Jessica Peterson and Paul Roberts guest musicians at Sunday Night Unplugged

Photo courtesy Paul Roberts
A bird-shaped ocarina, one of many instruments that will be heard at this week’s Sunday Night Unplugged at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.

By Jessica Peterson
Special to The PREVIEW
This Sunday evening at 5 p.m., Sunday Night Unplugged will welcome Jessica Peterson and Paul Roberts as the special guest musicians. This quiet, contemplative service of music and meditation is offered every month at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd., and is open to the public free of charge.
Peterson and Roberts create rich sounds on a variety of instruments from around the world. Mandolin, tamboura and various drums will be heard along with six types of flute, each with its own distinct form and timbre.
Pan flute, an ancient Greek instrument in use for over 5,000 years, will sound the first notes. A metal tongue drum of a type invented a little more than a decade ago will join in for “The Seikilos Epitaph,” a song from the first century AD. Quite literally written in stone, it is the oldest surviving complete musical composition. The song’s message is: While you’re alive, shine. Don’t spend time in grief, for life is brief.
“Breton Gavotte” and “Dans Fisel” are traditional dance tunes originating in Brittany, the Celtic region of France. Mandolin goes solo here, allowing its subtle tone to be fully appreciated. Roberts’ mandolin, created by English luthier Stefan Sobell, has a relatively large body that produces an unusually full, smooth and clear sound with rich sustain.
“Rosa Mysteria” features a solo keyless wood flute of the type used in the Middle Ages. Haunting and delicate, this simple instrument sounds quite different from the modern keyed flute.
In a combination not likely to have been heard in our area before, fujara, Slovakia’s majestic overtone flute, and tamboura, India’s ancient long-necked lute, harmonize in “Slovindia.” The tamboura’s deeply reverberant drone and characteristic buzz provide a sonic landscape over which the fujara’s overtone-rich sound ripples. Fujara evolved in the seclusion of the Slovakian mountains as a shepherd’s flute. In 2005, UNESCO listed it as a masterpiece of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Expect to hear unique sounds imitating nature: the purl of an upwelling spring, and the rush of wind in an alpine valley.
A tiny ocarina in the shape of a bird opens the next musical interlude, “Snowy Forest.” A creatively played hand drum defines the soundscape through which Native American style flutes, handmade by Peterson, soar. The winter forest comes alive.
The final musical offering is one you will surely recognize, though you may not realize the melody originated in Ukraine. Mandolin and concert flute collaborate to end the evening on this joyful note.

This story was posted on January 17, 2020.