Composer Murray Boren and his wife, soprano Susan Boren, make a perfect musical match. With one able to write music for the other to perform, their musical relationship is of a perfectly complementary nature.
Assisted by the Friends of Music Chamber Orchestra, the Borens will present a "Families Making Music Together" concert in the Assembly Hall at Temple Square on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
The program features three sets of poems by Glen Nelson, which have been set to music by Murray Boren, Brigham Young University composer in residence, while Susan, who collaborated on the lyrics to "My Children," will be the featured vocalist.
"My wife and I have always been professional musicians, but not our children," Murray Boren told the Deseret News. "We were trying to figure out a way to have the kids at least marginally involved, so that is the reason the concert is kind of built the way it is.
"Mr. Nelson helped my wife write these poems about our children. The first three pieces on the program are called 'My Children,' and they're the names of our children kind of portraits of them. That seems to be the only way we can get them on the program."
Boren added that he might not be performing at the program either, but for his commitment to conduct. "I'm a composer, not really a performer, so I'm conducting the orchestra that was the only way to get me on stage.
"My wife's a singer, (but) she's been retired from singing for several years. When we came here (to Utah), she taught for BYU for the first few years, but our youngest child is autistic and requires a lot of attention.
"This is the first time she's sung in public for probably three years. She decided she didn't want to do it unless it was something different, so we're writing all new music for it."
Nelson, who wrote the poetry for the concert, is a friend and a fan of Susan's. "I've worked with Nelson a lot, which helps a lot." Boren said. "We've done several operas together. . . . and we get along pretty well. He has some veto control over the music and I do over the poetry, too. He sends it to me, and I read and think about it a lot. If there are places that I don't understand, we talk back and forth.
"Some of these poems, the 'Afterwards' poems, I've had over a year now. The other ones are quite recent. Usually, I like to keep the text a long period of time to get comfortable with it before I write for it. It's a matter of trying to enhance the text, rather than obscure it. You really want the audience to understand the text, and what's happening. Hopefully, the music will reinforce the emotional content of it."
The "Afterwards" pieces, Boren said, are poems that Nelson based on three New Testament stories "about what happens to the person after the Savior interacts in their life."
"With 'The Seven Sisters,' he found seven different LDS women in seven different time periods and wrote these poems about their situation or plight, or the kinds of struggles that a Mormon woman might have to encounter. They talk about people in different cultures and different kinds of solutions to life's problems."
The hardest part for Boren was giving the music a female point of view to match the poetry. "All of the poems in fact, all of the pieces on the whole program have a female point of view, and that was between Glen Nelson and my wife. She wanted to have it sound like it was first-person, and so he wrote them all with that frame of mind.
"That makes me a little uncomfortable, since I'm not female, but I'm trying to write from that point of view, which has been curious."
Although some people may be leery of contemporary classical music, Boren said he and Nelson have tried to be sensitive to that. "I think some people might be concerned that (this concert will be) all new music. It is art music. It wasn't written to try to be soundtrack music or pop music, but I think it does have a very comfortable surface, so that it will be very comfortable to people, rather than off-putting.."
The concept of "Families Making Music Together" extends an extra generation in this concert. Boren noted that although he didn't come from a particularly musical family, one of the strongest influences on his musicianship came from his parents.
"My parents, particularly my father, used to make us act out Haydn symphonies as a game when we were little, tiny kids. (We would) listen to Haydn and create some kind of narrative to go along with it, and then act it out. I remember that very clearly being my first experience with music.
"That sense of immediacy about music that speaks directly is the thing that I worry about most in my own music. I don't really know if the audience likes it or not I don't really care but I want them to be touched or moved, or have some kind of interaction, so that they just can't forget about it when they're done. That intensity comes clear back from when I was a little kid."
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