Grace Notes: Music from America

Concerts by Sphere Ensemble and the Longmont Symphony

By Peter Alexander Nov. 16 at 2:50 p.m.

The Sphere Ensemble, a string ensemble formed by professional string players in the Denver area, will present a kaleidoscope of many American musics at the Mercury Café in Denver Friday (7:30 p.m. Nov. 18) and the Canyon Theater of the Boulder Public Library Saturday (7:30 p.m. Nov. 19; details below).

Under executive director Alex Vittal, a longtime violist and arranger with the group, Sphere has brought educational programming to marginalized audiences, including people in homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers, women’s shelters, children’s hospitals and assisted living facilities.

Sphere characteristically includes both concert music written for string orchestra and arrangements of works drawn from popular and other vernacular genres in their programs. In the case of the “Kaleidoscope” concert, that ranges from music by 20th-century African-American composer Florence Price, to the contemporary Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, to the Pulitzer Prize-winner Carolyn Shaw, to a medley of music by Prince.

Tate’s Pisach has been arranged for Sphere through a special agreement with the composer, and several of the pop pieces were arranged specifically for the ensemble. Vittal’s arrangement of the Prince Medley has been particularly popular in past performances. The concert announcement from Sphere states, “This concert program focuses on the wide range of what ‘American’ music is: with composers from diverse backgrounds, genres from classical to pop, and arrangements written by Sphere musicians.”

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“Kaleidoscope”
Sphere ensemble

  • Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate: Pisach. (adapted with permission of the composer by Alex Vittal and Alejandro G. Gullien)
  • Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
  • Florence Price: “Juba” from Second String Quartet
  • Tan Dun: Symphony for Strings
  • Gordon/Warren: “At Last,” arr. Chris Jusell
  • Prince: Prince Medley, arr. Alex Vittal
  • Randy Newman: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” arr. Sarah Whitnah
  • Scott Joplin: “Wall Street Rag,” arr. Alex Vittal
  • Louis Moreau Gottschalk: Souvenir de Porto Rico, arr. David Short

7:30 pm. Friday, Nov. 18
Mercury Café, 2199 California St., Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19
Canyon Theater, Boulder Public Library

TICKETS 

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The Longmont Symphony Orchestra and conductor Elliot Moore will focus on America in two of their subscriptions concerts this year. The first of these, “Trail of Tears: America—Part 1” will be presented Saturday at the Vance Brand Auditorium (7:30 p.m. Nov. 19; details below).

The concert takes it title from composer Michael Daugherty’s “Trail of Tears” Flute Concerto, which will be performed by soloist Brice Smith and the orchestra. Smith teaches flute at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo.

The concerto is named for the route that Cherokees and other Native Americans were forced to travel from their ancestral homes in Southeastern states to reservations in present-day Oklahoma. In his program notes, the composer has described the piece as “a musical journey into how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with upheaval, adversity and adapting to a new environment.”

Other works on the program are the Overture to The Song of Hiawatha by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the Symphony No. 8 in G major by Dvořák. Coleridge-Taylor was a mixed-race British composer and conductor who had a significant career in both England and the United States, where he was known as “the African Mahler.” 

His trilogy of cantatas The Song of Hiawatha was written 1898–1900. The first part to be performed, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, became popular world-wide and earned praise from leading English musicians including Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony is one of the composer’s most popular and joyful pieces. It was composed in 1889, soon before the composer’s famous and fateful trip to the United States in 1892. More than any of the Dvořák’s symphonies, it draws on the music of the composer’s homeland, giving it a uniquely relaxed and folkish quality.

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“Trail of Tears”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore conductor
With Brice Smith, flute

  • Samuel Coleridge Taylor: Overture to Song of Hiawatha
  • Michael Daugherty: Trail of Tears
  • Dvořák: Symphony No 8 in G major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

TICKETS


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