Valentine’s Day Showcase at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Peter and Kara Dugan | Arts
Locals and tourists flock to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to see a diverse collection of art and beautiful interior gardens, but crowds gathered on the afternoon of February 13 for a Valentine’s Day concert with Peter and Kara Dugan.
The Dugans, a married couple, created a love-themed program as part of the Gardner Museum’s weekend concert series, with Kara on mezzo-soprano and Peter on piano. The sold-out performance, which took place in the museum’s Calderwood Hall, featured songs by Florence Price, Stevie Wonder and George Gershwin.
The Dugans took part in the Gardner Museum’s virtual Valentine’s Day program in 2021 when they were asked to record an excerpt from an unreleased love song composed by Italian composer Francesco Paolo Tosti that was found in the collection by Gardner. With in-person gigs once again in full swing in Boston, the Dugans have been invited to perform live this year.
“There’s something really freeing about being on stage and knowing that it’s just then, it’s just then, and after that it’s a memory. I love that said Peter Dugan in an interview with The Crimson.
Kara Dugan explained that at the heart of their musicality and their musical collaboration is a philosophy of experimentation with their instruments and a willingness to learn new songs while performing music that they personally love and enjoy. have grown.
“I think it’s really fun, and for us, it’s really personal. We had a wide variety of repertoire on the program because we felt it spoke to us as artists, and because we felt it told a story in a really interesting way,” Kara Dugan said. “We like the idea of bringing people with a lot of variety into our selections.”
The pieces were certainly personal, including “It’s Not Me, It’s You” – a comedic song composed for them by Peter’s brother Leonardo Dugan – and “I’m Glad There is You” (1941) by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira – the song they danced at their wedding.
“I think it’s really exciting to have live music again,” said audience member Martina Diekmann. “I really like the mix of the program, it goes in different directions.”
The Dugans often provided context to their songs before performing, contributing to an intimate and engaging stage presence. Kara, perched on a stool, and Peter, looking up from his piano bench, exchanged glances and candidly joked throughout the performance.
Art was an important part of the Dugans’ pandemic experience. They created music together, performing and recording from their New York apartment. Social justice movements energized during the pandemic impacted their performance, which kicked off with Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic.” Peter explained that it is important to recognize black musicians as songwriters.
“Black musicians have probably done more for musical innovation in the last hundred years than anyone else, in terms of music more broadly,” he said. “And for that reason, I think it’s really important for us to include someone like Stevie Wonder or Charlie Parker.”
Each piece of the program has immense meaning for the Dugans. As a member of WQXR’s first Artist Propulsion Lab, Kara Dugan created a song cycle called “In a New York Minute: Miniatures for Voice and Piano”. Dugan explained that this cycle, consisting of five one-minute pieces, was made from poetry submitted to the Gothamist by average New Yorkers. These poems were then set to music by five different composers.
“If you ask someone to name a dozen female composers, I think some people might struggle to do that in the classical repertoire,” Kara Dugan said. “It was important to me to highlight the fact that women don’t have the same opportunities, to help uplift other women in the community, to support each other and to create together.”
The joy felt by the Dugans on stage was echoed by the audience. For audience member Sarah F. Williams, the concert marked the beginning of a return to live music.
“I was very happy to find art in my life. To be two years without it was something so big that was missing. And you don’t know what it is until you have it,” Williams said.
—Editor Lena Tinker can be reached at [email protected]