Steamboat orchestra’s past, future collide for opener |

Steamboat orchestra’s past, future collide for opener

20th season opener celebrates the community

Steamboat Symphony Orchestra/Courtesy
Courtesy Photo

— It’s no coincidence that flutists Mary Beth Norris and Patrick Williams stood side by side in the Steamboat Springs High School band room Thursday night, delicately articulating the musical conversation of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4.

Norris and Williams played in canon and in synch — the longtime music teacher and the child music prodigy who now, at age 22, has returned to his hometown to play the famous flute concerto for the community that supported him on his musical journey.

“It’s a momentous occasion,” said Norris, who began giving Williams flute lessons when he was 7. “I feel privileged to play with him. He’s going places.”

Steamboat Symphony Orchestra music director Ernest Richardson said he chose the piece not only because of its virtuosic demands and joyous themes, but also because of the soloists it features and what they represent. The piece also features Teresa Steffen-Greenlee on violin and Andy Schaffner on harpsichord.

“It just shows the breadth and the scope of this organization,” Richardson said.

This evening, Norris and Williams will stand side by side on the Strings Music Pavilion stage as the Brandenburg Concerto opens Steamboat Symphony Orchestra’s 20th anniversary season.

“It really talks about the history, the present and the future of the organization,” Richardson said about the opening concert.

The concert costs $35 for adults, and tickets increase to $40 if purchased at the door. Tickets are $10 for students.

The Bach piece launches into the landmark 20th season with traditional Baroque emotionality and liveliness.

Williams, who is studying at the Curtis Institute and hopes to play for an orchestra after he graduates, said the concerto is one of the staples of flute music that he is proud to play with the small Steamboat orchestra.

“It’s a beautiful piece of music,” Williams said. “I feel lucky to be able to come here and give back to the community that set me off.”

Up next, the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo will feature another guest appearance with Steve Boynton on guitar.

Richardson said this piece also represents the strength of the classical music community in Steamboat.

“I just don’t know in how many towns you could just find some guitar player who can play this piece,” Richardson said. “Here in Steamboat, there’s a guy who can play the piece and play it really well.

After a brief intermission, John Sant’Ambrogio, who laun­­ched the Strings Music Festival and first invited Ernest Richardson to Steamboat, will be the featured soloist on Boccherini’s Cello Concerto.

And continuing in the joyous themes of the evening is the final piece, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, which Richardson calls his most humorous piece.

He said the piece plays all sorts of musical tricks on the listener with a cartoonish flair.

“What’s really interesting, is the first movement starts off with this big, long, dramatic introduction — very deep and profound,” he said. “And then it turns into this remarkably fast, virtuosic and exciting first movement.”

And as the final notes of the first concert of this season, Richardson said the Beethoven symphony symbolizes the future, like the Holiday Concert and the great task of taking on Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 for the Spring Concert.

“It keeps up with this notion of great expectations and anticipating what’s to come,” he said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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