Heliand Consort will perform the opening concerts of its 13th season this month with a program featuring music by Vermont native Nico Muhly, along with several of his contemporaries. Performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27 at the Dibden Center for the Arts at Northern Vermont University in Johnson.
A narrator will guide listeners along an imaginative musical journey that includes: an allegory about cows and population growth; the sounds of popcorn popping; the mischievous Greek demigod Pan and his panpipes; and several other colorful and evocative pieces.
The diverse program includes works by Canadian composer Tawnie Olson, Australian composer Padma Newsome, and American composers Valerie Coleman, Belinda Reynolds, Don Jamison, and Muhly. Expect the unexpected: a solo for piccolo, a song or two, a 30-piece wind ensemble, and everything between.
A program highlight is the New England premiere of Muhly’s “Reliable Sources” for bassoon and wind ensemble with soloist Rachael Elliott, one of 19 bassoonists from across the United States who commissioned this new work from Muhly. His piece draws inspiration from a pavane for solo keyboard by the late English Renaissance composer Orlando Gibbons. The musicians will perform an excerpt of the Gibbons piece that inspired Muhly to make the musical connection explicit.
This project celebrates and honors the talents of dozens of Vermont musicians and teaching artists. Elliott, a Lyndon native, is joined by her group, Heliand Consort, Vermont’s longest-running woodwind and piano chamber ensemble. Conductor Anne Decker, a longtime resident of central Vermont and artistic director and conductor of TURNmusic and the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, leads the ensemble, comprised of more than two-dozen Vermont musicians. Muhly himself is a native Vermonter, born in Randolph. He spent his first few years there, so this premiere brings his music full circle, back home.
Decker expresses her passion for contemporary music as a way to learn about the world through music. “I believe that music is a reflection of our time, and I’ve chosen to learn about the world today through the music being created now. I’m passionate about putting people in front of live musicians so they can hear the craft and feel a connection to the performers.”
Elliott describes her excitement to perform the new solo by Muhly, with whom she has crossed paths over the years through her work with Clogs and The National. “Nico’s music is full of gorgeous, shimmering textures and colorful interplay between the instruments. This piece is an ambitious undertaking for any group, and we’re honored to be part of the New England/Vermont premiere.”
Muhly is one of the best-regarded composers of his generation. His passion for all kinds of music, from minimalism to choral traditions, is heard in the great variety of his output. He has arranged for rock groups and received numerous commissions for concert and choral works, as well as opera and theatrical productions.