Story and photo by Madeleine Ahlborn |

SATURDAY, April 22, I was invited to the formal dress rehearsal the night before the world premiere of Ancient Echoes in Longmont. The piece was inspired by and written for ancient lithopones found at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Upon arrival I met Michael Udow, his wife, Nancy, and Marilyn Martorano and Anthony (Tony) Di Sanza at Michael’s house for lunch. We talked briefly about what the night would entail but mostly shared stories about life experience and got to know one another past the reasons why we were all there to begin with.

Instruments used in the piece include the ancient stones, left, bells, percussion from around the world, and vibraphone

THE performance included pieces by Igor Stravinsky and Johannes Brahms. Udow’s Ancient Echoes with Di Sanza, percussion, was the heart of the evening. 

Because I have had extensive conversations with Michael and Tony before hearing the composition, I had an inkling of what was to come. The piece surpassed my expectations, to say the least.

The three percussion stations that Tony performed on were set out from downstage right to downstage left. There was the vibraphone, the ancient stones, the modern lithophone (the instrument that was designed and constructed from granite countertop) and a number of other instruments from around the world including different membranophones (skin drums). The simple movements between each station manifested the concept of time passing in a non-linear form. This sense of call and response between the past, present and future with the accompaniment of the entire orchestra really paints an open space of wonder to allow the listener to wander through time and space untethered. 

Percussionist Di Sanza, left, and composer Udow set up the modern lithophone, which was created for this piece of music. Made of pieces of granite countertop, it weighs about 300 pounds. 

THE soloist, Tony, is an incredible performer. He was what I like to call “in the cut,” a level of concentration despite the surroundings that allows an artist to totally and fully lose themselves in their practice.This is an experience that is not often seen by outside eyes. In every step between stations, every turn of the page, each strike of the mallet, there is intention and focus that sucks the audience in. Not only listening to the music but watching history in the making, the passing of time, all of this done in perfect harmony and tempo is beyond what words can describe. 

Composer Udow adjusts the ancient lithophones 

MICHAEL’S composition allows the audience to travel to different spaces of their past and also envision places of the future. I sat next to Marilyn and her husband, Sal. We listened in awe and by the end of Tony’s playing we all looked at one another smiling. 

Elliott Moore, the director and conductor of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra, is also amazing to watch. Animated and profound movements of his arms and body conduct a multitude of performers to play in time with one another is fascinating to see. With my experience at the dress rehearsal, there were moments of pause and jumping around different parts of the symphony. Moore would stop and call out to begin again; his perfect pitch can hear everyone within the sea of instruments. I am the farthest thing from a musician but observing his competency within his practice and profession is outstanding. The Longmont Symphony Orchestra is a must-have experience here in Colorado. No matter the performance, you will not be disappointed. 

There are times when words cannot fully contain Art that is birthed into the world. Ancient Echoes is one of these pieces. You must simply listen and experience for yourself. 

“Eyes on Longmont” is a TV production club of volunteers who share the happenings in the city of Longmont. Keep an eye out for their recording of the piece on their YouTube channel, which will be published in the next few weeks. 

Thank you again to Marilyn Martorano for her passion to keep archeology alive and relevant, Michael Udow for bringing music to the world, Anthony Di Sanza for the intense focus it takes to perform, to the community members of Longmont, the Symphony Orchestra, and to Elliot Moore for simply saying “yes.”

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