Holiday season brings a wide spectrum of musical celebrations

Two Messiah performances lead the local programs

By Peter Alexander Dec. 1 at 3:52 p.m.

What is one thing COVID has not closed down this year? The flood of Holiday-themed concerts in December.

This is in stark contrast to last year, when there were virtually no live concerts anywhere. Holiday music-making, if any, was done online. But now Boulder has returned to near normal, and there is no space or time to give individual coverage to all the concerts. Here is a compilation of most local classical concerts, all of them available for live attendance and some with streaming as well (details and ticket information are below; check each group’s Web page for COVID requirements):

Boulder Ballet Nutcracker (2018). Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

The Nutcracker returns to Longmont in performances by the Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet (Dec. 3–5). Performances of this perennial family favorite also include a sensory-friendly “Gentle” Nutcracker performance that will be under one hour with both dramatic and musical elements as well as lighting adapted for special needs children.

Boulder Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker almost had to be cancelled for the second year running, until supporters of the ballet and the symphony raised funds to support the performances. LSO executive director Catherine Beeson released a statement, saying “The thought of our communities having to miss a second year of this holiday tradition was too disappointing to consider. We are so grateful to Boulder Ballet and LSO patrons, supporters and sponsors who stepped up to fill the gap.”

The CU Holiday Festival (Dec. 3–5), featuring CU College of Music ensembles, is one of the oldest musical traditions in Boulder, dating back decades. Performing groups this year will be the Holiday Brass, the Holiday Festival Orchestra, Chamber Singers, Holiday Festival Choral Union, West African Highlife Ensemble, Holiday Festival Jazz, and the Magari Quartet.

The 2013 Holiday Concert put on by the College of Music in Macky Auditorium at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

There will be some very familiar Holiday music—“Ding, Dong Merrily on High,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the perennial favorite, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” But there will also be some unusual selections, including the Spanish villancico “Ríu, ríu, chíu,” the Gloria from the Misa Criolla (Creole Mass) by the Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez, and a Nigerian Christmas song, “Betelehemu” (Bethlehem). The program will conclude with the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

The Holiday Festival often sells out. That may be different this year, with COVID restriction still in place, but check availability before making plans.

There will be two performances of Handel’s Messiah  in Boulder this year: One by conductor Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Chorale (Dec. 4), and one by conductor Zachary Carrettin and performers of the Boulder Bach Festival (Dec. 17 and 19).

Both organizations will present only the Christmas portion of Messiah; Pro Musica Colorado will add the “Hallelujah” chorus. Theirs will be the more traditional style of performance, with full chorus. The Boulder Bach Festival will present Messiah with only one on a part in both orchestra and chorus; in other words, the choral parts will all be sung by a quartet of vocal soloists rather than a traditional chorus.

The Ars Nova Singers will present their Holiday program, “Made Merry,” in Denver (Dec. 10), Longmont (Dec. 12) and Boulder (Dec. 16 and 17).

Harpist Kathryn Harms

Under the direction of Thomas Edward Morgan, the Ars Nova Singers will be joined by guest artist Kathryn Harms on harp. The program follows the usual pattern for Ars Nova Holiday concerts: a mix of new arrangements and recent compositions with more traditional tunes. 

Featured works will include Variations on “Lo How a Rose” by Hugo Distler, a prominent composer of sacred music in early 20th century Germany, whose short life illustrates the tragedy of his times. Torn between his revulsion for the Nazi regime and the prominent positions he was granted, he took his own life in 1942 at the age of 34. 

Other works on the program are Morgan’s arrangement of “What Child is This?,” Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of “In the Beak Midwinter,” Jeffrey Van’s arrangement of the Mexican carol “El Rorro” (The babe) and contemporary English composer Jonathan Dove’s setting of “The Three Kings” by Dorothy Sayers.

The Longmont Symphony’s annual Candlelight concert, this year titled “A Baroque Christmas,” will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19 at the Westview Presbyterian Church in Longmont. Elliot Moore will conduct, with soprano soloist Ekaterina Kotcherguina.

Music by familiar Baroque composers will comprise the majority of the program, including Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, known as the “Christmas Concerto” and J.S. Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto. Kotcherguina will sing arias from Handel’s Messiah, including “I know that my redeemer liveth” and “Rejoice Greatly.”

She will also sing “The Holy City,” a Victorian-era ballad that was extremely popular and widely performed around the turn of the 20th century, and that has been called “the most pirated piece prior to the internet.” Published under the name Stephen Adams, it was actually the work of English composer and singer Michael Maybrick.

According to legend, the song got a group of drunken prisoners released by a judge, it was mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and via a spiritual titled “Hosanna” its melody found its way into Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy. It continues to be performed, often under the title “Jerusalem.”

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Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
1 and 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4
1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5: “Gentle Nutcracker”
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

Vance Brand Civic Auditorium
Tickets

CU College of Music ensembles
“Holiday Festival 2021”
Featuring College of Music faculty with student choirs, bands and orchestras

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

Macky Auditorium
Tickets

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale and vocal soloists
George Frideric Handel: Messiah

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

Tickets for in-person and live-streamed performance

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor
“Made Merry”

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver
4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, United Church of Christ, Longmont
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Tickets for in-person and streamed performances.

Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
George Frideric Handel: Messiah

7:30 pm. Friday, Dec. 17
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19

Broomfield Auditorium
Tickets

Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
“Candlelight: A Baroque Christmas”

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19, Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont

Tickets

Longmont Symphony embraces nostalgia in Saturday’s concert

Dvořák’s “New World” and Barber’s Knoxville paired for “American Nostalgia”

By Peter Alexander Nov. 12 at 12:03 a.m.

Conductor Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony (LSO) will embrace “American Nostalgia” for their Masterworks Concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 13) at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

The concert will feature one of the most overtly nostalgic works in the orchestral repertoire, Samuel Barber’s warmly reflective Knoxville: Summer of 1915, paired with Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. Tickets for LSO concerts are available here.

All LSO musicians, staff and volunteers have been vaccinated. Audience members eligible for COVID vaccinations must show proof of vaccination or medical exemption to attend the performance, and must wear face masks inside the building.

Elliot Moore

Moore says that he chose the program for Saturday’s concert while reflecting on people’s need to connect to the past in difficult times. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for nostalgia,” he says. “There can be feelings that the world is changing so fast, I’ve never seen this before.

“Somebody said to me recently, all that’s keeping me alive right now is looking back. People need a sort of old Americana and that is certainly what I feel through Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”

Barber’s score is written for voice and orchestra and will be performed by soprano Leberta Lorál with the LSO. The text is taken from the eloquent prologue to James Agee’s autobiographical novel A Death in the Family. The text is suffused with Agee’s wistful childhood memories of his family, or as Barber wrote, “it expresses a child’s feelings of loneliness, wonder and lack of identity in that marginal world between twilight and sleep.”

A home in Knoxville in 1915

But beneath the nostalgic yearning for warm summer nights with the family there is also an undercurrent of foreboding in both text and music. Agee’s prologue takes place shortly before the tragic death of the book’s title, which is briefly referred to in the text and expressed in the music: “God bless my people . . . remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.”

We also know today that World War I was raging in Europe in 1915, and would soon pull Americans into the slaughter. And, Moore reminds us, “one could also say it’s before the Spanish flu”—something we all can relate to today.

Lorál has not sung the Barber before, but says she has loved getting into the score. “I’ve heard it but have never sung it before,” she says. “When I got approached about it, I looked at it and I was hooked on it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is right up my alley! I love this!’”

She likes the nostalgia and the sweetness of the text and music, but she also has a personal feeling for the final part of the text, in which Agee reflects on his innocence and incomplete identity as a child. “After a while, I am taken in and put to bed,” he writes. “Those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home . . . but will not ever tell me who I am.”

Leberta Lorál

“That line has really stuck with me,” Lorál says. “I know why it stuck with me. At birth I was adopted. I had a great relationship with my biological parents, and last month my birth mother passed, and I was there to see her.

“I was OK with whatever happened—that’s all good. So that last line, wow! It stuck with me. I took that and went back to the beginning to pull through the piece, all the way to the end.”

Moore wanted another work that reflects America’s past to go with Knoxville: Summer of 1915. “To tie that in with Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony, so that we can all feel something good—that’s important for a lot of people in today’s world, where we’re all facing so much,” he says.

The “New World” harkens back to what many Americans think of as a happier time in our history. Composed in the U.S. and premiered in Carnegie Hall in December 1893, the symphony is thematically linked with our culture. For example, scholars have shown that it was partly inspired by Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” which Dvořák had read in Czech translation.

While in this country, Dvořák also showed great interest in Negro spirituals, which were sung to him by one of his pupils, Harry T. Burleigh. Burleigh’s singing is likely reflected in the slow movement, with its spiritual-like “Goin’ Home” melody. Dvořák himself believed the symphony expressed something about America, and once said he would never have written it “just so” had he not come here.

Moore finds meaning in both the nostalgia of the program, and in sharing it communally. “People need that,” he says. “That’s an experience not only that we can offer, but that we can offer to people all at the same time.

“People need that kind of shared, uplifting experience that we’ve missed.”

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“American Nostalgia”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Leberta Lorál, soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Tickets

Longmont Symphony visits Stewart Auditorium for concerts Oct. 16 & 17

Reduced orchestra will play works of Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and Jessie Montgomery

By Peter Alexander Oct. 13 at 4 p.m.

Elliot Moore spent the pandemic listening to music. Many of us did, but Moore’s listening wasn’t just a way to pass the lonely hours. As conductor of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO), he was listening to symphonies by Joseph Haydn—not quite all 108 of them, but enough that he found the one that spoke to him.

That symphony—No. 96 in D major, known as “The Miracle”—will anchor the LSO’s next program, a concert for smaller orchestra to be presented in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17. In addition to Haydn’s symphony, the program will feature cellist Matthew Zalkind playing Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, “Starburst” by Jessie Montgomery, and Richard Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Winds. Tickets for the concert can be purchased here

Haydn’s Symphony “just grabbed me,” Moore says. “I listened to countless of Haydn’s symphonies, just getting to know them, getting to know his orchestral world. First of all, I love it. What a creative symphonist! His level of creativity for the genre was astronomical. It blew me away.”

The Symphony No. 96 was given the name “Miracle” on the mistaken belief that it was the work by Haydn that was being played when a chandelier collapsed onto the floor during a concert the composer presented in London in 1791. It was actually another symphony, during a performance in 1795, where the audience dodged the chandelier when they all pressed forward to the edge of the stage. The name “Miracle” has stuck, and so Moore plans to celebrate a miracle of another sort with the performance.

Matthew Zalkind Courtesy photo

“When you’re just getting back to in-person performances—to me, that’s the miracle,” he says.

The other major anchor piece on the program will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, usually known as the Rococo Variations, for solo cello and orchestra. A graceful and lyrical piece, the variations are not really Rococo in style. As Moore explains it, Tchaikovsky “takes the Rococo, the gestalt of it, and puts it in a very Romantic, Russian sort of way.” In other words, there are subtle nods to the highly decorated Rococo style of the 18th century in the theme, but the overall feeling of the piece is pure 19th-century Romanticism.

Zalkind teaches cello at the Lamont School of Music in Denver. A graduate of Juilliard and the University of Michigan, he is co-artistic director of the Denver Chamber Music Festival. He was awarded First Prize in the Washington International Competition, as well as top prizes in the Beijing International Cello Competition and Korea’s Isang Yun Gyeongnam International Competition.  

The concert will open with Montgomery’s “Starburst.” A violinist and composer, Montgomery has found her compositions for string orchestra featured in numerous performances over the past year. Written for a small ensemble, they proved ideal for streamed performances during the pandemic, and they have been popular with both players and audiences1.

“She’s a string player, and she writes for strings very well,” Moore says. “Starburst is something I’m looking forward to, something that’s got high energy [to] open the performance.” 

To balance the program by featuring the SLO’s winds as well as the strings, Moore chose Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments. Written when the composer was just 17, it is one of his earliest works. The score calls for four horns, reflecting the influence of the composer’s father, a noted horn player in the Munich court orchestra. The tuneful and generally lyrical single-movement Serenade also reflects the senior Strauss’ conservative musical tastes, which scarcely went beyond mid-period Beethoven.

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Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Matthew Zalkind, cello

  • Jessie Montgomery: “Starburst”
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
  • Richard Strauss: Serenade for 13 Winds
  • Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 (“The Miracle”)

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
TICKETS

Longmont and Boulder orchestras return to live performances for grateful audiences

Abbreviated concerts featured careful COVID protocols, no intermissions

By Peter Alexander Oct. 3 at 11:30 p.m.

For a short time this past weekend, you could have believed that concert life in Longmont and Boulder had returned to normal.

Of course, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. But both the Longmont Symphony and the Boulder Philharmonic presented their first in-person concerts in nearly two years, and sitting in the audience hearing live music was a welcome return to near-normal.

Longmont Symphony Saturday (Oct. 2) with soloist Hsing-ay Hsu and conductor Elliot Moore in Vance Brand Auditorium

Both concerts—the LSO at Vance Brand Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the Boulder Phil at Mountain View Methodist Church at 4 p.m. Sunday—had restrictions that for now we might consider the “new normal.” In both cases, patrons were met outside by orchestra representatives checking proof of vaccination and ID, masks were required at all times, and seating was limited to less than full capacity of the respective venues. Conductors and orchestral string players wore masks for the performances as well. Both concerts were presented without intermission, so that the audience did not have the chance to mix and mingle. 

Both conductors, Elliot Moore with the LSO and Michael Butterman with the Boulder Phil, commented on how good it felt to be back, and both were greeted with enthusiasm. I would add that both concerts received standing ovations, but that has long since become normal, so it is not really anything new.

The Longmont Symphony began with a rousing performance of Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture. In his introduction, Moore noted that in spite of its name, the overture is not really academic in nature, because it is actually based on student drinking songs of Brahms’s era. As Moore intended, it started the post-pandemic musical scene with infectious energy. 

Brahms was followed by Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major, K414, featuring soloist Hsing-ay Hsu. She introduced the concerto with heartfelt remarks about the opportunity to perform again before an audience, and played with solid confidence and sensitivity. The concert of orchestral repertory standards ended with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. Any minor lapses of intonation or ensemble were easily forgiven for musicians who had not played together for so many months. Shouts of “Bravo” were heard through the standing ovation.

Michael Butterman leads the Boulder Philharmonic in Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 at Mountain View Methodist Church

Butterman chose much less standard works for the Boulder Phil’s return to the stage. Two works by Haydn were featured, none of them among the composer’s better known symphonies or concertos. In fact, the concert started at the very beginning, one could say, with Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 of 1759. A three-movement work of about 12 minutes in length, it has the tunefulness and energy, if not the sophistication, of Haydn’s larger late Symphonies. “If you liked that piece,” Butterman quipped, “there are 100 more like it!” (For the record, current research has identified 108 symphonies by Haydn.)

The symphony was paired with Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante written for London in 1792, a larger and more mature work that features violin, oboe, cello and bassoon soloists with orchestra. The principal players from the orchestra played the solo parts with elan and polish. Using modern instruments, and heard in a church that has only a cement floor due to ongoing renovations, the orchestral sound struck me as a little on the thick side, not as transparent as Haydn would have expected.

Butterman’s final work for the program is one that he particularly loves, the Petite symphonie concertante by the 20th-century Swiss composer Frank Martin. It was a treat to hear this genuine rarity live in concert. It is scored for a double string orchestra with harpsichord, piano and harp soloists, creating an utterly unique sound world. Although written using 12-tone techniques, the music is often consonant, always enjoyable, and unlike any other piece I know. 

Butterman led the orchestra with obvious relish. The size and full-bodied sound of the Phil’s strings was ideal for a 20th-century work. In his analytical introduction to the score, Butterman said that he hoped that the audience would enjoy the Petite symphonie concertante as much as he does. I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, but hearing a committed live performance of an intriguing rarity was the weekend’s highlight for me. 

Like both audiences, I was thrilled to hear live music again, and to be back in the hall with musicians who love what they are doing. More, please!

NOTE: Minor typos and editing errors corrected Monday, 10/4.

Longmont Symphony returns to live in-person performances Saturday

Program of music by Brahms, Mozart and Schumann launches 2021–22 season

By Peter Alexander Sept. 30 at 9:45 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will return to the Vance Brand Auditorium stage for its first live, in-person performance in 20 months at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 2). The program will feature music by three of the most loved classical composers: Brahms, Mozart and Schumann.

Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony onstage at Vance Brand Auditorium

“This is an exceptional opportunity for the musicians of the Longmont Symphony to come together again,” LSO music director Elliot Moore says. “It’s an amazing thing we are able to gather and have a live audience. And it’s another amazing thing that we’re able to have a venue to rehearse in, and to perform in. 

“When you combine all of these elements, I think it’s really going to be a celebration that we are able to continue lifting people up through music.”

Securing Vance Brand Auditorium for the series of rehearsals and full orchestra concerts this year was complicated by several factors. For one, there were shifting COVID protocols that the St. Vrain Valley School District, who control the use of the facility, had to consider. Then there was new staff for both the school district and the LSO working together for the first time to make the schedule work. “I’d like to take my hat off to our new executive director, Catherine Beeson, for the exceptional work she did,” Moore says.

In addition to Saturday’s concert, the LSO will present a second Masterworks Concert during the fall, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, also in Vance Brand Auditorium. In between, there will be a concert for smaller orchestra in Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 17. The fall portion of the season will conclude with “A Baroque Christmas” Sunday, Dec. 19 (see full schedule and programs below).

LSO music director Elliot Moore

Moore wanted to select just the right piece to open the first concert after the pandemic. When he selected Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture he had two thoughts, one whimsical and one serious. “I did happen to think the Academic Festival Overture is really about drinking songs,” he admits, then adds more seriously that “it uses the largest orchestra that Brahms ever used. It gives us the most possibility to use all of our musicians, so that everybody plays together. This (program) is about being together and offering something to our community that is uplifting, engaging, fun, and creates a common experience.”

The overture, written for a German university that gave Brahms an honorary degree, uses a variety of spirited student songs of the time, ending with one that is treated in appropriately academic counterpoint. Whether or not one recognizes the songs, the mood is clearly one of good cheer.

Mozart began his career in Vienna as a piano virtuoso. Consequently, his piano concertos were mostly written for the composer himself to play. A few however were written with an eye to possible sales to the public as well, particularly three that were written in 1782, soon after Mozart had moved to the imperial capital. The Concertos K413, 414 and 415 were written so that they could be performed either with full orchestra or, in private homes with only a string quartet accompaniment. 

In a famous letter to his father, Mozart wrote that the concertos “are a happy medium between too heavy and too light. They are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being insipid. There are parts here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, albeit without knowing why.”

Pianist Hsing-ay Hsu

Soloist for the Mozart concerto will be pianist Hsing-ay Hsu, a Steinway Artist and winner of the William Kapell International Piano Competition, among other awards. A former member of the CU College of Music faculty, Hsu was also director of the Pendulum New Music Series at the college.

The concluding piece on Saturday’s concert will be Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. First completed in 1841, it was revised by the composer ten years later. That later version was published and is the form in which the symphony is usually performed today. However, that version has been criticized as too heavily orchestrated, even though it was preferred by Schumann’s widow Clara. Because Schumann was first of all pianist and not an orchestral player, conductors and others have often revised the scoring of his symphonies, aiming to make them lighter.

Moore admits that he too will make some slight changes. “I do alter a couple of things,” he says. “I change a couple of dynamics. I do it in the spirit of hopefully clarifying the musical discourse, not to put my own stamp on it.”

Moore also notes that while it numbered fourth among Schumann’s symphonies, based on the revised version, it was originally the second to be written. “His first symphony is glorious, (but) this one has darker overtones,” he says. “At the same time, to me, it still ends in joy and exuberance.

“Right now, I’m OK with a symphony that has some darkness in it and takes us into the light.”

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Longmont Symphony Orchestra
Elliot Moore, music director
2021 fall season of concerts

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2
Vance Brand Auditorium

Hsing-ay Hsu, piano

  • Brahms: Academic Festival Overture
  • Mozart: Piano Concerto in A major, K414
  • Schumann: Symphony No. 4

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Matthew Zalkind, cello

  • Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
  • Richard Strauss: Serenade for 13 Winds
  • Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 “The Miracle”

7:30 Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Auditorium

Leberta Lorál, mezzo-soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

Candlelight: A Baroque Christmas
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19
Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont

  • Archangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso Op. 6. No. 8. (“Christmas Concerto”)
  • Gustav Holst: “Christmas Day”
  • J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”
  • Ottorino Respighi: “Adoration of the Magi” from Trittico Botticelliano (Three Botticelli pictures)

Season and individual LSO concert tickets are available through the LSO webpage

Moore and the Longmont Symphony present “A Portrait of Mozart”

Program ranges from one of Mozart’s earliest to one of his last works

By Peter Alexander April 13 at 10:10 p.m.

Elliot Moore says that he needs a little Mozart right now.

“It’s been such a terrible time,” he says of the past year. “Mozart’s music is what I need. This is important to who I am.”

Elliot Moore

As conductor of the Longmont Symphony (LSO), Moore is in a position to fill that need. And we can all benefit when the LSO presents “A Portrait of Mozart,” a concert featuring works from Mozart’s very earliest years until nearly the last work he wrote. The concert stream will be available at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17. You may purchase tickets here.

The program opens with the Overture to La finta semplice, K51, Mozart’s very first opera written when he was 12. That is followed by one of his very last completed works, the Clarinet Concerto, K622, featuring Colorado Symphony principal clarinetist Jason Shafer as soloist.

The program concludes with a symphony that falls between these works, the Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K183. Known as the “Little G-minor Symphony” to distinguish it from Mozart’s late Symphony in G minor, K550, it is the first of Mozart’s symphonies to find a permanent place on orchestral programs.

Moore has wrapped the concert into a larger project to make Mozart better known. In addition to the concert itself, there will be a pre-concert discussion about Mozart’s life on Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 15, that is open to concert ticketholders, and Moore has created a reading list for anyone who wants to go deeper into Mozart’s life. All the details of Moore’s “Mozart Mania” can be found on the LSO Web page

The concert and the project to explore Mozart’s life “is something that I feel is important to who I am,” Moore says. “It’s a way to have some kind of a shared experience that we have not had in over a year, and that’s part of the reason that I had the idea to do this.”

Mozart at age 12

The opera overture “is remarkable for a 12-year old,” Moore says. “I’m not sure it’s much more than that, but I think it’s extraordinary to see some of the first orchestral music a 12-year-old Mozart wrote.”

The overture also provides background to Mozart’s professional life. La finta semplice was written when the boy Mozart was visiting Vienna. His father, Leopold, hoped to have it produced by the court opera, but he made the mistake of overpromoting the work, which annoyed members of the royal family and some of the court musicians. Later the Empress Maria Theresa, who had relatives all over Europe, discouraged her family members from hiring Mozart, describing Leopold and other members of the family as “useless people.”

In other words, this opera, written he was 12, “set the tone for Mozart not being able to get a job” for the rest of his life, Moore says.

Moore chose K183, the “Little G-minor” Symphony, for two reasons. First, it is considered Mozart’s first fully mature symphony, and as such marks a milestone in the composer’s development. 

The other reason is more practical. “I needed to find a work where we could actually fit onstage,” Moore explains. Because Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum is limited in size, the orchestra had to be limited as well. Other symphonies he might have chosen required too many players. “It’s a very tricky balance to put on these kind performances in a pandemic!” Moore says.

Anton Stadler with 18th-century clarinet

Mozart wrote his Clarinet Concerto in October of 1791, a mere two months before his death. It was written for Anton Stadler, a friend of the composer for whom the concerto, the Clarinet Quintet, and obligato clarinet parts in Mozart’s last opera, La clemenza di Tito, were written. When Mozart rushed to Prague for the premiere of the opera in September 1791, Stadler travelled in the same carriage with the composer and his wife, Constanza.

Stadler was clearly a virtuoso player. The concerto is difficult enough to play well on modern instruments; on the clarinets of his day, it would be a supreme challenge.

It was most likely written for a “basset clarinet,” a clarinet with extended range. That was a custom-made instrument that Stadler owned and played. Few players today have a basset clarinet, but the concerto is well known in a version adapted to the standard modern instrument. 

“It’s a phenomenal piece,” Moore says. “There’s something about the second movement—I ask myself, did he know that this was going to be one of the last slow movements he wrote? I don’t know if I’ll ever know the answer, but boy is it great to be onstage making music.”

Moore is delighted not only to be onstage performing Mozart, but also to share Mozart with the audience. “I have been drawn to Mozart since March 2020, because it makes me feel good,” he says. “If we can share that, and delve a little deeper into this man’s life, it will enrich all our lives.

“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”

# # # # #

Jason Shafer

“A Portrait of Mozart”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Jason Shafer, clarinet

Mozart: Overture to La finta semplice, K51 (46a)
Mozart: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, K622
Mozart: Symphony in G minor, K183

Stream available 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17

Tickets available here.

The concert will be preceded by a Pre-Concert Talk on Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 15 that is available to concert ticketholders. For details on this and other activities around the concert, visit the Longmont Symphony Web page

Longmont Symphony announces spring-summer concerts

Performances include guest artists, small orchestra and full symphony

By Peter Alexander Jan. 8, 2021, at 10:10 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony has announced a spring and summer season of six virtual concerts, featuring solo guest artists, small orchestra ensembles, and the full orchestra.

Tickets for the spring–summer season, Jan. 16–Aug. 7, are on sale, both individually and a discounted package for the full season. All performances will be streamed starting at 7 p.m. Saturdays.

Guest artists will be percussionist Cameron Leach, who was engaged for a concert last spring that was cancelled, Jan. 16; duo pianists Yuki and Tomoko Mack, March 20; and cellist Clancy Newman, Aug. 7. Performances by the LSO will a program of music for strings, including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Feb. 27; an all Mozart program for small orchestra, including the Clarinet Concerto performed by Colorado Symphony principal clarinetist Jason Shafer, April 17; and a full orchestra program June 19.

LSO director Eliot Moore

For the audience, it will be good to see a varied series of programs, but you might miss the most significant feature of the season. “There’s something that’s noteworthy [about the season] and it’s not really about the music at all,” LSO music director Elliot Moore says. “It’s this pivot that the LSO had made during the time of COVID, from presenting an orchestra to becoming a presenting organization.”

Moore is referring to the solo guest artists that the orchestra has presented during the fall and will present during the coming spring and summer. “That is a way that we can keep the level the audience has expected from the Longmont Symphony organization,” he says. “We’ve been able to have unbelievable guest artists that are so engaging that people buy tickets.

“The thing that has been amazing is keeping our commitment to excellence during this time. We’ve done it and I’m proud of it.”

Moore admits that he wasn’t sure what the audience response would be to essentially a hybrid season, including both small orchestra performances and solo artists, all of it online. Today, he is thrilled that the response was so enthusiastic. “Our audience gave us way more than we expected,” he says. “We have a following now for these guest artists.”

Percussionist Cameron Leach. Photo by Joshua Jorel Gutierrez

Each of the three guest performances during the spring and summer offers something unique, Moore says. Percussionist Cameron Leach “is phenomenal,” he says. “He commissions pieces from all kinds of composers. And one of the things he’s been investigating during the pandemic has been technology—how can he purchase equipment, making a space in his home where can record and have a product to market.”

Concerning duo pianists Yuki and Tomoko Mack, “my thought was it’s really hard to have two pianos here, onstage with the LSO,” Moore says. “There’s not a venue I know of where we could do that. I was thinking, how do I create a season that we wouldn’t always be able to have?”

Himself a cellist, Moore is especially excited to have Clancy Newman as a guest artist “When he was a freshman at Juilliard he beat out undergrads, graduate, doctoral cellists to win the Juilliard Cello Competition— when he was getting a double degree in cello performance and in English at Columbia,” he says.

Clancy Newman. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

One thing Newman is known for is writing cello pieces based popular music. “He would every month look at the number-one pop song and create a solo cello caprice that’s like wickedly impossible to perform,” Moore explains. “So he’s going to play a couple of his own cello caprices, based on pop songs.”

The three programs played by the LSO were planned to gradually increase the numbers of performers, in the hopes that recovery from the pandemic will parallel the planed programming. “The idea is, let’s stay safe, in terms of where we are currently,” Moore says.

That meant starting with a program where everyone could be masked, which meant an orchestra of only strings [see full programs below]. Following that is a concert with small orchestra, which in this case is all music by Mozart. 

“I have had different ideas about how can I focus on a single composer,” Moore says. “This portrait of Mozart is a good way to pave the path, whether it would be a festival where our community can delve deeper into the works of a specific composer, really get into what was going on in the composer’s lifetime. That’s been on my mind for several years.”

The last of the LSO’s performances will be a program for full orchestra, to be recorded outside and presented in June. “This is the first time we’ve had a summer season, so that’s a new aspect for the Longmont Symphony,” Moore says. 

“That will be our first time as an orchestra to get back into rehearsing and performing together. So that really is one of the big points of this season.”

# # # # #

LSO 2021 Spring and Summer

7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021
Cameron Leach, percussion: solo concert

7p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 -Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Grieg: Holberg Suite
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
Vivaldi: Four Seasons

Yuki and Tomoko Mack

7 p.m. Saturday, March 20, 2021
Yuki and Tomoko Mack, duo pianists

7 p.m. Saturday, April 17, 2021 –A Portrait of Mozart
Overture to La finta semplice, K.51 (46a)
Concerto for clarinet and orchestra, Jason Shafer, soloist
Symphony No. 25

7 p.m. Saturday, June 19, 2021 –Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony
Borodin: Polovtsian Dances
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 (“Reformation”)

7 p.m. Saturday, Aug 7, 2021
Clancy Newman, cello: solo concert 

Individual and season tickets

NB: Minor typos corrected 1/9

HOLIDAY CONCERTS TO STREAM AT HOME

Celebrate the holidays virtually this year with local festive concerts.

By Izzy Fincher and Peter Alexander December 3 at 10:45 a.m.

Relax with a hot cocoa, a warm blanket and your favorite holiday tunes, all from the comfort of your own home.

This year, holiday music on Boulder’s classical scene will not be the same without the decked-out concert halls and communal holiday spirit. However, the holiday celebrations will continue virtually in Boulder with CU-Boulder’s Holiday Fest and festive concerts from Pro Musica, the Boulder Phil and the Longmont Symphony. 

Holiday Festival 2020 Dec. 4

The 2013 Holiday Concert in Macky Auditorium. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

This year CU-Boulder’s Holiday Festival won’t be the usual grand event at Macky, where the auditorium is filled with students, faculty, family and other fans. Instead, 2020’s scaled-down online broadcast of the Holiday Fest will have pre-recorded performances of seasonal favorites and traditional selections from the fall semester. The holiday spirit of a festive Macky continues on from the comfort of home.

“Holiday Festival 2020”
CU-Boulder College of Music students and faculty
Available from 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4
Tickets

“Holiday Moods” Dec. 5 and 6

Under the direction of Cynthia Katsarelis, Pro Musica will present “Holiday Moods,” featuring both traditional and diverse holiday tunes. Earlier this year, Katsarelis planned to collaborate with the Boulder Chorale to perform Handel’s Messiah, but due to COVID-19 restrictions she decided on an all-strings program instead. 

Yumi Hwang-Williams

The program will feature soloist Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony. The two performances of “Holiday Moods” with a limited in-person audience at the Broomfield Auditorium and First United Methodist Church have been canceled and moved to an online broadcast, available for up to 48 hours after the concert times, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.

“Holiday Moods” continues Pro Musica’s season theme of diversity and healing. The program opens with Novellette No. 1 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Black composer and conductor active in England in the early 20th century. The rest of the program is composed of traditional repertoire, to offer healing and comfort to listeners, according to Katsarelis.

The second work is Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, which was composed for Christmas night (Fatto per la notte di Natale) in 1690, likely for Corelli’s patron, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, in Rome. Next, Hwang-Williams takes center stage for “Fall” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, another Baroque classic. To end the program, Pro Musica will play Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings, one of the composer’s most popular orchestral works.

“Holiday Moods”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violinist
Available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6
Tickets

“Happy Holidays from the Phil” Dec. 13

Michael Butterman rehearsing in the Brungard Aviation hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport

With conductor Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s brass and percussion sections will present a selection of carols and other holiday tunes. Like the rest of the Boulder Phil’s fall 2020 season, this concert was recorded in a hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport, on a tight 48-hour rehearsal and recording schedule. 

The wide-ranging program is a mix of holiday favorites, including “Carol of the Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (mashed up with the French carol “Patapan”). The program also features lesser-known carols, including “Wassail Song” and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”; modern holiday music, Dan Forrest’s “Jubilate Deo”; and a Hanukkah observation, “A Celebration of Hanukkah.”

“Happy Holidays from the Phil”
Boulder Philharmonic Brass and Percussion, Michael Butterman, conductor
Available from 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 27
No tickets required; contributions welcomed

Vocal Concert will substitute for Messiah Dec. 13

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will present a Holiday Concert Sunday, Dec. 13—but not the one they had originally planned. 

The LSO previously announced pared-down selections from Handel’s Messiah with four soloists but no chorus as their seasonal offering. That performance was to have been recorded in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium and streamed starting at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13.

With the recent announcement that Boulder County has reached COVID Dial “Red Level: Severe Risk,” Stewart Auditorium became unavailable, and no other acceptable venue for the recording was found.An announcement from the LSO states, “The restrictions made it difficult to find a venue and to safely film the performance with our musicians.”

Consequently, the LSO reluctantly decided Tuesday (Dec. 1) to cancel the performance. Instead, the LSO will present a Holiday Concert featuring pianist Spencer Myer and baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco, from their home in New York City. The performance will include classical song selections by Handel and Schubert, as well as holiday favorites.

Their performance will be streamed at the same time as was announced for Messiah—4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Season tickets for the LSO fall 2020 season and tickets purchased separately for Messiah will be honored for the Myer/Diaz-Moresco concert. For more information, see the LSO Web page

“Holiday Concert, New York—Longmont”
Spencer Myer, piano, and Mario Diaz-Moresco, baritone
Available from 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13
Tickets

Longmont Symphony opens virtual fall season Sunday

Concert will introduce new concertmaster and associate concertmaster

By Peter Alexander Oct. 8 at 1:05 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony opens its fall 2020 half season of online concerts, “(Re)Sounding,” Sunday, Oct. 11. Music director Elliot Moore will conduct a program of music for strings, featuring Bach’s popular Concerto in D minor for two violins and orchestra —widely known as the “Bach Double Concerto.”

The soloists will be orchestra’s new concertmaster and associate concertmaster, Benjamin Ehrmentraut and Kina Ono. Other works on the program are three string serenades by Mozart, written when the composer was 16.

Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony Orchestra

Because of limitations imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, Moore says, “I decided to pick music that I felt could be rehearsed and performed in one day. To this end, I’ve picked some of my favorite Mozart divertimenti that I listened to during quarantine. They’re also called his Salzburg symphonies.

“I wanted to also feature our new concertmaster and associate concertmaster as soloists. So they will be performing the Bach Double Violin Concerto.”

The concert will be recorded in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium for later broadcast on the LSO’s YouTube channel and on Longmont’s Public Media (LPM) channel. The recording will be engineered by LPM. The premiere broadcast of the first concert will be shown at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, and will be available for a period of time afterwards.

Benjamin Ehrmantraut

Ehrmantraut, a native of Bismarck, N.D., began musical studies at age 9. He received a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and a master’s degree from CU, Boulder, studying with violinist Károly Schranz, who played second violin tin the Takács Quartet for 43 years. Before moving to Colorado, Ehrmantraut played with the Fargo/Moorhead and Bismarck/Mandan symphony orchestras. 

He currently plays with the Boulder Symphony. Chamber music is another part of his career, including performing in at Dakota Chamber Music in North Dakota, in Vermont at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and in Texas at the Round Top Festival Institute.

Kin Ono

Ono has played in professional orchestras in and near her home state of Minnesota. Since moving to Colorado, she has joined the Boulder Philharmonic, Boulder Symphony and the Cheyenne Symphony. In Minnesota she has performed at the Ordway Music Theater and Concert Hall, Orpheum Theater, Target Center, and Xcel Energy Center, and placed first in the 2016 Schubert Club Competition. She is currently a master’s of student at CU, Boulder. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, where she studied with Sally O’Reilly.

# # # # #

Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Benjamin Ehrmantraut and Kina Ono, violins
4 p.m. Sunday, Oc. 11—online only

J.S. Bach: Concerto in D minor for two violins and orchestra, S1043 (“Double Violin Concerto”)
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K136 (“Salzburg Symphony No. 1”)
Divertimento in B-flat major, K137 (“Salzburg Symphony No. 2”)
Divertimento in F major, K138 (“Salzburg Symphony No. 3”)

Other concerts of the fall 2020 half season

“Los Angeles to Longmont”
Caroline Campbell, violin
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

“Seattle to Longmont”
Nathan Lee, piano
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25

Handel’s Messiah, Solo Sections
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With four vocal soloists to be named later
Handel: Messiah solo pieces
“Hallelujah” Chorus
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13

Half-season subscriptions and access to individual concert streams may be purchased here

Longmont Symphony’s virtual fall season celebrates orchestra’s return

“(Re)Sounding! 2020 Reimagined” opens Oct. 11 with Bach and Mozart

By Peter Alexander Sept. 29 at 12:45 p.m.

Elliot Moore is more than ready to get back to work.

The conductor of the Longmont Symphony designed the orchestra’s fall season to celebrate playing together again after COVID forced the suspension of the last season in April. “It’s been a very long pause for us,” he says. “It’s been a very long pause for every single orchestra across the country, across the world really, and we wanted to have a celebration that our sounds continue.”

Longmont Symphony conductor Elliot Moore

In that spirit, the LSO is calling the fall half-season “(Re)Sounding: 2020 Reimagined.” There will be two concerts featuring a small orchestra—cut down to observe safe distancing—and two programs featuring guest artists.

The orchestra was on the brink of canceling the rest of 2020, but “I kept thinking about how we could do (a fall season),” Moore says. “There’s so many constraints now, so the idea that I had was to have bookends that are the orchestra—but it has to be obviously a very small orchestra. That already is a large constraint.

Violinist Caroline Campbell

“And in the middle of our fall season, I wanted to showcase soloists that would enhance the season, and who even though they’re in their homes and not in Longmont, would still be a draw for our audience. To that end I picked an incredible violinist named Caroline Campbell, who is the go-to violinist for many artists including Barbara Streisand and Andrea Bocelli. She has had videos on YouTube with 34 million views.”

For the other guest artist, Moore selected pianist Nathan Lee, who won the Young Concert Artists International Audition at 15. Still in his teens, he is a musical ambassador to younger audiences. “He is just a beautifully thoughtful, poetic musician and pianist,” Moore says. “I thought not only would he be a draw for our patrons, but also that may be a way to get him virtually in the schools to talk with students.”

Following each solo performance, there will be a live Q&A session with the guest artist, speaking from their home, with Moore serving as moderator from Longmont.

Pianist Nathan Lee. Photo by Chris Lee.

Both LSO performances will be recorded in the Longmont Museum in advance of the online broadcast. The orchestra will play music by Bach on Mozart on Sunday, Oct. 11, including Bach’s Concerto for two violins, featuring the LSO’s new concertmaster and associate concertmaster, Benjamin Ehrmantraut and Kina Ono. The opposite bookend, Sunday, Dec. 13, will be a holiday program with music from Handel’s Messiah with four solo singers performing solo pieces, and joining together for the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

“I think that it’s imperative that we give [the audience] not only a good sound quality, but also a good visual quality,” Moore says. Having worked on streamed performances by the Detroit Symphony, he is working with the cameramen in planning the streams. “We’re talking about different shots, different camera angles and even more than that,” he says. 

“I’m also speaking with someone who’s going to be our host, so we can have a curated experience. These are all new things for us, but I have full confidence in the staff of the Longmont Symphony, and with our collaborators from Longmont Public Media, who are working so beautifully with us to bring all of this to life.”

Both individual concert and fall season virtual tickets are available from the LSO Web page. Each virtual ticket allows the holder to view the performance at their convenience, starting at the listed performance times. Each performance will be available for a period of time after the premiere.

# # # # #

(Re)Sounding: 2020 Reimagined
Longmont Symphony
(Streamed performances; admission through the LSO Web page)

Bach “Double” and Mozart “Salzburg symphonies”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Benjamin Ehrmantraut and Kina Ono, violins

J.S. Bach: Concerto for two violins and orchestra, BWV1043
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K136
Divertimento in B-flat major, K137
Divertimento in F major, K138

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11

“Los Angeles to Longmont”
Caroline Campbell, violin
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

“Seattle to Longmont”
Nathan Lee, piano
Program tba
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25

Handel’s Messiah, Solo Sections
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With four vocal soloists to be named later

Handel: Messiah solo pieces
“Hallelujah” Chorus

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13