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by Peter Alexander


Composers set poems that were in turn inspired by visual artworks

Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers will present “Shared Visions,” a unique concert bringing together works by Colorado visual artists, poets and composers, this coming weekend.

Violinist Alex Gonzalez

Performances will be Friday in Longmont, Saturday in Denver and Sunday in Boulder (June  7, 8 and 9; details below). They will be led by Tom Morgan, Ars Nova’s music director, and assistant conductor Elizabeth Swanson. Violinist Alex Gonzalez from the CU, Boulder music faculty will be the featured soloist, playing the violin solo in a choral version of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Lark Ascending and a solo part in one of the new pieces.

The new works to be presented this year are by composers Raul Dominguez, Leigha Amick, Paul Fowler, and Morgan.  In addition to those new works, Ars Nova will perform a set of choral works by composers ranging from Baroque-era master J.S. Bach to current CU Boulder composition faculty member Annika K. Socolofsky.

Ars Nova has presented “Shared Visions” programs twice before, in 2016 and 2019. For each occasion, Ars Nova invited Colorado visual artists to offer works that are placed in an online gallery, which this year featured 24 visual artworks. Then, selected poets are invited to write new poems based on one or more of the visual artworks. The poems are then collected into an anthology, which this year contained 44 poems.

In the final step, three invited composers and Morgan have the opportunity to select a poem from the anthology to set to music. Morgan always waits until the other composers have made their selections, so that he can make sure that the program has a variety of visual art works and poems.

Tom Morgan

Morgan said Ars Nova originally planned to present “Shared Visions” every three years, as they did in 2016 and 2019. However, COVID and the time required to put together the program—selecting artists and giving both the poets and the composers time to create new works—made that impractical. This time it was five years, and in future he plans to hold the event every four years.

He says the time and effort are definitely worthwhile. “The energy of getting the artists together is just really gratifying to see what happens,” he says. “Several of these people have gone on to work together in other ways.”

The composer Paul Fowler returns to the “Shared Visions” program. His “Yet Another Layer” was selected for the 2016 program, and will be repeated on Ars Nova’s general program this year. Leigha Amick may be familiar to Boulder audiences as well. A Boulder native and currently a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music, she won the 2022 “Resound Boulder” composition competition and her winning score, Gossamer Depths, was performed by the Boulder Philharmonic in 2023.

The 2024 “Shared Visions” performances will open with “The Rings of Your Heart” by Raul Dominguez. The text is “Holding Your Heart” by Rosemarry Wahtola Tromer, which opens with the lines “I want to trace the rings of your heart/the way I would trace tree rings—/not to count them/but to honor each season of you.”

“Fractions” by Chris DeKnikker

The poem was inspired by perhaps the most unusual artwork selected this year, “Holding Your Heart” by woodworker Chris DeKnikker. Morgan saw his work at the Arvada Center and found it so striking that he thought it would be interesting to include for “Shared Visions.” “[DeKnikker’s] ecstatic,” he says. “As a woodworker, you never imagine that your work is going to end up being sung by 40 people! You don’t imagine the that chain of inspiration is going to happen, so he’s been very enthusiastic.”

Amick’s “Shattering Love” is based on a poem of the same name by nonbinary and transgender writer and activist Hayden Dansky. “I know nothing/more of love/than you,” they wrote. “I’ve felt its grip like you have.” The inspiration was “amethyst,” a colorful canvas by multimedia artist and performer Michiko Theurer, who is currently living and working in Boulder while completing a PhD in musicology at Stanford.

“amethyst”  by Michiko Theurer

Morgan’s “Glimmer of Sun” includes a violin part for Gonzalez. “He’s a featured element in the piece that I wrote,” Morgan says. “That made it fun for me to write a violin part at that level.” The text by Erin Robertson is titled “Burning it Off” and describes the search for a glimmer of sun through a canopy of clouds, as depicted in Margaret Josey-Parker’s three-dimensional glazed clay piece “Riding It Out.”

The final new piece will be “Freedom Night” by Paul Fowler, based on a poem by Jennifer Gurney and a photograph by Raj Manickam, all with the same title. Inspired by Manickam’s dark and mysterious photo, Gurney wrote, “I am yearning/To be filled to the brim with/Effortless contentment.”

Both Gurney’s poem and Fowler’s score reflect Manickam’s aim to take more than snapshots. “I capture everything from sudden moments to everyday occurrences and translate them into fine yet relatable art,” he has written. “I strive to shine a light on the reality of the human experience through composition and honest storytelling.”

The original art works and the full text of the poems they inspired an be seen on Ars Nova’s website.

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“FRUITION: Shared Visions”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan and Elizabeth Swanson, conductors
With Alex Gonzales, violin

  • Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, arr. Paul Drayton
  • Paul Fowler “Yet Another Layer” (from Shared Visions 2016)
  • Ēriks Ešenvalds: “Trees”
  • Annika K. Socolofsky: “Like a diamond”
  • Harry Dixon Loes: “This little light of mine,” arr. Moses Hogan,
  • Knut Nystedt: “Immortal Bach” (based on music by J.S. Bach)
  • J.S. Bach: Allemande from Partita No. 2 for solo violin
  • Hugo Alfvén: “Aftonen” (Ensemble Singers)
  • Paul Mealor: “Upon a Bank” (Ensemble Singers)


  • Raul Dominguez: “The Rings of Your Heart”
    Visual Artist: Chris DeKnikker, “Fractions”
    Poet: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “Holding Your Heart”
  • Leigha Amick: “Shattering Love”
    Visual Artist: Michiko Theurer, “amethyst”
    Poet: Hayden Dansky, “Shattering Love”
  • Tom Morgan: “A Glimmer of Sun” (with violin)
    Visual Artist: Margaret Josey-Parker, “Riding It Out”
    Poet: Erin Robertson, “Burning It Off”
  • Paul Fowler: “Freedom Night”
    Visual Artist: Raj Manickam, “Freedom Night”
    Poet: Jennifer Gurney, “Freedom Night

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, Longmont Museum, Longmont
7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8, Central Presbyterian Church, 1600 Sherman St., Denver
7 p.m. Sunday, June 9, Dairy Arts Center, Boulder