The Colorado Symphony Re-Imagines Classical Music with $15 Event

Colorado Symphony

Whether you listen to classical music obsessively or have never heard a drip of it in your life, the Colorado Symphony is creating a more casual atmosphere on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the Studio Loft in Ellie Caulkins Opera House that invites music lovers of all kinds. Called Contemporary Chamber Music at Studio Loft, this performance will be more intimate and close-up, as the symphony is featuring ensembles of players to perform throughout the night, rather than the usual 80-person program. And tickets are starting at just $15, a much more affordable ticket price to the symphony than previous shows. You can grab yours here.

With cocktails and beautiful music all set to be enjoyed, this is an up-close experience with the symphony as never heard before. 303 Magazine was able to chat with Chief Artistic Officer Anthony Pierce, as well as members of the symphony including Viola player Phillip Stevens (on behalf of the Ivy Street Ensemble), Principal Percussionist John Kinzie, Violinist Karen Kinzie and Assistant Principal Horn player Austin Larson about this special performance.

Colorado Symphony
Photo courtesy of Meg O’Neill

303: What’s an overview of your musical history?

Phillip Stevens: Having played together since 2001, the nationally recognized Ivy Street Ensemble is comprised of three Colorado Symphony musicians, Cathy Peterson, Erik Peterson and Phillip Stevens. The ensemble presents a diverse array of classical chamber works from the baroque era to 21st century compositions. Recently awarded Second Place for The American Prize Chamber Music 2015, ISE continues to present classical music to audiences around the country.

Austin Larson: I grew up in Wisconsin, got a Bachelor of Music from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, an Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and started playing with the Colorado Symphony right after I finished school.

303: How did you come to be a part of the Colorado Symphony and how long have you been playing with them?

PS: All three members of the Ivy Street Ensemble have performed with the Colorado Symphony for over 15 years, winning the positions through a national audition, competing with many of the greatest musicians in the musical world.

AL: I started playing with the Colorado Symphony since September 2014 after I won after auditioning for my current position just a few months before that.

303: What are you looking forward to about the Loft performance?

AL: I’m excited to play some chamber music since I don’t get to do that very often as a full-time orchestral player, and I’m also excited to play a piece by a living composer (Daniel Dorff) and to have him present for the performance and some of the rehearsals.

John Kinzie and Karen Kinzie: We haven’t played Brian Prechtl’s Vows in quite a few years, so we are enjoying rehearsing and preparing for the concert. Playing in the small venue for a close audience is always an enjoyable experience.

Anthony Pierce: Well, I like several aspects. I like the whole story of how it came about with the city. The city has made some funds available for us to activate the underused spaces, and that studio loft is one of the first that came to my mind. I’m excited to hear the musicians in that space and it’s a really cool room…it opens up to this big, beautiful room.

One of the things I really like about this program is that it allows our musicians to be featured in a solo capacity. Most of the time people are used to seeing the symphony perform at Red Rocks or Boettcher and see them in their 80-person program.

Photo courtesy of Nick Annis

303: What’s your involvement with this performance? If you chose pieces, why did you gravitate towards those specific choices?

PS: As part of the Ivy Street Ensemble, we are always looking for works that have been composed for our unique combination of instruments: flute, violin, and viola. We ran across the piece by Maria Newman, and discovered that we loved the descriptive nature of the work, as each movement is about a different bird found in the Pacific Northwest. It is full of musical effects and interplay between the instruments, and has always been one of our audience favorites.

AP: I work very closely with the artistic committee of musicians. We have a very close dialogue to select pieces to play. So the musicians always have input – we don’t impose artistic ideas on the players. There is a process for them to have a dialogue on what they want to do. But this [performance] was really [their choice].

303: What hopes do you have for this performance?

AP: We really hope to have just an amazing concert. The capacity of the room is about 250 people – per the fire marshal. We’ve already sold 200 tickets. It’s going to be an exciting experience.

We have several female composers featured. It’ll be cool to see it performed…there won’t be a dull moment because the point of focus will be changing. There’ll be changing of colors and sounds – from percussion to oboe – you’ll be able to hear the colors of the orchestra.

303: What’s one of your favorite shows you’ve played in – this past year, and then overall?

PS: One of the best things about playing is the variety. I have great memories of playing chamber music with the Ivy Street Ensemble in Salida, in Oregon, in San Diego, and in Denver simply in the past year. Concerts with the Colorado Symphony provide collaborations with DeVotchka in Red Rocks, movie soundtracks like Harry Potter and huge classical works like Beethoven’s and Mahler’s symphonies. This is simply like asking your favorite food or favorite color. The beauty is in the variety

303: Do you play any other instruments outside the Symphony?

PS: Mostly just a little piano. We become such specialists in our specific instruments at the professional level, that we rarely have time to veer in another direction.

Colorado Symphony
Photo courtesy of Meg O’Neill

303: What does your practice look like to prepare for a concert or event like the one on the 9th?

JK and KK: We prepare our parts individually so we are comfortable and proficient, and then we get together and play the piece, working out any issues in ensemble, intonation, musicality and phrasing. We really strive to speak to the audience with our performance.

303: Why did you chose this particular instrument?

AL: I chose the horn because I had heard a recording of a substantial horn solo (the “Long Call” from Richard Wagner’s Opera Siegfried) on the radio and I liked the sound of the instrument.

303: How is the Loft performance going to be different than a regular concert at the Symphony?

AL:  Every audience member will feel like they’re right in the middle of the action! Perhaps, more importantly, all of the music on the program was written by composers who are still alive. The vast majority of music we play with the full orchestra is by composers who have been dead for centuries.

JK and KK: This performance will be very different because of the small venue and it is all chamber music performed by small groups from within the Symphony family.

AP: It’s going to be a very — I don’t know if eclectic is the right word or wrong — but a different way to experience the Colorado musicians in a [new] setting.

303: Do you prefer collaborative or solo work? What are the positives of performing in a symphony for you?

PS: The repertoire of symphonic music is second to none. The colors, the variety, the combinations of sounds, is second to little else in the musical world. As an individual performer, its most satisfying performing chamber music overall. It’s the perfect combination of personal expression and working together towards an amazing goal of making music as one.

JK and KK: We really enjoy performing chamber music together and have commissioned quite a few pieces to be written for us.

303: What other things are happening for the symphony this year that are similar to this new program?

AP: We are still figuring that out. This is the first time we will perform in this space. We would like to continue doing this. It’s a pilot.

Colorado Symphony
Photo courtesy of Meg O’Neill

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