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Photographer John Fielder and Steamboat Symphony Orchestra blend images of nature with live music

Photographer John Fielder captures the headwaters of the Yampa River after the passage of a violent thunderstorm while gathering images for his book
Tom Ross

If you go...

What: “A River Runs Through It,” Steamboat Arts Council presents the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra and violinist Anna Roder accompanying images by photographer John Fielder from his new book “Colorado’s Yampa River, Free Flowing and Wild From the Flat Tops to the Green”

When: 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 and 13 in the Strings Music Pavilion.

Where: Strings Music Pavilion, from Pine Grove Road, at 900 Strings Road, Steamboat Springs

Tickets: Ample number of seats beginning at $25 at http://www.steamboatarts...

— From its headwaters in the Flat Tops mountain range to the desert canyons of Dinosaur National Monument 249 miles downstream, the Yampa River is constantly making music as it spills over gravel bars and crashes through rapids.

In the midst of the Yampa Valley Crane Festival this weekend, lovers of great music have a rare opportunity to celebrate the river and the majestic birds it supports, as the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra accompanies a show of images from the new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River, Free Flowing and Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green,” by Colorado’s best-known nature photographer, John Fielder. The event is presented by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

If you go…

What: “A River Runs Through It,” Steamboat Arts Council presents the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra and violinist Anna Roder accompanying images by photographer John Fielder from his new book “Colorado’s Yampa River, Free Flowing and Wild From the Flat Tops to the Green”



When: 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 and 13 in the Strings Music Pavilion.

Where: Strings Music Pavilion, from Pine Grove Road, at 900 Strings Road, Steamboat Springs



Tickets: Ample number of seats beginning at $25 at http://www.steamboatarts…

No one understands the music of the river better than orchestra Music Director and Conductor Ernest Richardson.

“I think of the Yampa as my home water,” Richardson said Friday, as he explained how wading in the river while fly fishing is a touchstone for his own creativity, as he strives to see beneath the surface

“This metaphor of looking through the surface to find meaning,” relates to all creative endeavors, he said..

Richardson will lead his musicians Saturday and Sunday in the Strings Music Pavilion, joined by Fielder, who will actively choreographs the unfolding images to the music of Beethoven, Vivaldi and the great composer of film scores, John Williams. The performance also marks the return of violinist Anna Roder to Steamboat Springs, where she first became a musician, for a performance of the Brahms Violin concerto in D Major, Op. 77.

“John’s images are about more than just capturing light,” Richardson said. “They speak of his passion for this river. The music adds depth to our experience of the images. I hope we capture that passion and the reasons he created them.”

Fielder, with writer Patrick Tierney, set out on several float trips down the Yampa in 2013 and 2014, plus a llama trek to the river’s headwaters, to gather images and record the qualities of the Yampa that make it special. Those qualities include the Yampa’s stature as one of the last Western rivers to have the rhythm of its seasonal flows remain intact in spite of a handful of relatively small dams in its upper stretches.

All of the plants and animals that live close to, or utilize the river, are in tune with the symphony of the river.

Fielder will actively take part during both symphony performances as he “choreographs” a presentation of images he gathered for his book.

“I’ve never worked with a photographer that controls how the audience sees the images in relation to the music. It can hard to trust a photographer to do that,” “However, John happens to love orchestral music, Richardson said. “However, he told me he loves Brahms. I thought, if this guy really loves this music, I’m just going to let him go.

“He’s choreographing the experience for the audience. You could time the piece – each image gets a number of seconds. But how the images appear and dissolve and change will be a live situation with John at the computer.”

/////Music and modern slideshows/////

The practice of setting “slideshows” to music has become universal in the modern era of image editing apps that allow amateur photographers to set their images to music on a tablet or laptop. Richardson sees great value in that development for its ability to make the average person more in tune with the “language of music,” even its practitioners aren’t fully aware of it.

“People don’t understand music the way they used to two or three generations ago,” when it was more common for people to read music in order to entertain themselves by playing an instrument, Richardson said. But the popularity of making one’s own slide show set to music is a positive development, he added.

“When taking their own images and putting them to music, they are thinking critically about how the music and images fit together,” he said. “It’s a mindset that prepares them to hear an orchestra play and experience how music and images work together. It’s a wonderful way for people to get back to the language of music.”

Fielder approaches his photography as a conservationist with the intention of inspiring people to get involved preserving the natural landscape for generations to come.

“History shows societies that protect their fresh water and forests survive longer, and that a close relationship with nature makes people healthy, happy and prosperous,” he wrote in the introduction to “Colorado’s Yampa River.”

The performances in the Strings Pavilion are clearly intended to inspire as well as to entertain.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


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