No musical instrument summons memory better than the oboe. Combine its plaintive, bittersweet voice with striking photographs of the Southwest and you have an unusual concert.
That’s just what Music in the Mountains organizers had in mind when they created “Crossroads,” the benefit that will open this year’s festival July 10 at the Glacier Club.
Erin Hannigan, principal oboist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and pianist Gabriel Sanchez will offer a program of works by Saint-Saens, Sargon, Piazzolla and others with a changing visual backdrop throughout.
Hannigan’s music alone would be a draw, but Executive Director Angie Beach invited Paul Boyer to underscore the music with images of the Four Corners. Boyer is a well-regarded professional photographer who has lived in the area for 15 years.
Having seen a run through, I can say that Boyer has culled beautiful images from his enormous archive. He’s also made some creative and unexpected choices along the way.
In a recent interview, Boyer said he started with Hannigan’s repertoire. She will play the entirety of Saint-Saëns’ Oboe Sonata, two tangos by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla, and the lyrical “Gabriel’s Oboe,” from the 1986 film “The Mission.” In addition, she’s including two works come from her CD, “From Hafiz to Firewing (and beyond),” the lyrical second movement of “Homage to Hafiz,” by Simon Sargon, and a five-part work by the late English composer, Thomas Dunhill: “Friendship’s Garland.”
“This is a kind of retrospective for me,” Boyer said of the six months he’s spent on the project. “I moved here 15 years ago and had been photographing the region even before. This project has forced me to go back and look into all my photographs of the region.”
The concert will begin with Dunhill’s suite of five miniatures. Boyer’s visual accompaniment deceptively rolls out a photographic treasure of Colorado wildflowers. When the mood shifts, he transitions to desert colors. In another miniature, Boyer plunges into snowy images of last January’s Animas Balloon Festival.
All the components, he said, “definitely fit the crossroads theme.”
The longest piece is the Saint-Saëns’ sonata. Initially, Boyer said he had difficulty finding visual equivalents. Composed in 1921, the year of Saint-Saëns’ death, the work opens in a beautiful, pastoral mood then shifts to a stirring romance. The third movement bubbles over in a joyous allegro.
Finally, Boyer scanned images of young colts he took at a local ranch – perfect for the opening movement. The second is so mysterious and visually stunning, no more will be said here. Finally, Boyer choreographed a fast-paced celebration of big public events to “express a sense of community.”
As the soloist and photographer share a love for dogs, Boyer said he visualized Sargon’s second movement of “Homage to Hafiz” with that in mind. Originally inspired by a 14th-century poet, the work was commissioned by and dedicated to Hannigan. Sargon is Hannigan’s colleague on the faculty of Southern Methodist University and a distinguished international composer.
A tantalizing mood piece, the “Song of Love” is highly melodic and perfectly suited to the oboe’s Middle Eastern heritage. A review on MusicWeb International says it “rolls back seven centuries to take us to the city of Shiraz ... and evokes ancient evenings.”
All that is far afield from Hannigan and Boyer’s passion for dogs. She fosters animals for Operation Kindness in Dallas. Boyer’s 15-year canine companion, Monty the Wonder Dog, died in March. So this project is a double tribute.
“More people knew Monty than me,” Boyer said, fairly convinced that Hannigan will understand a creative stretch. Boyer photographed Monty in Colorado’s spectacular Garden of the Gods.
I wish Hannigan would play the entire Sargon work. You can hear it and the Dunhill miniatures on her CD. The rest of the program is energizing and incredibly beautiful, especially “Gabriel’s Oboe.”
This unusual benefit includes a substantial spread, as they say, so it will be a full evening and unusual beginning for the summer festival.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.