SALT LAKE CITY — Twangy vibes from the banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle and bass aren't usually associated with large choirs, but the upcoming concert by the Salt Lake Choral Artists offers a unique combination of classical choral strength and Southern bluegrass twang.
Focusing on traditional American music, the “Gloryland: Music from Appalachia” concert on Feb. 24 at Libby Gardner Concert Hall will feature bluegrass music from composer Timothy Powell, as well from local composer and Salt Lake Choral Artists member Esther Megargel.
Pulling from his hometown roots among the Appalachian Mountains of northern Georgia, Powell’s “Dear Appalachia” — which recently premiered at Carnegie Hall — is a three-piece choral movement that feels 100 percent American. It tells the story of a courtship between a 19th century soldier and his future wife. However, as Powell explained in a recent interview with the Deseret News, he wrote most of the piece while living abroad as a student in Sophia, Bulgaria — a story he plans to tell at the start of Saturday's concert.
“It’s kind of convoluted, but it’s a funny story,” Powell teased.
And although he originally wrote it as bluegrass music for a typical bluegrass band, converting it to choral music was surprisingly natural, Powell said.
For local composer Megargel, whose work, “Two American Folk Hymns,” will premiere as part of the concert next Saturday, the process of writing choral bluegrass music was a bit harder.
“Originally I wanted to write a folk hymn,” Megargel explained. But after SLCA director Brady Allred looked at her work, he suggested she rework it to fit in with their bluegrass concert.
“The only problem (was) I had never written for mandolin, banjo, and all of these instruments. … So I had to find out more about them,” Megargel said. “It was fun to write, but it was quite a learning experience for me.”Comment on this story
The concert will include a full bluegrass band to play along with the choral group formed entirely of local musicians.
Regardless of the writing process, both composers expressed that hearing their work performed is what makes it all worth it.
“That to me that is always the high point of anything I write,” Megargel said. “Especially a performance by this wonderful group.”
If you go …
What: SLCA’s “Gloryland: Music from Appalachia”
When: Saturday, Feb. 24, 7:30 pm
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1375 Presidents Circle
How much: $10-$15