Hear premiere of song that celebrates earth
When multi-instumentalist Lauren Pelon first began assembling a music program to observe Earth Day, she had one goal in mind. “I wanted to celebrate the beauty of the earth with music and word, and to reflect on our engagement with nature,” she explained. “That’s the idea behind the program.”
The outcome of her work is the community-based collaborative performance “Earth Tones” including the world premiere of her new 18-minute long composition.
The live concert can be seen 7 p.m. Saturday April 12 at the Sheldon Theatre.
Pelon, joined by 10 local and regional singers and a mixed-instrument decet, debuts the new arrangement, also titled “Earth Tones,” for the concert’s finale.
The Red Wing resident received a McKnight Individual Artist Grant from Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council to create the composition, working on it on and off over the last year.
“I focused all the music around the lyrics,” she said, explaining it has several sections, beginning the simple melody and earthy sounds of a Native American elderberry flute.
As the orchestral instruments slowly join the flute, the music gently flows to a lyrical transition.
“It kind of has a Gregorian chant feel,” Pelon said. After writing the words in English, she translated them to Latin and kept it that way.
With a few stanzas reading “We are grateful for this beautiful world, forgive us if we have not loved you enough,” the piece bounces back and forth between instruments, chants and lyrics.
Pelon says the lyrics are based around a variety of things.
“It really celebrates the beauty of the Earth but it also talks about how far we have to go in order to create a sustainable life for ourselves and our planet.”
Writing and performing
Composing is not something new for Pelon.
In fact, she has been performing as a soloist and in small ensembles since 1973 — occasionally working for chamber orchestras and most recently composing choral arrangements.
Her compositions and arrangements have been featured in her solo concerts, with the Philadelphia String Quartet, with symphony orchestras, and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”
“I’ve never really done a piece that combines both orchestral instruments and choir,” she explains, “But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
In the end, she wrote music for 10 instruments, noting the challenge of making each sound blend.
“But I’m also able to hear that sound when I write it, so that’s very helpful,” she said.
Instrumentalists include Lisa Hawe on flute; Kris Davig on oboe; Joseph Shafer on clarinet; Rob Schmidtke on bassoon; Samantha Bengs on French horn; Lisbeth Nelson Butler and Jessica Penn on violin; Kirsten Ford on cello; and Tom Erickson on double bass. Gretchen Anderson conducts the ensemble.
“I’m really grateful to all of these musicians,” Pelon said. “They sing and play beautifully and have helped the music grow and find its voice.”
After the ensemble’s first rehearsal, Pelon recalls one of the greatest thrills was experiencing the piece exactly the way she heard it in her head.
“It was so fun,” she said, “because it’s not an easy piece.”
Prior to the debut of “Earth Tones,” the audience will hear more of Pelon’s original earth-based arrangements via solo, duo, trio and quartet performances.
Pelon herself will sing and play a variety of ancient and modern instruments, including Kiowa courting flute, eagle bone flute, recorders, pennywhistles, archlute, crumhorn, schreierpfeife, cornamuse, gemshorn, bowed psaltery, concertina, guitar and MIDI-pedalboard.
Other featured musicians include vocalist Kik Gheen and John Reed on violin, viola, and bass guitar.
Singers include sopranos Elissa Bremner, Verna Fricke and Esther Gullixson; alto Anna Boelman; tenors Larry Clark, Perry Clark and Dave Swinarski; and basses Bill Foot and Don Fricke.
“It’s such a treat to work with all these wonderful musicians,” Pelon said.
The public is invited to join the musicians in the mezzanine following the concert.
For more information, call 651-388-8700 or visit www.sheldontheatre.org, or find the Sheldon Theatre of Performing Arts on Facebook.
If you go...
What: Celebrate Earth Day with Lauren Pelon and other artists.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday April 12
Where: Sheldon Theatre, 443 W. Third St.
Cost: $17.50 adults, $11.50 students
More info: 651-388-8700 or 800-899-5759, or www.sheldontheatre.org.