As a Boulder musical institution celebrates a milestone, it’ll be getting some help from a College of Music composition student.
This year, the Boulder Chorale marks its 50th anniversary. In addition to the “One Song, One Boulder” initiative and an April gala, the group will perform two concerts on March 11 and 13 to celebrate its connection to the community. One of the pieces on the program was written by undergraduate composition student Trevor Villwock.
“Still barely out of his teens, Trevor is already a professional colleague and accomplished composer,” says Artistic Director Vicki Burrichter.
Villwock’s “River of Entangled Voices” is written for chorus, piano, viola and horn; the chorus sings poetry written by CU-Boulder students Rushi Vyas and Marcus Williams. Villwock says he was inspired by the idea in the text of many becoming one—in this case, a snowflake becoming part of a river.
“In many ways a river is like a choir—an entity composed of many small molecules moving together as one body, its individual parts mostly indistinguishable from one another,” he writes in the program notes.
"There's also the element of a journey that I wanted to convey,” Villwock adds. “Moving from the more content, free-floating (sound)world of the clouds to the forward-moving river and back again, but somehow on a more elevated level the second time. I think that's quite a nice metaphor for the chorale's journey over the past 50 years."
“What makes Trevor's composition special is that Marcus and Rushi's poetry combines the complex beauty of Boulder and its ever-changing landscape with the idea of a choir of voices ‘entangled.’ It's a deeply moving concept,” says Burrichter.
Susan Olenwine—a College of Music alumna, member of the Music Advisory Board and pianist for the chorale—first brought Villwock’s name up to Burrichter.
“Susan performed three pieces of mine for voice and piano my freshman year, and we've been keeping in touch ever since,” says Villwock.
Burrichter says it’s been a stylistic match made in heaven. “The parts for the pianist, horn and viola are extraordinarily well written for someone so young and bring other sonorities to the piece that give it a unique voice.
“The chorus has grown to love the piece,” she adds.
Chorale Executive Director Ethan Hecht, who is a 2002 violin and viola master’s graduate from the college, relishes the chance to work with a fellow Music Buff.
“As an alum, it’s really exciting to see this come together,” he says. “I'm enjoying working with a different type of musician and am proud to see the quality of composition student the college is able to attract.”
The collaboration also affords Hecht the chance to perform. “I'm excited to have a viola part included in the piece. This will be the first time I'll appear on stage at a Boulder Chorale concert,” Hecht says.
For Villwock, it’s been a learning experience. “I learned so much about communicating effectively in a collaborative situation,” he says. “Rushi, Marcus and I were graciously given a lot of artistic freedom, and so it was a challenge for us initially to get a handle on exactly how we would approach the piece. With some guidance from Dr. Burrichter though, I think we ended up with a piece that satisfied all of us artistically as well as a piece that will serve as a fitting celebration of the chorale's 50th year."
In her first year as artistic director of the chorale, Burrichter has been working to build a relationship with the College of Music. She says having the opportunity to work with Villwock has been a great start.
“My work has always been about collaboration, supporting new music, presenting innovative styles of choral performances and bringing diverse repertoire and theatrical styles of performance to the projects I produce,” Burrichter says. “Gratitude must be paid to the College of Music theory and composition faculty for training such a skilled young musician.”
Adds Villwock, “As a young composer, it's always such a rare and special opportunity to have your work performed by a large ensemble, and working with Vicki and the Boulder Chorale in particular was a real treat.”
Villwock won’t be able to attend the concert; he’s studying abroad this semester in Manchester, England. “But we hope the CU community will come and support his efforts,” Burrichter says.
The Boulder Chorale’s two performances of “River of Entangled Voices” are Friday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 13 at 4 p.m. Both performances are at First United Methodist Church in Boulder. More on Villwock’s piece see the video.