Two choral groups open their season over the weekend

Ars Nova and Boulder Chorale start 2022–23 with unusual programming

By Peter Alexander Nov. 3 at 10:20 p.m.

Two of Boulder’s choral organizations open their 2022–23 seasons this weekend. The programs by the Ars Nova Singers and the Boulder Chorale could hardly be more different—bizarrely chromatic music from the late Renaissance and music from Middle Eastern cultures, respectively—but they are similar in being well outside the mainstream of choral repertoire. 

If you search for stimulating and unusual musical experiences, as I do, you could have a busy weekend. Both programs look promising for the adventurous listener.

Ars Nova Singers and conductor Tom Morgan

In a program titled “Wonder,” the Ars Nova Singers and conductor Tom Morgan will explore the music of Carlo Gesualdo de Venosa, Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza. Gesualdo has a secure place in music history because of the extraordinary chromaticism of the harmonic language in his madrigals, which is unlke any other music written at the time. Performances will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Boulder, Longmont and Denver (details below).

Carlo Gesualdo

Gesualdo’s notoriety in music history also derives from the fact that he killed his fist wife and her lover when her found them together. Although he was not charged with a crime, due to the circumstances, he felt a burden of guilt for the rest of his life, which may have contributed to the intensity of expression in the music he wrote. 

Ars Nova will perform seven of the madrigals from the last two collections Gesualdo wrote, Books 5 and 6, which were published in 1611. This was right at the transition from the Renaissance style of counterpoint to the more chord-based style of the early Baroque period.

“You just don’t hear some of these chords and changes [Gesualdo wrote] until the 20th century,” Morgan says. “It’s such fascinating music to me, and I think the singers enjoy it because you don’t have anything like it in the repertoire. And it’s a lot of fun to do.”

The chromaticism is most extreme in the slower sections of the madrigals, giving the singers the time to make the unexpected note and chord changes. The most extreme chord changes are associated with the most extreme emotions, whereas other parts of the madrigals are more straightforward, and may even move in a fairly brisk tempo.

Sandra Wong and nyckelharpa

“It’s challenging for the singers,” Morgan says, “because the character of the music changes word to word. It’s fascinating how quickly the affect changes in the pieces.”

In spite of the extreme use of chromatic notes and chords, Morgan points out that in some ways, Gesualdo was not really a revolutionary composer. “He’s really clinging to the old imitative counterpoint [of the Renaissance era], but stretches the harmonic language as far as it would go.”

The constant shifting of chords gives the music an uneasy, ungrounded quality that can be tiring to listen to. “How to present Gesualdo is always a bit of a challenge,” Morgan says. “A straight-through listening of Book V or Book VI would be really hard for a modern audience. Too many in a row, the singer gets tired, [and] the listeners get overwhelmed.”

In order to give listeners a break, Morgan invited two instrumentalists—Ann Marie Morgan on viola da gamba and Sandra Wong on violin and the Swedish folk instrument the nyckelharpa—to play interludes in between the madrigals. “We’re doing little pairs of madrigals, and interspersing them with completely instrumental things,” Morgan explains. “Some are from [Gesualdo’s] era, some from slightly later.”

“That allows the ear to refresh and allows the mind to process things differently, and then you come back to Gesualdo. Ann Marie (Morgan) and Sondra (Wong) are both wonderful to work with, and by breaking (the madrigals) up into smaller chunks it’s better for both the singers and the audience.”

Boulder Chorale and conductor Vicki Burrichter

While Morgan is exploring challenging music of the past, conductor Vicki Burrichter and the Boulder Chorale continue their explorations of world music. In a program titled “Origins: The Fertile Crescent,” they will present music from across the Middle East, from Sephardic Jewish folk songs from Spain to Israel to Egypt, Tunisia and Afghanistan.

Performances will be Saturday and Sunday in Boulder, and will also be available by live stream on Sunday (details below).

An oud

Burrichter came to the subject for this concert by listening to the Trio Joubran, three Palestinian brothers from Nazareth who all perform on the oud—a stringed instrument from the Middle East that is the predecessor of the lute.

“The sound of the oud is magnificent—mysterious and deep,” Burrichter says. “The three of them playing together was beautiful. I listened to them a lot, and then I thought I should listen to more Arabic music. I’m very excited about it, but it’s the most nerve-racking concert I’ve ever done, because it’s so outside what I know about.”

Aside from her lack of background in the style, Burrichter had to adapt the music to an American choir. For one thing, the music does not have much harmony, and for another, it uses languages that hardly anyone in the choir knew. She tackled these issues first by hiring a guest band assembled and  led by David Hinojosa that includes percussion, violin, bass and an oud player, plus a singer, Catrene Payan, who is an Arabic-speaking Israeli. They will perform with the chorale and separately.

Catrene Payan

She also turned to Adam Waite, who has made arrangements for the Chorale in the past, to make versions of the songs for the chorale’s singers. And she asked Raouf Zaidan, who has sung with the group, to help coach the language. “He lives in two worlds,” Burrichter says. “He’s an Egyptian but also a Western opera singer. He was able to help the choir with the language.”

Many of the pieces on the program are well known in the Middle East, including some that have been sung by the most popular singers in their home countries. “When I showed Raouf what is in the concert, he said ‘These are songs everybody knows,’” she says. 

For example, she mentioned Oum Kulthum, an Egyptian singer who was called the Star of the East. “She is like a goddess figure there” Burrichter says. “She’s done ‘Lammaa Badda,’ and [Lebanese singer] Fairouz has done it. In the Middle East, everybody knows that song. And ‘El-Heelwa Dii’ is also extremely popular.”

Burrichter says that the melodies are not hard to sing, but there are nuances that are not easy for an American chorus. “We were trying to make it so that they could sing it, because they don’t speak the language, they don’t have experience with this music which is so very different from American music.

“We hope Arabic people or people from Israel who come to the concert will say, this is a group that tried their very best to represent and respect our culture. What I’m trying to do is for people to enter a cultural experience—the audience, the singers, everyone. 

“The most important thing in the end is not the language, it is the joy of it.”

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“Wonder”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, artistic director
With Sandra Wong, violin and nyckelharpa, and Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba

  • Carlo Gesualdo: Selections from Madrigals, Books 5 and 6
  • Instrumental music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5
Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6
St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver

TICKETS

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“Origins: The Fertile Crescent”
Boulder Concert and Chamber Chorales 
Vicki Burrichter, artistic director
With Catrene Payan, singer, and instruments led by David Hinojosa

  • Music of Arabic lands in the Middle East

4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder

TICKETS for live performances and for live stream Sunday only

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:

“Wonder”
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 

“Solstice”
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

“Stardust”
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

TICKETS 

“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

“Reflections”
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.  

Boulder Chorale will sing about ‘A World in Harmony’

Saturday’s concert features both solace and celebration

By Peter Alexander Nov. 4 at 10:54 p.m.

Vicki Burrichter dreams of a world in harmony. But as director of the Boulder Chorale, she not only dreams about it, she works to bring it about, one performance at a time.

The Chorale’s next concert, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7 at 4 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church in Boulder, is in fact titled “A World in Harmony: A Ceremony of Solace and Celebration.” An updating of a program originally planned before COVID struck, it will include music of solace and consolation, then transition to music of joy and celebration.

Boulder Chorale from a performance in 2019, pre-COVID

Tickets are available from the Boulder Chorale Web site. Audience members must have proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for admission, and must wear a mask during the performance. All singers have been vaccinated, and will be wearing resonance masks during the performance.

“This program, with some tweaks and some edits, was the program that we were about to perform when we shut down (during) concert week back in March (2020),” Burrichter says. “The first half is going to be all meditative choral music, mostly a cappella. 

Vicki Burrichter

“I want people to be able to just think, meditate, breathe— whatever they want to do. And it’s not only to honor the 700,000 lost in COVID in this country, but also the victims of the King Sooper’s shooting.”

The concert will open with an instrumental performance of the theme from Schindler’s List, played by pianist Adam Waite and violinist Leena Waite. That will be followed by a setting of the Latin text Lux Aeterna (Eternal light), set to the music of the well known “Nimrod” variation from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, a piece often chosen for moments of mourning or meditation.

Also on the first half of the program is “Underneath the Stars,” a piece about parting from friends that was performed by the British a capella vocal group Voces8. “I go a lot by feel when I program,” Burrichter says. “The feeling of this piece—the text is not literally about somebody dying, but the grief of losing somebody is really in the piece. It’s definitely about letting go of somebody that you don’t want to let go of.”

The final two pieces on the first half—“Alleluia” from Brazilian Psalms by Jean Berger and Jorge de Lima, and the “Gloria” from Missa Brevis in Honorem Beatae Mariae Virginis by Lithuanian composer Kristina Vasiliauskaite—were selected to form a transition to the more joyful second half of the concert. ”I really wanted to lift the mood a little bit,” Burrichter says. “I wanted to have these moments of transcendence and joy after the deep grief of the first few pieces.”

“Then for the second half it’s going to be completely different, with the full band and soloists and everything. No one’s really been able to sing in public, and I wanted people to be able to sing with us and sing with the band and have a celebration.”

Christopher Hearns

The first four pieces after intermission will be well known pop songs, all arranged by Waite who has been Burrichter’s first-choice arranger for some time. “He and I are very much on the same page musically,” she says. “He’s really wonderful!”

There will be printed lyrics for the audience, and guest soloist Christopher Hearns will help lead the audience though the Kinks “You Really Got Me,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “September,” Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Hearns is best known as a gospel singer and is currently lead singer of the Confluence Band and director of music at Jordan Chapel Church in Denver.

“He’s quite an accomplished singer,” Burrichter says. “I’m looking forward to what he can do with the Kinks’ music.”

Following the sing-along, the concert will conclude with three pieces Burrichter selected to impart a message of hope for the audience. The first will be Toto’s “Africa,” which she originally planned to end the concert that was canceled last year. That will be followed by “All of Us” by Craig Hella Johnson, from the composer’s oratorio Considering Matthew Shepherd, and last will be “We are the Ones We Are Waiting For” by Sunny McHale. 

Johnson’s “All of Us” has “a message that is so powerful and really fits the moment,” Burrichter says. “And the last piece is the thing that we sang during our online sessions all this last year. We would end with it just as a reminder that we are still a community, and that we have the power to make change.

“I wanted to end the concert with those kinds of songs that tie into what we did in the Boulder community during COVID. I’m certain it will be a joyful noise!”

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“A World in Harmony: A Ceremony of Solace and Celebration”
Boulder Concert Chorale with Christopher Hearns, guest artist
Vicki Burrichter, conductor

4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

TICKETS

Boulder Chorale has set an online plan for the fall

Tuesday programs include lectures, films, and a video performance

By Peter Alexander Aug. 31 at 3 p.m.

The Coronavirus keeps chugging along, but so does the Boulder Chorale

They’re not able to sing together again yet—choruses will be one of the last performing groups to come back, because singers spread droplets when singing and all breathe the same air. But Vicki Burrichter, the chorale’s artistic director, and the members of the Boulder Chorale are determined to keep their musical community running.

Boulder Chorale with Vicki Burrichter (center, blue dress)

They have created an online program for the fall, “United in Song,” that will allow chorale members—and anyone else who is interested—to keep singing and stay in touch with one another. The program includes events ranging from a book discussion and a film about the great choral conductor Robert Shaw to lectures on choirs and choral singing. 

In addition to Burrichter, guests who will appear as part of the program include Julie Simson, former CU professor of voice currently teaching at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University; Joslyn Ford Keel, a Grammy-nominated singer who has appeared and toured with the Boulder Chorale; and the chorale’s assistant artistic director, Larisa Dreger.

These events will be Tuesday nights, all but one at 7 p.m. (note full schedule below).

There will also be online rehearsals, as choir members learn “All of Us,” the inspirational closing number from Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard. The fall season will culminate with the online release of a video performance of “All of Us,” put together by Stephen Ross of the award-winning Boulder rock band FACE.

“We surveyed the singers in the spring,” Burrichter says. “We asked open-ended questions about what they value about the chorale, what things were important to them, what they would be willing to pay for. We got a tremendous response— I think 3/4 of the chorale responded in some way.”

Vicki Burrichter, interviewed from her home

After going through all the responses, Burrichter came up with what she calls “The Four Pillars of Community” for the Boulder Chorale. Those are vocal maintenance; music education, especially choral music and choirs in music history; community building and the social experience; and singing together.

“I built the season around that,” Burrichter says, “and invited some of our favorite people” to be part of the series of events. She also stressed that the fall program is open to anyone. There will be no auditions, and anyone who signs up will be free to choose which events to attend. You may attend the educational events without having to sing in the final performance.

“This is for anybody,” Burrichter says. “’We have two people from Brazil joining us, we have one of our member’s mom who lives in San Francisco joining us, we have a guy in England who may be joining. It’s just an online thing for anybody who misses their choir experience.”

For those who participate as singers, the final product—the compilation performance of “All of Us” —will be unveiled to the singers Nov. 24. and will be available to the public the week of Thanksgiving. “It’s a very, very beautiful, very moving, piece,” Burrichter says. “My pianist Susan Olenwine and I have to figure out [how we’re going to do it online]. I picked a piece that’s really hard. A lot of tempo changes—oh man! What was I thinking?”

Burrichter is still meeting with Ross to work out all of the technical details for the performance, which will be forthcoming for the singers by the time the series gets under way.

If you want to be part of the Boulder Chorale fall program, you can read and download the brochure, with all details of the individual programs here.  Registration for the program is $150, and is due by Monday, Sept. 7. The online registration form is here

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Boulder Chorale online program: “United in Song”
All events Tuesdays, 7–8:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted

Sept. 8: “Singing Together.” Stephen Ross will discuss the video project and an online tool, “My Choral Coach,” will be introduced.

Sept. 15: “Maintaining our Voices.” Julie Simson and Vicki Burrichter will answer questions from chorale members.

Sept. 22: Learning about Choral Music: “The Great Choirs.” Vicki Burrichter. 

Sept. 29: Singing Together. Zoom will be used to give rehearsal notes and practice together

Oct. 6: Maintaining our Voices. Special training for the sections of the chorale
6:30 p.m.: altos and bases
7:30 p.m.: sopranos and tenors

Oct. 13: Book Club Night. Discussion of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

Oct. 20: Learning about Choral Music. World Music Night: Diversity in vocal technique

Oct. 27: Movie Night. Vicki Burrichter will show the documentary Robert Shaw: Man of Many Voices

Nov. 3: Maintaining our Voices. Larissa Dreger and Vicki Burrichter

Nov. 10: Learning about Choral Music. Singer Joslyn Ford Keel will talk about her experience with the renowned Fisk Singers.

Nov. 17: Singing Together. Vicki Burrichter and Larisa Dreger will choose easy choral songs that can be sung together over Zoom.

Nov. 24: Community Fun and Connection: The unveiling of the video performance of “All of Us” compiled by Stephen Ross 

Dec. 1: No event

Dec. 8: Community Fun & Connection: Holiday Party

Boulder Chorale postpones concerts until 2021

Conductor Vicki Burrichter has advice for everyone stuck at home

By Peter Alexander June 9 at 11:20 p.m.

Vicki Burrichter has some advice for people sitting at home under Coronavirus quarantine: It’s OK to be unproductive.

Burrichter, artistic director of the Boulder Chorale, is speaking from her home in Colorado Springs, where she and her partner are sitting out the pandemic. She continues her job as a faculty member for the online Western Governors University, “so nothing has changed for me there,” she says. But even doing her usual work, she finds herself worn out more easily.

Vicki Burrichter

“I do have to do my faculty job, which is 40 hours a week,” she says. “But once I’m done with that, I don’t have much left. I want to sit and binge Netflix. You have to be OK with not being productive, because it is a difficult time.”

Not that she doesn’t continue to work for the Boulder Chorale. “The board has been talking about [next season],” she says. “We’ve been on it since day one, trying to understand the ramifications of everything, and make the decisions for the health of our singers and the health of our audience. That’s our number one priority.”

Reflecting that priority, the chorale has recently announced that they do not expect to “be able to hold in-person rehearsals or performances in the fall.” That decision was announced in a letter from Boulder Chorale board president Beth Zacharisen to members of the chorale, sent at the beginning of the month.

The decision was based partly on information from a Webinar presented by the American Choral Directors Association, National Association of Teachers of Singing, and Chorus America. There has been great concern in those groups, because of the special conditions of people getting together and singing with one another.

“[The Webinar] caused quite a stir in the choral world,” Burrichter says. “A laryngologist and virologist [spoke} about the fact that singers are superspreaders of the virus, because of how well we project our breath. The advice from one of them was that you’d need to stand 16 feet apart wearing a plastic thing over you and a mask, and that doesn’t make for good singing!

“The blend would be problematic,” she adds, laughing. “But of course you don’t want to make any of us sick: staff, parents, children, adults, and certainly not audience.” 

Burrichter with the Boulder Chorale

The letter to chorale members cited the “current research on the potential risks of transmitting the disease through singing” that had been presented in the Webinar. It ended on a hopeful note, that “our staff and board are actively researching the creative ideas that national non-profits, such as Chorus America, and other choruses around the country are using to sustain community and singing connections,” and promised that “we will keep you up to date as this unfolds.”

For her part, Burrichter remains optimistic about the long-term future. “I have three close friends who are professors of history, and all of them have said that after pandemics there is always an enormous explosion of innovation,” she says. 

“I think we’re already starting to see that a little bit. People are working on the technology part of it, trying to innovate around how to have groups together. Right now the rehearsal technology is awful. Anybody who has tried to sing “Happy Birthday” on Zoom knows what I’m talking about!”

Like most of us, Burrichter is taking up or developing hobbies—in her caser, some related to music. “I just bought a Fender Stratocaster [electric guitar] and a tube amp!” she says. “I feel like a 50-year old guy having a mid-life crisis who bought a Ferrari. I’m going to learn to play some blues.”

But wait, there’s more! While she’s plucking strings, “I’ve been taking flamenco guitar lessons online,” she says. “And I need to get back to my banjo—I bought myself a banjo a few years ago, because I had played when I was a teenager, and I need to get back to that.”

Maybe she needs to heed her own advice “to be OK with not being productive!”

She does take some time to relax away from musical pursuits. “I’ve been catching up on reading, but also we have a beautiful yard, we’ve been spending a lot of time back there, and like everybody also Zooming with our friends all over the country, and family.”

When it’s time to listen to some music, Burrichter has broad tastes. Under her direction Boulder Chorale has performed many different styles and genres of music, which perfectly reflect her own tastes. “I listen to all kinds of things,” she says.

“The music that always soothes me the most in Brazilian music, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Brazilian music. There’s something about that music that I find very soothing. I’m also listening to some choral music, Voces8. I think they’re one of the best vocal groups in the world right now.”

There’s only one thing that she is ruling out: “Not a lot of Punk. I actually really love punk, but there’s something about the anger of the punk that right now I can’t handle.”

If you have been part of the Boulder Chorale’s audience, she hopes you will stay connected to the group. “Arts organizations really need your support right now, if you’re financially able to do that,” she says. “All arts organizations have lost funding from the concerts that didn’t happen. 

“If you can get on Boulderchorale.org and make a donation, that’s always going to be welcome.”

Music by Luigi Cherubini, an often overlooked composer

Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Chorale collaborate on Requiem

By Peter Alexander Feb. 13 at 11 p.m.

Maria Luigi Carlo Zenobio Salvatore Cherubini just may be the most influential classical composer you have never heard of.

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Luigi Cherubini. Portrait by Jean-Auguste-Dominiquie Ingres.

As director of the Paris Conservatoire for 20 years (1822-42) and author of an important textbook on counterpoint, he influenced a generation of younger musicians. His many operas and his church works were widely performed and admired in his lifetime.

In particular his Requiem in C minor—which will be performed Saturday (Feb. 15) by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Choir—was admired by Beethoven, who asked that it be performed at his funeral.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece,” says Vicki Burrichter, director of the Boulder Chamber Choir who is preparing the chorus for the performance. “Cherubini’s really extraordinary and was admired by Beethoven and Schumann and Brahms. I think he should be performed a lot more often.”

Bahman Saless, the conductor of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra who will lead the performance, agrees. He writes by email from Prague, where he is traveling as a conductor, “What I would like our audience to take away from this concert is that there were many contemporaries of Beethoven and Mozart who were overshadowed by the presence of these titans. Some of them deserve some light to shine on them.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Luigi Cherubini: Requiem in C minor
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, chorus director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, First United Methodist Church
1421 Spruce St., Boulder

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Burrichter and Boulder Chorale explore rhythms around the world

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

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

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

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Boulder Concert Chorale. Photo courtesy of Boulder Chorale.

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

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

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Vicki Burrichter. Photo by Glenn Ross.

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

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

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

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Brazilian composer Gilberto Gil

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

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

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

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Karl Albrecht (Bobbi) Fischer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets

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

Dvořák’s “underrated masterpiece”

Boulder Symphony and Boulder Chorale join forces for the Stabat Mater

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

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Photo courtesy of Boulder Symphony

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

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

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

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

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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

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

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

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

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Boulder Chorale brings Mardi Gras music from New Orleans

Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band adds solid “second line” sound

By Peter Alexander March 7 at 8 p.m.

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

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Conductor Vicki Burrichter with members of the Boulder Chorale

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

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

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans

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

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

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New Orleans second-line parade

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

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

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

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

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Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band

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

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

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

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

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Bob Chilcott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets

Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ tailored for the Christmas season

Pro Musica Colorado and Boulder Chamber Chorale combine for performances

By Peter Alexander Nov. 29 at 3 p.m .

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Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, with conductor Cynthia Katsarelis

It’s been 276 years, and people are still talking about Handel’s Messiah.

Of course, it’s one of the best known and best loved pieces ever written, but that does not make it immune to controversy. One thorny subject is that it has become the quintessential Christmas piece.

But Messiah was not written for Christmas, and only about a third of it has anything to do with Christmas. The rest takes the story through Easter and the Resurrection. The first performances were given in April, 1742, during Lent, and most performances in Handel’s lifetime followed that pattern.

Many people consider performances of the entire piece during the Christmas season inappropriate. Conductor Cynthia Katsarelis is one of those people, but she has found a way to reconcile Messiah’s popularity at Christmas with its content. With the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, the Boulder Chamber Chorale and soloists, she will lead performances Dec. 1 and 2 of what she calls “a Christmas version.”

“We’re doing the Christmas section, plus,” she explains. In addition to the full Part One, which is the Christmas portion of the oratorio, “we use elements from Part Two and Part Three that illuminate why this birth is so important.”

The Boulder performances will include a food drive for Community Food Share. Audience members are encouraged to bring non-perishable, packaged food items, such as canned goods, cereal and pasta to be collected at the performances.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Handel’s Messiah
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, artistic director
Jennifer Bird, soprano; Leah Creek Biesterfeld, alto; Stephen Soph, tenor; Adam Ewing, baritone

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1
3 p.m. Sunday, Dec 2
Mountain View Methodist, 355 Ponca Pl., Boulder

Tickets