Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Peak Radar

There's a new link on the right: PeakRadar, the region's most comprehensive events calendar. It's off to a great start, but an informational hub is only as good as its information, so if you're planning something public, be sure and submit it. The online form is dauntingly long but impressively complete.

PeakRadar is sponsored by COPPeR - the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region - "a nonprofit organization connecting residents and visitors to arts and culture to enrich the Pikes Peak region of Colorado." (I can't improve on that boilerplate copy.) Its kick-off coincided with the release of Arts & Economic Prosperity III, the latest Americans for the Arts study on the state of the nation's non-profit arts organizations. (To boil down the 270-page report, it's better than it was five years ago.) The complete report, along with some shorter abstracts, is available here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Of Unicorns, Gorgons and Manticores

The phrase "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" gets bandied about far too casually, but this weekend's programming of Giancarlo Menotti's "The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore" is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The reason doesn't lie in any weakness in the piece itself — what sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would it be if it were lousy? No, it's the piece's quirky ensemble that keeps it on the fringe of the repertoire: choir, chamber orchestra, and dancers. Not to mention that the music, though tuneful and approachable in that quirky Menotti way, is extremely difficult to play and sing.

Joining forces to make it possible — for what must be the first time ever in Colorado Springs — are Colorado's Classical Youth Ballet, the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble, and Chamber Orchestra of the Springs.

It's a strange piece. The choral madrigals and instrumental interludes are charming and beautiful, the text flows naturally and is often laugh-out-loud funny — and the allegory is heavy-handed and arrogant. (That's us Menotti is slamming.) But there are many wonderful moments, and the performance at Friday's dress rehearsal did full justice to the work. Among the dancers, Scott Marble's Man in the Castle deserves special praise.

The rest of the program is equally interesting, and fits very well with the Menotti — contemporary but unpretentiously approachable.

The program opened with Alexander von Kreisler's Three Pastels and Sir Malcolm Arnold's Divertimento, Op. 37 stylishly performed by the Sirocco Winds — Phyllis White on flute, Gail Coughran on oboe, and Jay Norman on clarinet.

The 23-member Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble then took the stage for Morten Lauridsen's "Fire Songs." These Italian Renaissance love poems may count as some of the most vacuous lyrics ever set to music, but that just meant there was nothing to distract the listener from Lauridsen's rich and opulent settings, or from the CVAE's magnificent performance. These pieces showed off the lightness and gracefulness of Deborah Jenkins Teske's choir.

Not only will you enjoy the concert, but you'll feel a warm, virtuous glow: It's is a benefit for the participating organizations.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Louisa Performing Arts Center, The Colorado Springs School, 21 Broadmoor Ave.
Tickets: $25; 633-9373 or

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mays Wins Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition

Drew Mays — who placed second in last year's Rocky Mountain Amateur Piano Competition — won the fifth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs™ on Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas. (I am not making up the part about the ™.) The Cliburn is the most prestigious amateur piano competition in the country: Its contestants come from all over the world, and many are a technicality away from being professional. It's also the largest, with 75 contestants in the preliminary round, 25 semi-finalists, and six finalists.

This gives an idea of the quality of the pianists who come to the Rocky Mountain Amateur Piano Competition, which will take place this year from August 7-12. In addition to Mays, there were several other Rocky Mountain alumni in this year's Cliburn, including 2004 winner Thomas Maurice, who made the semi-finals.

And, as a special bonus to Colorado Springs, Mays is scheduled to perform here this month. The concert will be 2:30 p.m., Sunday, June 24, 2007, at First Christian Church. Check the Amateur Pianists International site for more details.

More info about the Cliburn here and at the Cliburn blog.