Thousands of miles from home, Barlow Bradford found the sound he was looking for.
Turns out it was practically in his backyard.
On a family vacation in Hawaii, the Utah Chamber Artists’ artistic director was captivated by the crystal singing bowls he encountered in a shop. “When they start ringing, the sound is just exquisite,” he said. “The sound goes on and on.” He was determined to bring that sound to Salt Lake City and inquired of the shop owner, who told him the bowls were manufactured in “a small town in Utah called Holladay.” That shop — Crystal Tones, “the premier crystal bowl manufacturer, possibly, in the world,” Bradford said — is about a half-mile from his house.
He went there and tested thousands of the bowls before choosing seven that played the exact combination of pitches he wanted.
“It’s kind of funny that we had to go all the way to Kauai to discover them,” said Christopher Bradford, an up-and-coming composer who has written a couple of pieces for his dad’s choir.
Father and son agreed that the younger Bradford would write a piece for Utah Chamber Artists’ season opener in memory of Dorothy Bradford, their mother and grandmother, who died last year.
“She was one of the kindest, most loving people I’ve ever known,” Christopher Bradford said. “She was smart and she was insightful. She was very grounded in the way she saw life. When it came to people she loved, there was no idea too divisive, too far from what she personally had in her convictions, that could make her stop loving this person or being with this person. She was there for anyone in any need of healing.”
The composer wrote an 18-minute piece for choir, string orchestra, three percussionists, crystal water glasses, crystal singing bowls and piano. “It was a little unconventional — usually you have existing text and the piece fits that,” he said. “I wrote the entire thing with no text.” He recruited a cousin, Kathryn Spratt, to write the text. “We brainstormed and I told her about the statement I wanted to make. She came up with the beautiful imagery of two towering cliffs, and at the bottom is a set of raging, treacherous rapids. …
“The irony is that the waters — evoking divisiveness and discord as they are — do, in fact, unify the two cliffs.”
The piece is in three sections, depicting “the state of the world before the bridge, the building of the bridge, and the bridge’s inevitable decay and the need for more bridgemakers,” he said. It will be the concluding work on this week’s program, whose theme is “In Memoriam” and which also will include music of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms — three of Dorothy Bradford’s favorite composers — as well as some contemporary works.
“Bridges” is the theme of Utah Chamber Artists’ entire season. “I’m personally rather distressed by what’s happening in our country, the division that’s seemingly getting worse all the time,” Barlow Bradford said. “[Executive director Becky Durham] and I agreed we need to do something as artists to build bridges, rather than walls.”
The choir’s Christmas concert, “Let’s Celebrate,” will feature traditional carols as well as music that acknowledges other winter celebrations and holidays. The winter concert, which Bradford described as “very unusual and difficult,” will explore the ways in which humans navigate grief.
“People have a lot of depth,” he said of the challenging subject matter, which includes war and the Holocaust. “We need to explore these things.”
The season will conclude in May with a concert titled “Let’s Dance.”
“For me, everything is a dance,” Bradford said. “Every relationship is a dance. Every time you get on the road you’re dancing and negotiating. If that becomes our focus, maybe other things will seem less troubling and burdensome.
“Dancing is a lot better than blowing everyone up.”
Utah Chamber Artists will open their season with the annual Collage concert.
With • Conductor Barlow Bradford, organist Gabriele Terrone, violinist David Porter, violist Brant Bayless and pianist Jason Hardink
When • Monday and Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Where • Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Free, but arrive early (doors open at 7:15)