Cristin Frey: Classical music 101 |

Cristin Frey: Classical music 101

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds perform Saturday night at Strings Music Festival.

The other day I was at one of our outreach programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs with our artist in residence string quartet, the Tesla Quartet. The quartet members asked the group of 6- to 10-year-olds whether anyone knew what pizzicato means. As my mind went blank, a curly blond-haired kid, no older than 6, raised his hand and confidently said “plucking.” If you are wondering if he was right, keep reading because this article is for you. 

■ Chamber music: Written for a small group of instruments, the word “chamber” signifies that the music can be performed in a small room with an intimate atmosphere. This also could be compared to the modern day jam session. 

■ Orchestra: A large instrumental ensemble with sections of string, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, led by a conductor. These have different names depending on size. A smaller-sized orchestra (of about fifty players or less) is called a chamber orchestra. A full-size orchestra (about 100 players) sometimes is called a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra.

■ Concerto: This basically means solo with the orchestra. You will want to pay attention because someone is about to show off some mad skills. 

■ Applause: Here is the moment you have been waiting for to show your appreciation. Somewhere in the early 19th century, it was decided that applause interrupted the momentum of a piece, which is why we now hold our applause until all movements (little songs within a piece) are complete. It looks like Mozart lost this battle years ago, when he expected that people would eat and talk over his music, particularly at dinner, and was delighted when his audience would clap during his symphonies.

■ Pizzicato: Plucking, the little boy was correct.

Cristin Frey is the marketing director for Strings Music Festival. Contact Frey at or 970-879-5056, ext. 104.

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