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Chorus Lines

State of the Arts


Published October 12, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.

Brookfield composer Erik Nielsen has a way with notes and words. But for an upcoming concert, he will hone a new skill: producing. “I’m a committee of one — from doing the posters to renting the space, and fundraising,” Nielsen says. “I’m used to doing publicity, but I’m not so comfortable with being the producer.” Still, frustrated by a dearth of performances of his many vocal and choral works, Nielsen decided to take matters into his own hands. He invited some of his favorite singers and musicians — “a wonderful group, almost all I’ve worked with in the past,” he says — and chose a time and place. “It’s something I’ve just been feeling the need to do for a long time,” Nielsen says, referring to an entire concert devoted to the voice.

He gave a simple name to the show, “Choral and Vocal Works of Erik Nielsen,” but a much fancier one to his chamber chorus: Voces Dulcissimae — in Latin, the “sweetest voices.” His soloist will be mezzo-soprano Wendy Hoffman Farrell. Mary Jane Austin will be on piano, and the instrumental quintet is October Strings. All will be under the music direction of Larry Hamberlin. Once the concert begins, Nielsen notes, all he has to do is sit and listen. “I’m most excited about hearing this music performed live,” he says. “It’s like having a number of my children get up on stage, as it were.” (His oldest daughter, Cora Kelley, actually will be on stage, in the chorus.)

Nielsen’s figurative children are five multifaceted pieces, four of them world premieres — meaning that the works have not been performed at all publicly, or not in their entirety. Two of them were written specifically for this concert. The first piece, “Time’s Shadow,” is a set of three songs with text by Nielsen’s ex-wife, poet Barbara S. Nielsen. The second, “The Trajectory of Flight,” is a six-song cycle based on poems by Jean L. Connor. “Her poems were a revelation to me,” Nielsen says. “She is wonderful in how she can make a poem about existence even though it’s only concerned with the sound of a thrush at nightfall.” The second half of the concert presents the unaccompanied chorus singing another of Connor’s poems, “Summer”; then comes an older piece never fully performed, Nielsen says: “A Solitary Voice,” with lyrics by poet David Budbill. And finally, three songs set to text from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Another first: Nielsen plans to record the performance both nights and make a CD. For that project, he may take encouragement from his success in fundraising for this concert: “I’ve reached my goal financially — which is very gratifying — a total of about $8000,” Nielsen reveals. “For a self-employed composer, that’s pretty good.”

“Choral and Vocal Works of Erik Nielsen,” Elley-Long Music Center, Colchester, Friday and Saturday, October 14 and 15, at 7:30 p.m. $20/10 seniors.

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