Colorado is breezy any time of year, and winter winds in particular can be exceptionally high and dangerous.
Was Rhonda Muckerman, artistic director of the Telluride Choral Society, aware of this when she conceived the title, “The Winds of Winter,” for her choirs’ two performances this weekend?
She was not.
Muckerman works months ahead when she’s planning musical performances.
“When I come up with a theme for winter, it’s July or August,” she said. “But the theme of these concerts is always linked to nature. It could have come from a breezy walk in the woods. At the same time, I would’ve been listening to hundreds of pieces of music,” deciding on which to select “based on the choirs and the singers I’m expecting to have next season.”
It had a nice ring to it, the winds of winter. And, of course, (which made it even better) the idea of “wind” didn’t have to mean a literal breeze; the word also suggests something fleeting and desirable.
“The scent of a pine tree or holiday cooking,” Muckerman mused. “A feeling of intuition, or of romance.”
She had her theme! And with that, she began to pull together tonight’s performance, while it was still 80 degrees outside.
“The Winds of Winter” will be performed this evening (Friday) at 7 p.m. and again on Sunday at 4 p.m. It is the Telluride Choral Society’s 25th annual WinterSing concert, and will take place in Christ Church.
The opening song — appropriate for this celebratory season, in a church setting — is titled “Norwegian Alleluia, by Kim Andre Arnesen.
“The only word is Alleluia,” Muckerman said. “There’s a short section in the center of the piece which is slow and meditative. But overall, the effect is upbeat and joyous.”
The second selection, a haunting work titled “Ecce Novum” (Latin for “behold the new thing”), is by contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. “It’s slow and meditative,” Muckerman said. It’s also gorgeous; hear an excerpt online on iTunes, where Gjeilo also serves as pianist.
“I’ve wanted to perform a piece of Gjeilo’s for years,” Muckerman said. “It’s about nature this time of year, and the beauty and the mystery of it in relation to the Christmas story. It’s heavenly. The first two pieces set the tone for the concert: the celebratory ‘Alleluia’ and the angelic, meditative ‘Novum.’”
The opening set will be performed by Muckerman’s most experienced group of adults, the Telluride Choral Society’s Chamber Singers. By the time the evening is finished, musical selections will have spanned the globe from Africa, France, Italy, Israel, Norway and Russia to the U.S., and a total of five choirs — 90 local singers in all — will have performed, including “our largest ensemble, our much beloved adult community choir The Chorale,” Muckerman said.
Three of the groups are children’s choirs: the Training Choir is for kids in grades 2-3; the Choristers is comprised of 8-10-year-olds; and tweens and teens make up OmniVoce. (The kids’ choirs, and the adult Chorale, are open to all.)
“The Choristers are singing a couple of songs about the rain and the wind and the traditional French carol, “Pat-a-Pan,” Muckerman said. “You’ll know it when you hear it.”
The final selection of the evening is typical of Muckerman’s organic, of-a-piece programming. It both reflects the concert’s theme, and offers a closing idea both urgent and suggestive (though never overtly political).
The song’s title is in its opening line: “Said the night wind to the little lamb, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’”
“I always try to have everyone sing together in the end. The kids love to sing with the adults. We do it if I can find a piece that works,” Muckerman said. This year she has. “Pray for peace, that’s the message of that song,” Muckerman said. “Pray for peace.”
The Telluride Choral Society performs “Songs of Winter” tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. in Christ Church under the direction of Rhonda Muckerman. Pianist Susan Ensor will provide accompaniment, as will Dalen Stevens (on recorder) and Andrew Molloy, who will supply trumpet fanfare on “Do You Hear What I Hear?”