Boulder Phil in D.C., episode II

“A great sense of pride in representing our hometown”—Michael Butterman

By Peter Alexander

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Boulder Philharmonic warming up on the Kennedy Center stage (March 28)

Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Philharmonic, reported his thoughts late last night (March 28), after the orchestra’s concert in the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C, where they were playing as part of the inaugural Shift Festival of American Orchestras.

“It was a peak experience for me, and, I think, for all of us at the Phil,” he wrote. “I have conducted quite a number of concerts on that stage, but to be there with our orchestra, with that crowd and with that repertoire—it was something I shall never forget.

“More than anything, we had a great sense of pride in representing our hometown.  The audience seemed to absolutely love every piece, and got a real taste of how deeply we value the natural world.”

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Michael Butterman (r) performs in front of the Jefferson Memorial with violinist Jennifer Carsillo (l) (March 29)

Butterman and others who attended the concert have reported that the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, with a capacity of 2,155, was full last night, and that the audience response was more than enthusiastic. “There was incredible energy from the crowd,” Butterman wrote.

“It felt like a pep rally. The orchestra sounded like a million bucks—they were in top form and clearly gave it their all in terms of concentration and focus.”

In a Facebook posting, Boulder Phil executive director Kevin Shuck wrote, “No words. Boulder Phil and [Boulder’s] Frequent Flyers bring down the (PACKED) house at the Kennedy Center!”

Today (March 29), small ensembles from the Boulder Phil performed “pop-up concerts” at various locations around Washington’s Tidal Basin.

On Monday (March 27), Boulder Open Spaces and Mountain Parks naturalist Dave Sutherland led guided musical hikes in Rock Creek Park, similar to the musical hikes he has presented in connection with Boulder Phil concerts in recent seasons.

 

Boulder Phil at the Kennedy Center

“An amazing evening”—Holly Hickman

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra played tonight (March 28) in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, as part of the very first Shift Festival of American Orchestras.

The program was the same one they played in Boulder March 25.

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Shift Festival banner in Washington, D.C.

“It was really an amazing evening,” reports Holly Hickman, a longtime arts supporter in Boulder who accompanied the orchestra on their trip to D.C. Hickman is the founder of Up Tempo Marketing, specializing in “spirited marketing for music organizations,” and serves as marketing consultant to the Boulder Phil.

She sent several pictures of the evening.

“The audience loved the concert,” she wrote after the performance. “The orchestra sounded great. We came across as a high-energy, non-stuffy orchestra.”

Further reports from composer Stephen Lias and others with the Boulder Philharmonic will appear here as soon as I hear from them.

“Nature and Music”: one of Boulder Phil’s best performances

Green bandanas waving, the orchestra departs for Washington, D.C.

By Peter Alexander

The concert opened with the swirling, magical sounds of a new score from Stephen Lias, and ended with the players waving green bandanas in the air.

Last night (March 25), the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman presented “Nature and Music,” the same program they will perform Tuesday, March 28, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in the nation’s capital as part of the first Shift Festival for American Orchestras.

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Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic

The Boulder Phil is one of only four orchestras invited to the festival, and the only regional orchestra. As reported earlier in Boulder Weekly, their application to the festival, based on the orchestra’s programming, community outreach, and collaborative performances, was considered by the festival panel to be the “gold standard” of what they were looking for.

To represent the Boulder Phil’s recent emphasis on music written to celebrate nature, their program for the festival featured a new orchestral score commissioned from Lias as part of the National Endowment of the Arts’ “Imagine Your Parks” initiative, celebrating the 2016 centennial of the National Parks Service. Titled All the Songs that Nature Sings, it was inspired by Rocky Mountain National Park.

Other works on the program were drawn from previous concert programs: Jeff Midkiff’s Mandolin Concerto, with Midkiff as soloist; Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig; and Copland’s Appalachian Spring, performed with choreography by Boulder’s Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance company.

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Stephen Lias in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lias took his title from the writings of Enos Mills, “The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” Accompanied by slides of the park selected by Lias, the music suggests a cinematic view of the park’s high country, starting with streams and lakes, culminating with rocky crags and ridges, and ending with mountain wildflowers.

Lias has written a thoroughly engaging piece. The almost impressionistic haze of sound of the opening measures pulls the listener into a world of nature at its most lovely and benign. As the music swells, lyrical melodies and powerful chordal passages are enlivened by rippling lines and repeated chords, forming a musical metaphor for scenes in nature that are always in motion: water rippling, leaves fluttering, light flickering.

The score reaches a rugged climax with stark brass chords, accompanied by views of the park’s most impressive peaks. It then ends gently, with a tender violin solo that was ably played by the Phil’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee.

Butterman and the Boulder Phil had the music well under control from the beginning to the end. As played last night, the cinematic sweep of the score created a clear outline. This is a thoroughly successful piece that should find appreciative audiences wherever it is performed.

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Jeff Midkiff

Midkff’s Mandolin Concerto, subtitled From the Blue Ridge, is a mix of classical idioms with folk and bluegrass, all of it sounding comfortably American. The lightening lines of the first movement do not have much to suggest music from the Blue Ridge Mountains, other than the folksy sound of the mandolin. The second movement recalls Copland ‘s Americana, filled with a nostalgic sweetness. The finale settles into a jazzy bluegrass groove that fits the mandolin and its natural idioms perfectly.

From the rapid fire opening, to the plaintive slow movement, to the down-home finale, Midkiff was on top of every mood, and his final virtuoso flourish brought the audience to their feet. He rewarded the cheering crowd with his own arrangement of “Monroe’s Hornpipe” by the great bluegrass mandolinist/songwriter Bill Monroe.

It does no dishonor to Heitzig’s Ghosts of the Grassland to say that it has the emotional immediacy of a good film score. It is easy to imagine the dramatic gestures and mood changes representing—what exactly? The dramatic weather of the American prairie, or a primordial scene of bison and prairie grass (both represented in the percussion section)?

But everyone has their own imagination. Once again the Boulder Phil conveyed the musical drama well, and piping squeals notwithstanding, I believe that no prairie dogs were harmed in the performance.

Originally written as a ballet, Copland’s Appalachian Spring is obviously suited to various forms of interpretation, of which Frequent Flyer’s aerial dance represents one of the more original. As realized by Nancy Smith, the choreography has some magical moments that are almost ritualistic in effect, especially the beginning and the end.

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Frequent Flyers with the Boulder Philharmonic

In between, the dancers, for all their impressive strength and grace, did not always avoid an element of spectacle. What they do is so obviously difficult, so unimaginable to most in the audience, that it becomes hard to translate admiration for the athleticism of the performance into appreciation for its artistry. Nonetheless, their Appalachian Spring is a remarkable achievement.

As impressive as Frequent Flyers were, it would be a mistake to overlook the orchestra. Clearly primed for the festival, they presented just about the finest standard work I have heard them perform. You may hear more splashy performances, but Butterman’s restrained approach is more in keeping with Copland’s original conception, and it brings out all of the score’s considerable tenderness.

This is a very attractive program, and one that fits the orchestra’s strengths. Word is that the Boulder Phil is outselling the other orchestras in the festival, and they stand to make a very solid impression.

As for the green bandanas: The Shift Festival sent bandanas to every orchestra—”because we like bandanas,” Butterman said, sounding bemused. And so as the audience stood and cheered its well wishes to the orchestra for their trip to Washington, the players stood and waved their bandanas in response.

Maybe that’s what they were for: I could not imagine a more cheerful bon voyage than 80 green bandanas waving from the Macky stage. I join all of Boulder in wishing them a safe trip and a great reception at the Shift Festival.

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Shift Festival of American Orchestras

Nature & Music
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, music director

All the Songs that Nature Sings by Stephen Lias (world premiere)
Mandolin Concerto, From the Blue Ridge by Jeff Midkiff
Jeff Midkiff, mandolin
Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig
Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland
With Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance
Nancy Smith, choreographer

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John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art, Washington, D.C.

8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, D.C.
Tickets: 202-467-4600

 

The gold standard

Boulder Phil previews its Kennedy Center performance

By Peter Alexander

Creative programming, extensive community engagement and thoughtful collaborations have paid off for the Boulder Philharmonic.

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Boulder Phil with Frequent Flyers. Photo by Glenn Ross.

The big reward comes this week. Their next concert, Saturday, March 25, will be repeated Tuesday, March 28, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where they will be recognized as one of four orchestras, and the only regional orchestra, chosen for the inaugural Shift Festival of American Orchestras. 

The program for the two concerts reflects several of the Boulder Phil’s recent initiatives, particularly the theme of “Nature and Music” that has informed several recent seasons and the collaboration with other local arts organizations. The program opens with the premiere of a new work by Stephen Lias, All the Songs that Nature Sings, commissioned as part of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) “Imagine Your Parks” initiative and specifically celebrating Rocky Mountain National Park.

Other works on the program represent what Butterman calls “greatest hits of the last five years.” Jeff Midkin’s Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge” and Steve Heitzig’s Ghosts of the Grasslands were both introduced to Boulder audiences in the spring of 2014 and were highly successful with audiences. And the final work on the concert will reprise one of the orchestra’s most creative collaborations: their 2013 partnering with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance for Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

The combination of the Shift Festival and the “Imagine Your Parks” commission seemed tailor-made for the Boulder Phil. In fact, the Boulder Phil’s Executive Director Kevin Shuck says, “we had what in the words of the festival’s selection panel members was ‘the gold standard’ of what they were looking for.”

The festival will certainly put a national spotlight on the Boulder Phil, but the same activities that were the basis of the festival application have paid off locally as well. The programming of the past few years, community outreach, collaborations with Frequent Flyers and other arts groups, and educational programs have all helped build local audiences. Since 2009, overall ticket sales for the orchestra have risen 67 percent and subscription sales 44 percent. And Saturday’s concert is on track to be a sellout.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Nature & Music
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, music director

All the Songs that Nature Sings by Stephen Lias (world premiere)
Mandolin Concert, From the Blue Ridge by Jeff Midkin
Jeff Midkin, mandolin
Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig
Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland
With Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

2 p.m. Saturday, March 25
Free concert for community organizations

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Macky Auditorium
Tickets: 303-449-1343

8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, D.C.
Tickets: 202-467-4600

Composers go into the wild and come home transformed

By Peter Alexander

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Composers in the Wilderness, Denali National Park and Preserve

There is a wildness in the natural world that most of us never meet. But when we do, we are likely to be transformed.

“I definitely feel changed as a person,” Alondra Vega says after brushing against the Alaskan wilderness. “The experience almost seems like it was too extraordinary to have happened,” Cassie To writes.

13690752_594538287385367_7602763590110916242_nFor Sam Young, an ex-Boulderite living in Los Angeles, touching the wild was an epiphany: “Whenever I come to a place like this, I re-evaluate my entire life and think, ‘Is it all wrong, what I’m doing?’”

Vega, To and Young were three of nine participants in “Composing in the Wilderness,” a workshop led by composer Stephen Lias in Alaska this past summer. The goal of the workshop, Lias says, is to give composers the transformative experience that comes from stepping into the natural world.

“Going into the backcountry of Alaska, I know the experience will change people,” he says. “I wouldn’t presume to guess in what way, but the art that they create will be a manifestation of whatever the change was.

“My favorite thing is putting these composers in that environment and just watching Alaska do its thing on them.”

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Composer Stephen Lias

Lias is known to Boulder audiences for his orchestral piece Gates of the Arctic, premiered by the Boulder Philharmonic in 2014 — a product of Alaska doing its thing on him. He will be back this year, when his All the Songs that Nature Sings will be premiered by the orchestra and conductor Michael Butterman March 25, 2017, and subsequently performed by them at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., March 28.

Working in cooperation with Alaska Geographic, the National Park Service and the Fairbanks Arts Festival, Lias has presented the workshop every year since 2012. It is designed as both an outdoors and an artistic adventure. The composers gather in Denali National Park, where they hike and explore the backcountry. They learn about the wilderness environment from rangers and naturalists.

After Denali, the composers transfer to the remote Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, where they have four days to compose a new piece inspired by their experiences. Written for performers from the Fairbanks Arts Festival, the pieces are all trios or quartets, but adding to the musical adventure, the composers don’t know in advance what instruments they will write for.

The pieces have to be fairly short and simple, because they have to be written quickly and learned even more quickly by the performers. That forms the third and final segment of the workshop: in just a few days the completed pieces are rehearsed and performed, first in Denali National Park, and then as part of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.

The workshop takes nine participants on a first-come, first-served basis. This year there were five women and four men, ranging in age from early 20s to AARP-eligible. They came from all over: two from Australia, one from New Zealand by way of New York, one from Cuba by way of Canada, the rest from around the U.S.

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The author in Alaska with sons Michael (l) and Ivan (r): Kenai Fjords National Park

As it happens, I had my own Alaskan adventure this summer, driving, hiking and flightseeing in the state with my two oldest sons. I timed my trip to hear this year’s workshop concert, “Sounds of Nature: Alaska Premieres,” July 26 at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. I saw glaciers larger than counties, and stretches of boreal forest larger than several states. And like the composers in the workshop, the vast land profoundly moved me.

When you face such an overwhelming immensity of nature, full of life but devoid of visible human presence, it’s hard not to be affected.

. . . . .

We are often told that nature is cruel, but that is not really true. Nature understands neither kindness nor cruelty; it is indifferent. That is the great lesson of the wilderness, as I was reminded in Anaktuvuk Pass and the composers, well cared for as they were, encountered in Denali: When we leave our well insulated lives to venture into the real world of nature, we have to be prepared to take responsibility for ourselves.

13718714_594543404051522_4074485623699253369_nWashington, very much a city-dweller from New York, had an experience that captures just what Lias hopes the composers will discover in their brush with nature. “We hiked up this high mountain pass and we were given space to go out on our own and just sit quietly and reflect,” she recalls. “I felt like an intruder in some ways — like my breathing was too loud.

“A moth came and landed on my hand, and I didn’t want to move because I was interrupting its space. It was really peaceful, and really real because everything has been undisturbed for so long. Being able to trespass there for a couple of days has been really calming.”

13718623_594538980718631_7012257335267384579_nOf all the participants, David John Lang may have captured the power of wilderness most eloquently. After returning to his home, in Adelaide, South Australia, he writes: “I took my journal, in which I often write letters to God, but I was surprised at how little I wrote while I was in Alaska. It was like I was too busy being a listener for once, hearing and seeing and loving God’s creation.

“I felt really, really small, and it was awesome.”

Read the entire article in Boulder Weekly.

Nine intriguing premieres in Fairbanks

Stephen Lias’s Composing in the Wilderness Workshop at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival

By Peter Alexander

The Fairbanks (Alaska) Summer Arts Festival presented an intriguing concert of nine new works by nine composers last Tuesday (July 26) in Davis Concert Hall on the University of Alaska campus.

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Davis Concert Hall at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, site of the Composing in the Wilderness concert at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Photo by Peter Alexander.

The concert was the culmination of Composing in the Wilderness, a workshop led with great success by composer Stephen Lias. Lias is known to Boulder audiences: The Boulder Philharmonic opened their 2014–15 season with the world premiere of his Gates of the Arctic, inspired by the National Park in northern Alaska, and Lias has been commissioned to write a new work for the orchestra to play next year at the Kennedy Center in Washington. That work, All the Songs that Nature Sings, will be premiered by conductor Michael Butterman and the Boulder Phil March 25 and then performed at the Shift Festival in Washington March 28.

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Composer Stephen Lias. Photo by Peter Alexander

The nine works on the July 26 program were all written under the same conditions: after spending several days getting oriented to Alaska and the wilderness at Denali National Park and Preserve, the composers travel to a remote area in the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve, where they have four days to write a new work inspired by their experiences in Alaska.

The works were written for and premiered by members of Corvus, ensemble in residence at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. The limited instrumentation of Corvus—Katie Cox, flute; Andie Springer, violin; Kate Sheeran, horn; and Owen Weaver, percussion—and the short working time imposed both a disciplined economy and a certain similarity of sound to all nine pieces. Nevertheless, the composers all found a way to express their own musical personalities in their necessarily short works, as well as the individual sources of inspiration they found in the wilderness settings.

Little Cosmos for flute, horn and percussion by Cassie To was the composer’s response to what she called “the amazing world of lichens” that she had discovered during the workshop. Opening with noble tones from the horn and pointillistic comments from the flute, the score features wide-ranging themes that effectively evoke both the openness of large spaces and the delicacy of tiny plants. This is a well crafted, carefully shaped piece of music.

Teklanika Twilight by David John Lang calls for the same ensemble. The composer acknowledged two sources of inspiration: the “constant sound track” provided by the Teklanika River, and the perpetual twilight of the midsummer Arctic. Steady rhythms in the melodic instruments suggested the steady flow of the river, while the percussionist added sleigh bells and other subtle sounds for the tinkling of the water over rocks. It all led to a delightful ending.

Out There for violin, flute and percussion by Dylan Labrande was inspired by the mysteries of the world “out there,” beyond the window in the composer’s cabin at Yukon Charley Rivers. The music left it to the listeners to decide what was “out there.” Was there a hint of threat in the building percussion sounds, some danger behind the implacable beauty of the scene? Whatever you hear, the score clearly implies a depth beyond what you can sense on the surface.

Over the High One for violin, flute and percussion by Alondra Vega-Zaldivar describes the rising of the sun over the highest mountain in North America. “I came to Alaska and I found magic,” the composer said in her introduction. For Vega, Denali is a pretty jazzy mountain. Her score puts the percussionist through his paces, occasionally overwhelming the comparatively softer melody instruments.

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Composers in the 2016 Composing in the Wilderness workshop: Shelley Washington and Cassie To (seated); Elizabeth Start, Paul Safar, Sam Young, Alondra Vega-Zaldivar, Dylan Librande, David John Lang and Gemma Peacocke (standing, l-r). Photo by Peter Alexander.

. . And Water Connects . . . for violin, horn and percussion by Elizabeth Start begins haltingly, as if musical phrases are trying to come together, with a melody first emerging from the horn. Perhaps these are trickling streams that eventually build into a flood as the piece reaches its strong conclusion. Most unfortunately, the intended recordings of water sounds failed to play, leaving an incomplete impression of the composer’s intention. After the performance Start gamely observed that the score was intended to be effective with or without the electronics, but her piece still awaits its full premiere.

Refugium for flute, violin and percussion by Paul Safar is a playful piece that combines music with a text spoken by the players that was written by the composer. The phrase “step by step” becomes a repeated rhythm that invites in the percussion, then the flute, and last of all the violin. The score captures the idea of a journey, or stroll with different views and incidents—the mountains, a stream, flowers, a scampering ground squirrel—that form a pleasurable mosaic of at least the sunnier side of the Alaskan wilderness.

Polychrome for the full quartet of flute, horn, violin and percussion by Gemma Peacocke was inspired by a specific viewpoint within the Denali National Park, overlooking a scene of disparate colors spread across the valley and mountains. Lacking overt melody, the music moves slowly through a spectrum of instrumental sounds, like slowly shifting light across the broad Polychrome vista. This was one of the most original and engaging pieces on the program, inviting the listener to hear beyond the surface colors.

Thorofare Ridge for violin, flute and horn by Sam Young reflects the composer’s observation that during the brief but intense Arctic summer, “all living things go into overdrive.” This is a thoroughly engaging piece, with melodic bits that capture the ear supported by quirky rhythms and accompanying elements. The music has a definite outdoorsy feel that suggests not only a pleasant day in the mountains, climbing Denali National Park’s alpine Thorofare Ridge, but also the sourdough history of Alaska.

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The Great Hall, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Photo by Peter Alexander

Their Name is Yours for the full quartet by Shelley Washington made a strong conclusion for the program. Washington combined her experiences in Alaska with the idea of personal stories that form us all. “Tell us a story,” the players sing, sometimes singly and sometimes as a quartet, adding an additional musical challenge to the score. It is a very lively piece, with fiddling that suggests what kind of story this might be. At points there are slightly wild, slightly mysterious qualities to the composer’s story, suggesting something fundamental, something rooted in American soil.

Two further things need to be added to this report. One can assume that the composers did not bring their own individual cheering sections with them to Alaska, so the hoops and cheers after each piece indicate the kind of support that the Summer Arts Festival, and these new pieces created in Alaska receive in Fairbanks.

And one can not say enough about the players of Corvus. With even less time than the composers had to write them, they had to master nine completely new pieces for their premieres. They played—and sang—exceptionally through the program. How fortunate the composers, and Stephen Lias’s ongoing workshop program, are to have such support in their performers. Bravo to all!

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NOTE: A longer report on the Composing in the Wilderness workshop, with interviews with the participants, will appear later this month in Boulder Weekly.

Composer Stephen Lias reveals his plan for a new piece for Boulder Phil

Rocky Mountain N.P. provides the inspiration for All the Songs that Nature Sings

By Peter Alexander

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Stephen Lias on the porch of the William Allen White Cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photos by Peter Alexander.

Composer Stephen Lias sits on the porch of the William Allen White Cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park and looks over the Moraine Park meadow.

“It feels right to me to have formed this plan, based on words by Enos Mills, read from a book in this cabin, looking at this scenery,” he says. “Everything about its connectedness to this place feels just right.”

The plan he is referring to is for a new piece that he has been commissioned to write for the Boulder Philharmonic. It will be premiered by the Boulder Phil and conductor Michael Butterman at their subscription concert March 25, 2017, and subsequently performed by them at the SHIFT Festival in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, March 28.

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The view from the cabin: Lias in front of the Moraine Park meadow

Lias has just spent nearly two weeks in the cabin, which is reserved by the park for artists in residence. Although he was not technically an artist in residence this year, as he was in 2010, the cabin was unoccupied for a few days in early June, and the park invited Lias to stay there while preparing his piece for the Boulder Philharmonic.

Known as an adventurer/composer, Lias has written a number of pieces portraying his experiences in national parks. In 2014, the Boulder Phil opened their season with his Gates of the Arctic, conceived during a National Parks Residency in Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park. It was performed with synchronized images from the park, as will be the piece to be premiered in March.

The Boulder Phil won a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support their participation in the 2017 SHIFT Festival. They chose Lias for the commission because the theme of their participation in the festival is the orchestra’s ongoing celebration of music and nature.

The title of Lias’s new piece will be All the Songs that Nature Sings, which comes from a book by Enos Mills, The Rocky Mountain National Park, that Lias found on the shelves of the William Allen White Cabin. Sometimes called “The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park,” Mills was a naturalist and nature writer in the early years of the 20th century who championed the establishment of the park.

The title “is a beautiful quote in Mills’s book,” Lias says. “He’s talking about how the trails take us to all of these amazing places and scenes and wildlife and it has at its heart ‘all the songs that nature sings.’”

Lias has only written a few musical ideas at this point, but he has formed an overall design for the piece in his mind. Based on visual images taken in the park, the plan is virtually cinematic in nature. “Imagine a camera starting with something small and intimate in nature and then slowly zooming outward, bit by bit until you can see a rock, and then a bush, and then a tree, and then a river, and then a waterfall, and then a mountain, and then a range of mountains,” he explains.

“When we can see this amazing place, the range of mountains that sits here in this park, that will be the climax of the piece, and then it will start panning back in again, zooming slowly, slowly, slowly until we end the piece with another intimate shot of some very small thing. So it’s going to be a slow growth outward, and then a slow growth back inward.”

That visual plan grew out of Lias’s poring through photos of the park. “We knew from the beginning that this commission involved a composition that would have synchronized images with it,” he says.

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Lias working in the William Allen White Cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park

“Back in January I came up to the park and met with the staff and we talked about the imagery that might be used. The park gave me a hard drive of 700 and some images that we had culled from their archives, and so in addition to thinking about what I wanted the musical shape to be, I’ve known that there needed to be visual material.”

With the inspiration strong and the plan firmly in mind, Lias packs up his bags to get on with the rest of his summer plans—including leading a workshop on “Composing in the Wilderness” in Alaska. But none of that, he says, will get in the way of a piece firmly rooted in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“The very beginning notes of the piece have been written here in this cabin,” Lias says. “It will take me many months to complete, but it will still be deeply grounded to this place.”

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Information and tickets for the Boulder Philharmonic’s 2016–17 season may be found here.