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Concord Chorale celebrates work of female composers this weekend

Tulips blooming are seen Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Tulips blooming are seen Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Here’s an interesting question: How many times, in the years that you’ve been giving Mothers Day gifts, have you selected something that will soothe Mom’s auditory senses? If you’re like most people, you’ve covered taste (breakfast in bed!), smell (flowers, candles), touch (massages, pedicures and the likes) and sight (knickknacks, photos of the kids, etc. etc.). But gifts that please the ear, while not unheard of (ha ha), are certainly less common.

It’s a shame, when you think about it, considering that the average mom who’s still in her active mothering years puts up with more auditory assault than a jackhammer operator who moonlights as an air traffic controller.

So here’s an idea: Take your mom to the Concord Chorale’s spring concert this weekend (yes, fellas, this weekend is Mothers Day). Titled “The Peace of Wild Things,” the innovative concert fittingly celebrates the work of modern women composers.

“There’s an atmospheric quality to the music. It presents these lovely soundscapes that you can sort of wrap yourself in as a listener,” said Kristofer Johnson, music director for the chorale.

The idea for the concert came together rather serendipitously. Johnson had been pondering a concert that centered on female composers when he learned that this year’s concert would fall on Mothers Day weekend. “I thought, let’s celebrate that rather than apologizing for tying up the day. Let’s really honor women and their contribution to music,” he said.

Johnson also liked the idea of focusing on modern composers, something the chorale hadn’t done in his recollection. As he began to explore the work of modern female composers, a secondary theme took shape, one he felt complemented Mothers Day beautifully. Many of the pieces he discovered drew inspiration from the natural world.

“Being in the woods or the lake or the garden – it’s such a big part of the lifestyle here. It has so much to do with what the New Hampshire experience is

for many of us,” said Johnson, who moved to New Hampshire nine years ago.

One of the highlights of the concert is a piece by Jennifer Higdon, a well-known composer and creative director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It’s an e.e. cummings poem set to music that includes a virtuoso piano segment accompanied by a vibraphone.

Another piece, “Water of Life,” was inspired by composer Janika Vandervelde’s relationship with her mother. The Minnesota musician, who has relatives in Keene, plans to come to New Hampshire to attend the Saturday performance. Her piece, which represents the hydrologic cycle, employs two pianist as accompaniment. “It’s sort of dizzying in a way,” Johnson said.

By that he does not, however, mean dissonant. While there’s often a perception that modern music is less melodic and more esoteric than traditional music, Johnson found plenty of soothing pieces to choose from.

“It’s all very beautiful and approachable,” he said. “It has been a lovely experience for me to conduct this music, and the chorale has fallen in love with it too.”

The experience has also resulted in an exciting new development for the chorale, an 80-member, auditioned group that has been performing for 44 years. Vandervelde has offered to write a commissioned piece for them to perform.

“It’s exciting to work with composer who are alive and want to collaborate,” Johnson said.

The Concord Chorale will perform “The Peace of Wild Things” tomorrow and Saturday at 8 at the Unitarian Universalist Church and on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the St. John the Evangelist Church.

Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors) and are available at Merrimack County Savings Bank and Bona Fide Green Goods, or by calling 463-5504. For information, visit

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