Valentine’s Day Display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Peter and Carla Duggan | Art

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Valentine’s Day Display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Peter and Carla Duggan | Art


Locals and tourists alike flock to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to see its various art collections and beautiful indoor gardens, but the crowd that gathered on the afternoon of February 13 was there to meet Peter and Carla Duggan at a Valentine’s Day concert together.

The Dugans are a married couple who created a love-themed show as part of the Gardner Museum’s weekend concert series, with Kara as mezzo-soprano and Peter on piano. The sold-out performance, held in the museum’s Calderwood Hall, featured songs from the likes of Florence Price, Stevie Wonder and George Gershwin.

The Dugans attended the Gardner Museum’s virtual Valentine’s Day show in 2021, when they were invited to record a never-before-seen love song by Italian composer Francesco Paolo Tosti, which is part of Gardner’s collection. With live concerts in full swing again in Boston, the Dugans were invited to perform live this year.

“It’s really liberating to be on stage, knowing that it was at that moment, at that moment, and after that it’s a memory. I love that,” Peter Duggan said in an interview with The Crimson.

At the heart of their musical talent and musical collaborations, Kara Dugan explained, is the idea of ​​experimenting with instruments and the drive to learn new songs while also playing music that they personally love and grow with.

“I think it’s really fun and it’s really personal to us. We have a variety of tracks on the show because we think it’s an exchange for us as artists because we think it’s Tells a story in a very interesting way,” Kara Dugan said. “We like to have people diversify in our options.”

The pieces are of course personal, and include “It’s Not Me, It’s You” — a comedy song written for them by Peter’s brother Leonardo Duggan — and “I” by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madera Nice to have you” (1941) – their song danced at their wedding.

“I think it’s really exciting to have live music again,” said audience member Martina Diekmann. “I really like the combination of this show, it’s going in a different direction.”

The Dugans often provide background information on their songs before performances, creating an intimate and engaging stage presence. Carla sat on the stool and Peter looked up from the piano stool, exchanging glances and making candid jokes throughout the performance.

Art is a big part of the Dugan family’s pandemic experience. They composed music together, performed and recorded in their New York apartment. The vibrant social justice movement during the pandemic has had an impact on their performance, which opens with Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic.” Peter explained that it was important to recognize black musicians as composers.

“Black musicians have probably contributed more to musical innovation than anyone else in the last hundred years, as far as music goes,” he said. “So I think it’s really important for us to have someone like Stevie Wonder or Charlie Parker on board.”

Every piece on the show has enormous meaning to the Dugan family. As a member of WQXR’s inaugural Artist Advancement Lab, Kara Dugan created a song loop called “In a New York Minute: Miniatures for Voice and Piano.” The cycle, Dugan explained, consists of five one-minute pieces composed of poems submitted by ordinary New Yorkers to the Gothamists. The poems were then scored by five different female composers.

“If you ask someone to name a dozen or so female composers, I think some people might struggle to do that in classical repertoire,” Kara Dugan said. “For me, it’s important to highlight the fact that women don’t get the same opportunities, and to help lift other women in the community, support each other, and co-create.”

The joy the Dugans felt on stage resonated with the audience. For audience member Sarah F. Williams, the concert marked the beginning of a return to live music.

“I’m glad art is back in my life. Two years without that is a big miss. You don’t know what it is until you don’t have it,” Williams said.

— Staff writer Lena Tinker can be reached at

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