Extraordinary Days with VOCES8!
Ars Nova Artistic Director Tom Morgan reflects on the recent visit of the renowned British ensemble VOCES8 on March 1 and 2, and offers some behind-the-scenes details of how it came about.Wow, what we have done!!
The experiences of this month will resonate through the Colorado choral community and through our organization for a long time. But, as you can see from the timeline I prepared below, it’s been a long time coming, and a lot of hands have helped to make this possible. My message to all of you: THANK YOU for being a part of this, and for making it happen.
Some dreams DO come true, and sometimes they manifest in ways we can’t possibly imagine. When we were preparing the two programs in collaboration with VOCES8, it was agreed that Ars Nova would perform a couple of independent works on each concert, as well as combine forces with VOCES8 for a shared piece each night. Our two collaborative works with them will stand as highlights of my career: Blake Morgan’s lovely arrangement of Caledonia at Macky Auditorium (that I got to conduct), and Caroline Shaw’s and the swallow (conducted by Barnaby Smith) at Saint John’s Cathedral. I was enormously proud of all of our singers, and was gratified by VOCES8’s comments on our performances, too.
VOCES8 in Colorado – A Brief History of the Project
I had heard of VOCES8 through their recordings for many years, but I first experienced them in person at a tiny church in the south of Wales on Sunday, June 25, 2017. Tickets for the concert were £14, with the early bird purchase discount. The afternoon workshop was free and was attended by about 20 people. I met and talked with Blake Morgan; it was his first year in the group.
In October of that year, VOCES8 came to Colorado. Longtime Ars Nova supporters Kathe and Charlie Lujan (Kathe served many years as our Executive Director) also attended the concert at the Lakewood Cultural Center in Denver.In the following year, I heard the group in two other live performances in Knoxville, TN and at a small church in the Kent countryside in England (not far from Andrea Haines’ home).
I have a note that I wrote to the Ars Nova Board of Directors in August of 2018, outlining the dream of bringing them to Colorado again and presenting them on our concert season. We even had several meetings with our major Endowment donor; bringing VOCES8 was mentioned in several of these discussions as a way to expand our audience and educational outreach.
In March of 2020, the global Covid-19 pandemic emerged; we had no idea what its impact would be at the time. Like all arts organizations, both our current and future plans were thrown into uncertainty for many months. Even when public performances started to gingerly resume (with mask and vaccination mandates), our Board was understandably reluctant to commit to ANY large-scope projects.
Yet we persevered, and with the gracious help of VOCES8’s U.S. agents (Opus 3 Artists), we were able to find a solution, scheduling two performances, with the ensemble presenting two different programs: in Boulder at Macky Auditorium and in Denver at Saint John’s Cathedral. VOCES8 also presented two workshops during these days: one at CU-Boulder College of Music and one at East High School in Denver. March 1-2, 2023 will stand as two of the most remarkable dates in the history of Ars Nova Singers!
Here are two of my favorite photos: our Ars Nova High School Apprentices, Evan Lariviere and Zoe Myers, with their counterparts in VOCES8; some of the best choral singers in the world touching the future. (And, don’t you love it that Evan and Chris look like brothers!)