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Elliott is ready to rock Gardner Hall

First Published      Last Updated Feb 10 2017 06:15 pm

Music » The Tabernacle organist will play William Bolcom’s “fearsome” work “Black Host.”

The music Richard Elliott will be playing Sunday, Feb. 12, on the NOVA Chamber Music Series isn't what you might expect from the Mormon Tabernacle's principal organist. In fact, NOVA artistic director Jason Hardink said, "It's not what you'd expect from an organist at all."

The major work is William Bolcom's "Black Host," scored for organ, percussion and an electronic tape that Elliott described as "a wall of sound." The piece incorporates the ancient hymn tunes "Dies Irae" and "Donne Secours," but "it doesn't really fit the musical program here at the Tabernacle," the organist noted.

Elliott had played "Black Host" while a student at the Curtis Institute of Music and still had the accompanying tape on reel-to-reel; thinking it best to convert the tape to a more modern format, he gave it to an audio engineer to convert to an electronic file.

"A few weeks later he told me, 'I did the conversion, but it looks like the tape was destroyed. It's just silence and noise,'" said Elliott, who assured his friend that the tape was, indeed, intended to sound that way.

Utah Symphony principal percussionist Keith Carrick will be Elliott's collaborator on "Black Host." He'll have the added challenge of incorporating tubular chimes, because the organ at Libby Gardner Hall, where the concert will take place, does not have chimes. The organ also lacks a crescendo pedal, requiring Elliott to "do tricky things with the registrations."

"It's probably one of the hardest things I've had to play," he said. "It exploits the more fearsome elements of organ sound. … Bolcom gathers in all different kinds of musical styles — ragtime, rock, a passacaglia in the center. The passacaglia is in a rock music style, and I'm doing my best to make it sound gritty, like a big Hammond organ."

Elliott also will play the shorter "Hymn" by William Albright, a colleague of Bolcom's on the University of Michigan composition faculty in the 1970s.

Hardink said he thinks of Bolcom and Albright as successors, in a way, to the iconoclastic American composer Charles Ives. The Utah Symphony, where Hardink works as principal keyboardist, will conclude its seasonlong Ives symphony cycle with performances of the wild and woolly Symphony No. 4 on Friday and Saturday. "We're doing one of the greatest American symphonies ever composed, and I wanted to tie in with that celebration," he said. "I wanted to make it relate to a movement in American music that we could easily say is part of Ives' legacy." Bolcom and Albright are among the composers who carried on Ives' ethos of "embracing American folk vernacular styles in a meaningful way that wasn't collage or kitsch."

Pianist Brian Connelly, a former teacher of Hardink's at Rice University, will play a ragtime set by Bolcom and Albright, as well as teaming with violinist Alexander Woods in Ives' Violin Sonata No. 4; cellist Noriko Kishi will join Connelly and Woods in the Ives Piano Trio.

Meanwhile, at Abravanel Hall • Music director Thierry Fischer will lead the orchestra in Charles Ives' Symphony No. 4, completing the cycle of Ives symphonies he and the orchestra have been performing this season.

Fischer noted that the orchestra will have two extra rehearsals because of the unusual demands of the piece. Even at that, the conductor sent the musicians lengthy emails in advance of the rehearsal week, outlining the complicated logistics. At various points in the piece, associate conductor Rei Hotoda and Utah Symphony Chorus director Barlow Bradford will conduct smaller ensembles within the orchestra — playing at different tempos and in different meters — while Fischer conducts everyone else. "It's an exceptional piece of music," he said, adding that he might say a few words from the podium beforehand to prepare the audience.

The program will open with Mozart's Requiem, featuring the Utah Symphony Chorus.



The Ives has it

The NOVA Chamber Music Series presents music of Charles Ives and two of his musical successors.

When » Sunday, Feb. 12, 3 p.m.

Where » Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $20; $18 for seniors; free with student ID; novaslc.org

The Utah Symphony presents Ives’ Symphony No. 4 and the Mozart Requiem.

With » The Utah Symphony Chorus and conductors Thierry Fischer, Rei Hotoda and Barlow Bradford

When » Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17-18, 7:30 p.m.

Where » Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $21-$79; utahsymphony.org