Tradition lives on with Steamboat Orchestra’s Holiday Concert |

Tradition lives on with Steamboat Orchestra’s Holiday Concert

Nicole Inglis

— Unanswered questions hang from the notes of Franz Schubert's “Unfinished Symphony," a work abandoned by its composer before he could finish the third or fourth movements.

There also were a lot of unanswered questions in the air about the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra, which was rehearsing Friday morning at Strings Music Pavilion.

But contrary to the minor tones of the musical work, the unanswered questions of the orchestra's future represent more of an open-ended world of opportunity as the organization soon enters a new era as a part of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

On Friday, music director Ernest Richardson led the orchestra through a rehearsal of the famed romantic symphony, preparing for two concerts this weekend that almost didn't happen.

"It's a Christmas miracle," Richardson said. "The small miracle is the concert is happening, and the big miracle is that this orchestra is so wonderful and such a gift to the community."

The annual holiday concert will feature the two-movement Schubert symphony, a series of holiday-themed favorites and the traditional sing-along. The performances take place at 7 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $45 on the day of the concert, $35 in advance, $10 for students and $1 for children.

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Just two months ago, the orchestra was in danger of dissolution or, at the very least, cancellation of the holiday concert.

About $40,000 in donations from the community saved the concert, while a merger with the Steamboat Springs Arts Council ensured it a prosperous future.

Already, the two groups have been meeting about possible collaborations combining classical music, visual arts and even Steamboat history and heritage.

Grant Bursek, Arts Council board vice president, sat in on rehearsals Thursday and Friday. He said the full, warm sound of the orchestra made him smile.

"This past week, meeting with Ernest and the staff, and the music, it's just phenomenal to see it all come together," he said. "There's some level of excitement about what's going to happen next; it's an exciting unknown."

And all this new territory begins on familiar ground with this weekend's concerts.

The Schubert symphony constitutes the first half of the performance, leaving the deeply melodic sounds hanging in the air, just as Schubert did when he decided not to finish the symphony.

But the second half of the concert changes key.

"It leaves the unanswered questions," Richardson said about the “Unfinished Symphony.” "Our answer is all of this festivity and celebration in the second half."

The festivities include an appearance from the Steamboat Chamber Singers, who will perform music from the film "The Polar Express," a sing-along in which children from the audience will be invited up to play instruments, and an original Richardson composition featuring local youth musicians.

Orchestra concertmaster and local violin teacher Teresa Steffen-Greenlee was glowing at Friday's rehearsal, even though the musicians had a shorter amount of time to prepare than usual.

"But there was so much enthusiasm about the fact that we're still here," she said. "I'm just looking forward to having the community gathering that's the kickoff to the season. I love that the community so enjoys this event."

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