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Orchestra keeps going, growing

Steamboat classical ensemble takes on tougher music, diverse styles

John Fairlie, Steamboat Springs Orchestra executive director, rehearses with Gary Foss for the ensemble's 2007-08 season opening concert. Foss will be featured in the orchestra's 2008-09 season opener.
Courtesy Photo

With more players, a heftier repertoire and a diverse series of concerts, the Steamboat Springs Orchestra is going into its second fully scheduled season with growth on its mind.

Tackling Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony for its season-opening concert Oct. 4, the ensemble is playing it anything but safe in 2008-09, continuing on the increasingly professional trajectory that has defined it since fall 2004.

“The people that have been following the orchestra for two or three years have noticed that the orchestra has just been improving amazingly from year to year, and the level of professionalism has been rising,” said John Fairlie, the group’s executive director and principal bassoonist.



Each of the season’s three main concerts features a local musician on a classical showpiece – principal clarinetist Gary Foss takes on Rossini’s “Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra” for the opener – and a major repertory work for full-orchestra, including Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5” on the season closer in April. To support those pieces, the 48-member ensemble has added two players to each violin section.

“We’ve never done anything like that here before,” Fairlie said about the Tchaikovsky performance. “It’s a fabulous piece, and it’s difficult.”



For the first time, the orchestra will host a pops concert as part of its supplemental schedule, bringing Canadian Beatles cover band Jeans ‘n Classics to Steamboat for two concerts Jan. 18. The orchestra will back the band in a show Fairlie hopes will attract a non-traditional audience.

“I think that it’s something that should broaden our appeal, to reach out to people that may not choose to normally go to an orchestra concert, but they love the music of The Beatles, as I do and I think most people do,” he said. Jody Patten, director of marketing for the orchestra, said the concert meets the group’s mission of providing musical experiences to Northwest Colorado.

“I can’t tell you how excited people are, even young kids, about hearing the music of The Beatles. It seems like there’s a resurgence of interest, and it’s amazing how excited they are about this concert,” Patten said. “For us, exposing them to popular music in the classics is just a wonderful opportunity.”

By staging the season-opening concert in the custom acoustics of the Strings Music Pavilion, Fairlie said he hopes the program will highlight the orchestra’s level of play and allow concert attendees to “enjoy that ambience and the presence of the music all around you.”

On Wednesday, the orchestra’s string and wind quartets perform at Harwig’s/L’apogee for an evening of classical music and fine dining, with music director Ernest Richardson joining the string quartet for one piece. Also in chamber music, the orchestra has added an extra performance to its annual Valentine Soiree on Feb. 14 and 15, featuring cello performances by John Sant’Ambrogio and his daughter Sara Sant’Ambrogio of the acclaimed Eroica Trio. Program listings for the Steamboat Springs Orchestra’s 2008-09 concert season are available at http://www.steamboatspringsorchestra.org.


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