Guest Conductor Joan Szymko

Ars Nova Singers is proud to welcome nationally acclaimed composer and conductor Joan Szymko, presenting a program of her own works. As a highly regarded composer and choral conductor, Szymko infuses her works with a deep understanding of the expressive qualities of the human voice, a passion for storytelling, and a commitment to using quality texts that resonate with the audience.

How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all of its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being; Otherwise we all remain too frightened. (Hafiz/Ladinsky)

The concert is an invitation to “feel the encouragement of light,” to disperse clouds of despair and open to that which celebrates life. Quoting poet Kim Stafford, Szymko says that her primary focus has always been to share “the generous expression in the voices of many for the needs of all.” She adds that “those many voices are of poets and mystics whose words I have needed; whose generous wisdom both calms and unsettles me, animating my creative spirit.” Those poets and mystics include Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Julian of Norwich, the Sufi poet mystic Hafiz, Teresa of Ávila, among others.

Under Syzmko’s masterful guidance, Ars Nova Singers brings new melodies to bloom, reawakening a timeless love affair with the art of sound.

Featured on this concert is a three-movement work on poems by Mary Oliver, perhaps best-known for her beloved question, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Szymko is one of just a handful of composers who was granted the rare privilege of being permitted to set Oliver’s words to music.

Join us for this wonderful opportunity to experience a program devoted to the artistry of Joan Szymko.



Vivos Voco — text by Julian of Norwich
How Did the Rose — text by Hafiz, adapted by Daniel Ladinsky
Lo Lefached – text by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Nada te turbe – text by Teresa of Ávila (with cello)
Invitation to Dance – texts by Hafiz, adapted by Daniel Ladinsky
Where is the Door to the Tavern?
The God Who Only Knows Four Words
Ubi Caritas – text from the liturgy
It is Happiness – poetry by Mary Oliver (with piano, flute, violin, cello)
featuring our special guests, the CU Treble Chorus


Be It Therefore Resolved — poetry by Kim Stafford (with piano, violin, cello)
The Peace of Wild Things — poetry by Wendell Berry
Look Out — poetry by Wendell Berry
It Takes a Village – text from a West African saying
We are All Bound Up Together – text by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Read a preview of the concert by Marc Shulgold