Boulder Weekly.

For more background, you may view this BBC documentary about the Vespers.

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Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

Seicento Baroque Ensemble

Seicento Baroque Ensemble with guest artists
Evanne Browne, conductor and artistic director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24
First United Methodist, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder

2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25
St. Paul Lutheran, 1600 Grant St., Denver

Vocal Soloists:
Amanda Balestrieri, soprano
Marjorie Bunday, mezzo-soprano
Rachel Morrissey, alto
Derek Chester, tenor
John Grau, tenor
Daniel Hutchings, tenor
Kenneth Donahue, bass
Zachary Begley, bass

Orchestra leader, Mimi Mitchell, violin (University of Amsterdam)

Soloists’ Concert
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23
St. Paul Lutheran, 1600 Grant St., Denver


Seicento offers Baroque Music for Halloween, scary, fun and gorgeous

Western Hemisphere premiere of a French grand motet from 1690 anchors the program

By Peter Alexander

Conductor Evanne Browne and Seicento

Conductor Evanne Browne and Seicento. Photo by Rich Saxon.

Evanne Browne really loves the music she is conducting for Halloween with Boulder’s Seicento Baroque Ensemble.

The centerpiece of their season-opening concert “Dies Irae: Halloween Goes Baroque,” (7:30 Friday Oct. 31, at St. Paul Lutheran in Denver and Saturday, Nov. 1, at First United Methodist in Boulder) is the recently rediscovered and reconstructed Dies Irae (Day of wrath) by Michel-Richard Delalande, which she describes as “gorgeous” and “luscious. ”

Another piece on the same program by Delalande, De Profundis (From the depths) is “gorgeous, gorgeous.” And J.S. Bach’s funeral motet Der Gerechte kommt um (The righteous must perish), arranged from music by Johann Kuhnau, is also “gorgeous, gorgeous.”

To set the mood for a Halloween concert, Browne turned to organist Kajsa Teitelbaum. “We open this concert with one of the scariest Halloween Baroque pieces written,” Browne says, “the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Just in case anybody would get the idea that this whole concert is so serious, I think we’re taking a really lively and exciting approach to celebrating Halloween and All-Souls’ Day.”

The witches from the Boston Early Music Festival production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Photo André Costantini.

The witches from the Boston Early Music Festival production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Photo André Costantini.

More Halloween fun will be provided by a scene for witches from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, which opens with the call “Wayward sisters, you that fright/The lonely traveler by night . . . Appear!” The witches, who keep cackling “Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho,” are clearly up to no good, in spite of their relatively spirited music. They announce their plot to separate the lovers Dido and Aeneas, singing of “The Queen of Carthage, whom we hate.”

If Bach provides some menace and Purcell some light-hearted Halloween fun, the remainder of the program is more serious. The other works are all associated with the liturgy of All Saints or All Souls Day (Nov 1 and 2), the days following Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve (Oct. 31), in the church calendar; or with liturgical services for the dead.

Michel-Richard Delalande

Michel-Richard Delalande

It was Delalande’s Dies Irae, forming the second half of the concert, that first caught Browne’s attention. A composer and organist at the court of Louis XIV, Delalande is not well known in this country, and the Seicento performance will be the U.S. and Western hemisphere premiere of his Dies Irae.

The text is a rhymed poem from the 13th century that now forms part of the Catholic liturgy for All Souls’ Day and the Requiem Mass. It is the latter context that is most familiar, with the Dies Irae movements from Requiems by Mozart, Berlioz and Verdi being particularly memorable.

“I heard (a commercial recording of Delalande’s piece) months ago, and I thought, this is a work for Seicento,” Browne says. “It’s a fabulous work and needs to be performed, and the French Baroque is a style that we worked on pretty hard in our second year.

“It’s tricky, and it’s got such tremendous tonal chord progressions, and beautiful, beautiful sounds. So after I heard it I thought, well, that’s what we’ll do, and set out to find the music.”

That proved easier said than done. Delalande’s grand motet—a term for sacred music written for orchestra, chorus and soloists—was composed in 1690 for the death of the Dauphine, Princess Marie-Anne-Christine-Victoire, wife of the Grand Dauphin, son of King Louis XIV. It was revised in 1711 at the death of the Dauphin, but then disappeared and was assumed lost.

But as sometimes happens, an unknown copy unexpectedly showed up at an auction in Paris in 1950 and then vanished again after being purchased by a private collector. It was not until 1983—after meeting and wooing the reclusive collector over many years—that the English musical scholar Lionel Sawkins was able to make a microfilm copy of the score, and then only under vanishing late-afternoon light, after being served a five-course meal that took most of the day!

Happily, Browne’s detective work was not nearly as strenuous as that, but she did have to track down Sawkins, make contact through a friend of a friend, and arrange to rent the score and parts for performance. “Because Sawkins knows who has had the score, we know that it has only been performed in the UK, in France, and in Sweden,” Browne says. “And probably fewer than a dozen choirs have actually performed this work in this century, or last century.”

This kind of undiscovered jewel from a little-known repertoire is just the kind of challenge that Browne relishes. “This is the mission of Seicento, to bring the wonderful music of the 1600s to audiences, and mostly music that they probably have never heard,” she says.

SBE in front of FUMC

Seicento Baroque Ensemble. Photo by Rich Saxon.

“We’re different from other groups in town because we’re not just looking at Baroque and thinking high Baroque—Handel, Purcell, Bach. We’re doing the earlier things.”

Much of this earlier music requires special performance techniques that go beyond the notation in the original scores. This is particularly true of the French Baroque, which had a tradition and distinct performance styles that differed from the rest of Europe. Many of those performance traditions were forgotten over time, and have to be studied and relearned by specialists such as Seicento.

Evanne Browne

Evanne Browne

“There is the language issue, there is the ornamentation issue, there’s the stylistic issue,” Browne says. “If you were to perform this piece of Delalande as it’s written, it wouldn’t have that life, that lilt, that glorious sound” that comes from applying the historical performance techniques of French Baroque music.

“And then also we perform with period instruments,” Browne explains. “That brings (the music) to life in a different way. For this concert we’re using Baroque strings and we have a Baroque flute payer joining us. It’s a different sound.”

Several other pieces will benefit from the Baroque performance techniques that Browne and the singers of Seicento have studied, and the “different sound” they get from the historical instruments. Among these will be portions of Delalande’s grand motet of 1689, De Profundis, a setting of a penitential psalm that is often sung in commemoration of the dead.

Seicento's singers getting in the mood for Halloween

Seicento’s singers getting in the mood for Halloween. Photo by Rich Saxon.

Also on the program will be three motets for All Saints’ Day, conducted by Seicento’s assistant conductor, Alan Filbert: two by the relatively unknown Pompeo Cannicciari and Vincenzo Bertulosi, and one by the great English Renaissance composer William Byrd. And ending the first half of the concert will be the music of the German composer Johann Kuhnau, arranged by J.S. Bach as the funeral motet Der Gerechte kommt um.

Browne admits that’s a lot of music written for the dead. “There’s a little morbidity to this concert,” she says. “But one of the things that is so exciting to me is that we’re having fun with the idea of Halloween and All Saints.”

And did she mention that the music is gorgeous?

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Dies Irae: Halloween Goes Baroque
Seicento Baroque Ensemble and soloists
Evanne Browne, artistic director

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Information and tickets