A Gathering of Minds…How Truth Arises From Unity

What do a Taiwanese-American baton collector, a Finnish-American music director, and a Korean-born cellist with focal dystonia all have in common? You guessed it. They—along with seven other smashing musical talents from around the world—will take the stage as guest conductors in the Pikes Peak Center, for a spectacular 2023-24 season of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
What brings such a distinguished gathering of artists our way? Let’s just say the winds of fortune converged at the right time, in the right place, and that ten of the world’s most gifted musician/conductors will find themselves here with us at the foot of Pikes Peak, with an opportunity to bring their transcendent magic to an audience of eager listeners.
It’s impossible, perhaps, to look at a guest list like this without remarking on its incredible diversity. But as that particular term has suffered a number of undeserving lumps in recent years, let’s just say we’ve been fortunate—very fortunate, indeed—to have gathered such an impressive collection of unique individuals from wildly different cultures to share their wildly different voices in a season of unforgettable performances.
In Ari Pelto’s interpretation of Verdi’s Nabucco, for instance, you were treated to a stirring reinterpretation of ancient politics—namely, the persecution of the Jews as they’re driven from Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar—seen through the mind’s eye of a celebrated 21st century opera-house maestro. Yes, critics have long lauded Pelto’s “breathtaking wizardry in the pit.” But his masterful take on Temistocle Solera’s beloved libretto had you on the edge of your seat.
Longing for the powerful? Let’s talk Mei-Ann Chen’s electrifying performance of Nkeiru Okoye’s “Voices Shouting Out”—a passionate response to the human tragedy of 911. “Shouting Out” looks away from the grief and sorrow of that terrible day and, under Chen’s masterful instruction, guided us from the ashes of darkness and despair to the light of unity and compassion.
One of our special guests—Spanish-American, François López-Ferrer, Resident Conductor of the Académie of the Opéra de Paris, presents, among other lovingly curated arrangements, Shawn Okebholo’s acclaimed work, Zoom!. A rousing score that examines the global pandemic and how it changed the world in ways we never imagined. In less artistic hands, the subject of a world-wide epidemic might have fallen flat. But under López-Ferrer’s fierce baton, Okebholo’s narrative becomes a story of strength and unity. A timely reminder that we’re always together, even when apart.
Scientists tell us reality is perception. That what we perceive to be truth is, ultimately, no more than subjective observation colored by individual experience. If this is true, each of us is consigned to view the universe solely through the narrow lens of our own experience—unless and until we learn to embrace and honor the perceptions of others. It’s only through art, and the artful exploration of the world’s complexities, that we learn to grasp Truth in its totality. So as you settle into your seat and enjoy the unique narratives of this season’s performances, expect something different than you’ve ever seen or heard before. Something wonderful. Something that takes an old story you thought you knew, and turns it on its ear.
Another special guest to grace our stage is the remarkable, French-born Chloé Dufrense, who’ll spirit us back in time to 19th century France, and the work of the much-celebrated composer and teacher Gabriel Fauré whose extraordinary works of wit and urbanity influenced musicians and musical styles throughout the 20th century. But this is only the beginning
This rest of the season’s eclectic array of concerts promises to be as unique and varied as any we’ve ever brought to the stage. So along with the thrill of discovery, and the joy of sheer entertainment, we hope you’ll come away moved—as we were—with the notion that, in sharing our lives with others, we can help make the world a stronger, better, more dignified and intelligent world.
Different perceptions bring different realities. That’s the point of this lovely cornucopia of talent and showmanship. But if you’re not yet convinced that we’re able to see more when we share one vision, consider the old folktale of the blind men and the elephant. Each man is asked to examine different parts of the elephant’s anatomy and describe what he’s found…. One man touches the elephant’s tale and declares it a rope. The next touches the trunk and calls it a snake. Another mistakes the ear for a fan, the leg for the trunk of a tree, the tusk for a spear. But it isn’t until they compare their perceptions that they begin to understand the larger meaning of the moment, and recognize the great beast for what it is.
Yes, different perceptions bring different realities. And different realities, artfully joined, bring us Truth.
Consider the work of Taipei-born conductor, Carolyn Kuan, one of our featured guest conductors, and what her vision adds to the narrative of the contemporary cannon. Ms. Kuan delivers the story of Mason Bates’s acclaimed symphony, Alternative Energy, with unerring perfection. We not only hear the arrangement, we feel its energy as she shepherds us through its rusty percussions and hip-hop beats. How well do we know the world in which we live? Sometimes it takes a surreal trip through a Midwestern junkyard, a particle collider, a futuristic Chinese nuclear plant, and an idyllic Icelandic rainforest to find out.
 More? Of course there’s more. The 2023-24 season is a kaleidoscope of dreams, charms, and feats of magic. Which means it wouldn’t be complete without Chloé van Soeterstède’s Organ Symphony…Ann Clyne’s DANCE for Organ and Cello, Yugo Kanno’s “Revive” for Koto and Shakuhachi…or Korean-Canadian conductor, Earl Lee’s psychological exploration of Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s Danse Negre. Valerie Coleman’s Umoja, Anthem for Unity…also finds its way to the performance stage this fall, as does Michael Repper’s (the youngest American to win the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral performance) powerful interpretation of Joan Tower’s Made in America.
Diverse? Yes. Divisive? Never.
This rest of the season’s lineup of works are not only ground-breaking musical events, but a grand celebration of our collective humanity. They’re performances of a lifetime. Many lifetimes, in fact, blended together in a sparkling tapestry of love, strength, and compassion. We hope you enjoy each and every moment of it.
by Robert Mcguill