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Orchestra offers family experience

Autumn Phillips

This weekend’s concert will be the first unveiling of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra’s makeover. The group is trying to change its image.

Whatever they have become during the past few years, the group’s members want to refocus themselves as a community-oriented group whose concerts are interactive, educational and fun.

On Saturday and Sunday, a more accessible orchestra with a friendlier face will greet the families of Steamboat and usher them into the holiday season.

The program includes well-known Christmas carols from Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” and excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.”

When the orchestra begins to play Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” the group will ask for a few volunteers from the audience to join them on stage.

“That piece is such a standard that will be a lot of fun to play,” said Ernest Richardson, resident conductor of the Omaha Symphony and the current conductor of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra. “We will give our volunteers a pick of jingle bells or the whip crack (two pieces of wood used as a percussive instrument). I will give them a lesson right there on the spot of the finer arts of percussion playing.

“More than anything, we want this concert to be family friendly. We want people to see this as a family experience to kick off the holiday season.”

The concert will end with a sing-along of Christmas carols. The goal of the concert and of the orchestra is to be as accessible as possible, to play a vital role in the community and to provide a place for music students in the area to play.

The group has been examining its identity since September, with Richardson’s help.

“The process is going well,” Richardson said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the orchestra to find its place in the community.”

The Chamber Orchestra has been restructuring its organization with the addition of a players committee that serves the board of directors and the orchestra in an advisory capacity.

“That’s a new role for the musicians and a chance to have hands-on involvement,” Richardson said. The committee is made up of members from every segment of the orchestra, including a few high school-age members.

“This is a great learning opportunity for students to learn how organizations function,” Richardson said. “It’s leadership training.”


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