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Barlow Bradford believes music is one of the best vehicles for exploring life's difficult questions. "We can explore lightness and dark in music, and art in general, in a way that is less frightful for us as human beings," said Bradford, founder and artistic director of Utah Chamber Artists.
The group opens its season Monday with its annual Cathedral Collage concert, an elaborately planned event in which music unfolds in a continuous stream throughout downtown Salt Lake City's Cathedral of the Madeleine.
This year's edition, "Shadow and Light," explores the dark side in works such as "Dark Night of the Soul," Ola Gjielo's setting of a text by Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross; "Requiescat," Edwin William Barnum's setting of an Oscar Wilde poem; and "Canción de Nuestro Tiempo," Einojuhani Rautavaara's setting of Federico García Lorca's "Ode to Walt Whitman."
"It's a difficult poem to wrap your head around," Bradford said of the García Lorca poem, which the choir will sing in the original Spanish. "It's very depressing.
But there also will be moments of lightness and joy, such as Bradford's arrangement of "For the Music of Creation." Lighting design by Chip Dance seeks to capitalize on the cathedral's distinctive art and architecture as the musicians move throughout the building in various combinations.
The Fry Street Quartet will perform four selections and join the chamber choir in two more. The quartet, which has been in residence at Utah State University in Logan since 2002, performs frequently in Salt Lake City most notably as resident quartet of the NOVA Chamber Music Series. This will be Fry Street's first collaboration with Utah Chamber Artists.
"It's pretty fascinating," Fry Street violist Brad Ottesen said of the collage concert model. "Barlow has done a masterful job blending the different elements. It's a nice nontraditional structure to work with."
One of the quartet's selections is "H2O: Source of Life," a movement from Laura Kaminsky's "Rising Tide." Fry Street commissioned the work and will premiere the full string quartet later this month in Logan as part of the multidisciplinary Crossroads Project. "Dark Night of the Soul," a collaboration with the choir, is also new to the quartet. "It's nice to have so many contemporary elements," Ottesen noted.
There will be some familiar music as well, including quartet movements by Beethoven and Brahms. Baritone Michael Chipman will sing the aria "Ombra mai fu" from Handel's "Xerxes," and flutist Jeannine Goeckeritz and harpist Tamara Oswald will perform a Piazzolla tango.
"It's going to be a really cool program an amazing combination of elements you usually wouldn't find together," Ottesen predicted.
Shadows and light
Utah Chamber Artists will open the season with its annual Cathedral Collage concert. Guest ensemble is the Fry Street Quartet.
Where • Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City
When • Monday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m.
Tickets • Free