Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn present the world premiere of ‘Dreams in Flight’ with the Colorado Symphony at Vilar Performing Arts Center Feb. 2
What: Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn with the Colorado Symphony
When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center
Tickets: Starting at $65; students, $25
Hailed as the “king and queen of banjo” by Paste Magazine, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn present the world premiere of “Dreams in Flight” with the Colorado Symphony at Vilar Performing Arts Center Feb. 2.
“Dreams in Flight” is a collaboration between Fleck and Washburn, with orchestra arrangements by Scott O’Neil, who recently completed a nine-year tenure as resident conductor with the Colorado Symphony. The piece features three movements.
“The first movement is really about the search for better roots, like the human condition, how we’re always looking for something better and how we often don’t find it the way we thought we would,” Washburn said. “And the second movement is really about regret and wondering what this life is all about, and the third movement is about finding the spark and the fight to keep going.”
Primitive Baptist traditions and their corresponding lyrical mediations (in this case, on the celestial connection to our ever-changing physical world) inspired the first movement, “I Must Come to You.” The verse repeats throughout the piece, accompanied by changing harmonies, time signatures and meaning. The first movement also speaks to Washburn’s experience as an adult ESL teacher and features a true story an immigrant from China shared with her regarding difficulties working three jobs and losing her mother 10 years later. Additionally, the first movement was spurred by experiences ranging from the pair’s two-year-old son, Juno, playing the piano, traditional Appalachian folk music and roving Western cowboys.
Movement Two begins with “Circus of Regrets,” which Fleck penned in the early 1990s, not knowing he’d play it for Bozo the Clown in Chicago. Its sad, carnival waltz section caused Bozo to comment, “It sounds like a circus of regrets,” which led to its name. The next section of Movement 2, “And Am I Born to Die,” with its original and derived compositions of hymns, psalms and anthems, is based on Sacred Harp choirs, who arrange themselves in a hollow square and direct their acapella sound inward as singers take turns belting out their parts. In this portion, a soloist recites the melody, which contemplates humans’ mortality.
Support Local Journalism
Movement 3 includes six parts, with reprises and original songs, one which revolves around living with intention and purpose despite opposing forces.
“It is a rare privilege to witness a new work performed publicly for the very first time,” said Owen Hutchinson, executive director of VPAC. “New collaborations and thrilling artistic endeavors are among the projects that we are most proud to present on the VPAC stage, especially when they reflect our community’s collective tastes and interests as strongly as this project — a union of bluegrass and classical music — performed by our state symphony and two brilliant leaders of their genre.”
Fleck has garnered 16 Grammy awards, has been nominated in more categories than any other instrumentalist in Grammy history and has stretched banjo playing across multiple genres, while singer-songwriter Washburn has re-radicalized the instrument by blending it with Far Eastern culture and sounds. The pair met at a square dance, started playing together and eventually fell in love.
“Some of the most interesting things in the world come together in strange and unique ways and show our diversity,” Fleck said. “The banjo is just one of those things. It’s a great example of how the world can combine things and create surprising hybrids.”
Washburn imbues her work with appreciation for new sounds the banjo can produce alongside ancient tones.
“The ancient sounds of our culture remind us who we are, and in them, we see a constellation of who we are becoming,” she said.
Their program at VPAC, joined by the soaring sounds of The Colorado Symphony, also will include Dance Suite, BB86a and Appalachian Spring: Suite. Overall, the evening comprises a song cycle, which encompasses traditional and classical songs, as well as innovative tunes by Fleck, Washburn and others.