Mirshak Artists
Timothy Jones

The Utah Symphony introduced a new two-concert chamber music series last season that brings works written within the past 50 years or so to Utah audiences. Its inaugural season went well enough that the organization has brought it back again.

Renamed the Ardean Watts New Music Series at Westminster, the series opens this week in its new venue in Vieve Gore Concert Hall with selections from Olivier Messiaen's "Catalogue d'oiseaux" and Dominick Argento's one-man opera "A Water Bird Talk."

Joining Keith Lockhart and members of the Utah Symphony for Argento's piece is baritone Timothy Jones.

The Deseret News caught up with Jones, who lives in Houston, a couple days after Hurricane Ike swept through. A native of Shreveport, La., Jones is no stranger to hurricanes. "I grew up with them," he said by phone. "I'm used to dealing with them, but I've never been through one as big as this one."

Jones said he's looking forward to coming to Utah again, where last year he performed Peter Maxwell Davies' "Eight Songs for a Mad King" with Lockhart and the Utah Symphony. "The Argento is going to be completely different than the 'Eight Songs,' although both are adventurous."

Unlike Maxwell Davies' piece, which requires the singer to make "weird sounds" as Jones put it, "A Water Bird Talk" is much more lyrical and effusive in its tonal language. Even though Argento experiments with serial (or 12-tone) technique in the work, it still remains grounded in tonality "The dramatic lyricism is unparallelled. It's really a beautiful piece and beautiful to the ear."

Argento fashioned the libretto for "A Water Bird Talk" himself basing it on a play by Anton Chekhov. In the story, the lecturer discusses various water fowl, gradually realizing that the birds come to symbolize his henpecked existence.

This will be Jones' first venture singing the work, and he's thrilled at the opportunity. "It's been enlightening studying it," he said, "and I'm looking forward to doing it."

Jones enjoys singing contemporary music, and he's commissioned several works in the last few years. "I couldn't do 'La Boheme' every year," he said. "That's not my way of working. I get much more excited doing new pieces."

If you go ...

What: Timothy Jones, baritone; Keith Lockhart, conductor; Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra

Where: Vieve Gore Concert Hall, Westminster College

When: Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m.

How much: $25

Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787

E-mail: [email protected]