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Escaping Into “Sounds from the Soil”

Originally published by Peter Alexander from Sharps & Flatirons’ ARS NOVA SINGERS WILL BE JOINED BY THE TRIO DUENDE FOR A MUSICAL “SALON”.

Thomas Morgan, music director of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, says “sitting on a beach in Maui sounds like a pretty good idea.”

“All of us want to be traveling right now,” he continues, speaking after a year when most of us stayed in place. And while you and I may not be able to drop everything and fly to Hawaii, Morgan has the answer: he has programmed a piece of music that captures the Maui beach experience. “Napili Bay 2 p.m.” by J.A.C. Redford will be presented as part of an online performance by Ars Nova Saturday (Sept. 25).

“This piece is really evocative of [the beach at Napili Bay],” he says. “It’s spectacularly well written for the choir, and the chorus really loves to sing it. It’s a wonderful piece.”

The performance is part of “Sounds from the Soil: A Salon” to be streamed on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, and will remain available through Wednesday, Oct. 13. The program, which was recorded at Lone Hawk Farm in rural Boulder County, features Morgan conducting Ars Nova, plus the Duende Trio of mezzo-soprano Shannon Pennell, violinist Mintze Wu, and guitarist Alfredo Muro. Information and tickets can be found here.

he program developed from Ars Nova’s planned fall gala, a fund-raising event to kick off the 2021–22 season. The gala was scheduled for Sept. 11, but “we realized that probably wasn’t going to be an appropriate time to do a fundraiser, indoors,” Morgan says. “Fortunately, we were able to make the change and not do it as an in-person event. We kept the date and took the choir out [to Lone Hawk Farm] and recorded both indoors and outdoors.”

Lone Hawk Farm is a working organic farm and event venue located in the country between Boulder and Longmont. The program is a collection of pieces that are new to Ars Nova and others they have performed before. Among the latter is Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti a Baroque piece that was on Ars Nova’s very first concert in March 1986. Morgan says he wanted to perform the Crucifixus because “it connects to our very first concert, so it’s like beginning again after this current wave of the pandemic.

“It’s a wonderful eight-voice piece that builds in a really elegant way with a lot of suspensions and resolutions. It’s a really fun piece for the choir to sing.”

The members of the Trio Duende all have prior connections to Ars Nova. Pennell is a member of the choir, and both Wu and Muro have played with the group before. The trio is intriguingly multi-cultural: Pennell is a Coloradan living in Lyons, Muro is from Peru, and Wu is a native of Taiwan who used to live in Lyons and now resides in Carbondale, Colo. Wu in particular is a shape shifting musician who has performed everything from Bach to Celtic fiddling—sometimes on the same program—and now has taken up bossa nova.

“The first time the trio got together was 2014,” Wu explains. At the time, she was living in Lyons, where she organized the eclectic “Sound of Lyons” music festival. They recently got together again in Carbondale, where Wu lives now and has curated the Garden Music series. That was where Morgan heard them and invited them to play for the Ars Nova gala/online “Salon.”

The name Trio Duende comes from the Spanish word meaning “soul” or “passion.” It was a word that Muro’s wife used to describe how the three musicians perform together. “She was talking about when we play together there is this quality of passion, of being very inspired,” Wu says. “And so we decided to use that name.”

For the online performance, Trio Duende presents three pieces, including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s iconic bossa nova Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema). Wu and Muro will also play a duo, and Muro will play solo pieces on guitar.

Morgan talks about other pieces that Ars Nova will perform: “I should probably mention Samuel Coleridge-Taylor‘s little motet ‘Summer is Gone,’” he says. “Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer of African descent. He achieved a lot of success as a composer, including three tours of the United States in the early 1900s. This little piece is based on the poem ‘Bitter for Sweet’ by Christina Rosetti. It’s perfect for this time of year and for the changing of season. It’s just a beautiful little piece.

“Our recording of it was done right near sunset at a beautiful location out in the country. It really looks good.”