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Local singers to premier new Pelon compositions

Lauren Pelon will perform on the archlute during the “Voice of Peace” concerts Nov. 9-10 at the Goodhue County History Center.

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Lauren Pelon and the Voice of Peace singers will premier two new compositions and several new arrangements in a pair of concerts at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 and 3 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Goodhue County History Center.

Pelon — a longtime Red Wing musician who performs internationally on ancient and modern instruments — is known locally as a solo artist, but she hasn’t always performed alone.

She started out in 1973 performing with small ensembles, and began doing concert tours as a vocal and instrumental soloist around 1990.

“I continued to try and have opportunities to work with other musicians,” Pelon said. Over the past couple of years, she has devoted more of her energies to creating choral music.

“I’m always trying to take on the next challenge,” she said — some new endeavor with music.

Two years ago Pelon brought together the eight-member Voice of Peace ensemble, which performed three numbers at a Goodhue County History Center holiday event.

One of those songs, “Heading Home,” was based on the poem “Tracks” written by her husband, Gary Holthaus. “In Peace, Farewell” was inspired by a Jamaican friend, and the third song, “In My Mind,” was inspired by an Estonian folk tune for which she wrote lyrics.

As she continued to explore choral music, Pelon was awarded a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council to write two new compositions and arrange several songs for mixed voice ensemble.

Those new works and the three from the earlier museum concert will be performed by the Voice of Peace group, which has added some new members since the original performance.

Presenting the Nov. 9-10 program will be sopranos Elissa Bremner, Verna Fricke and Esther Gullixson; altos Anna Boelman, Kik Gheen and Pelon; tenors Larry Clark, Perry Clark and Dave Swinarski; and basses Bill Foot and Don Fricke.

Kirsten Ford will join the ensemble on cello, and Pelon will play a variety of ancient and modern instruments including the archlute, guitar-lute, “low” whistles, concertina, recorders, electric wind instrument and pedalboard.

Pelon’s first new composition is “If Tomorrow,” with cello and whistles featured at the beginning and end. “A bit of a story goes with it,” she said; she’ll explain at the concert.

The other is “Meadows at Night,” based on another Holthaus poem with the same name. It will be performed a capella.

The concert also will feature new arrangements of five songs, most of which Pelon originally wrote as solo pieces: “Ae Fond Kiss,” based on a traditional Scottish melody and a Robert Burns poem; “Only the Sound”; “Freest Fantasy” with archlute and cello; “Sweet Delights of Music” with recorder and cello; and “For a While” with guitar and vocals.

Pelon, who currently splits her time between Alaska and Red Wing, is pleased with the local chorus’ performance. “We have wonderful singers in Red Wing,” she said. “They have helped the music grow.”

The Nov. 9-10 concerts are the culmination of the grant project. However, the chorus also will perform some of the new works during an “Earth Tones” event honoring Earth Day April 12 at the Sheldon Theatre.

Tickets to the history center concerts are $10. They are available at the museum, 1166 Oak St., 651-388-6024, or at Simple Abundance, 318 Bush St. Seating is limited. The event is presented by the Goodhue County Historical Society and the nonprofit Picaresque II in cooperation with the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC).

Pelon studied the history of music and instrumentation in the United States and abroad. Her compositions and arrangements have been featured in her concerts, with the Philadelphia String Quartet and with symphony orchestras, and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” In 2001, she was named SEMAC’s Artist of the Year, and in 2010 she received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Award.