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Friday, October 14, 2005

Symphony seeks boost
Orchestra hopes upcoming collaborations bring new fans

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call


Brian St. John conducts the Longmont Symphony Orchestra during a rehearsal at Vance Brand Auditorium. In its 39th season, the symphony will partner with guest artists and the Longmont Dance Theatre to appeal to a broader range of people.
Times-Call/Erin McCracken

LONGMONT — Classical music doesn’t have to be pretentious or solely focused on the works of dead European composers.

That is the philosophy of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra as it approaches the beginning of its 39th concert season.

To boost concert attendance, the orchestra’s board has included more partnerships with guest artists and the Longmont Dance Theatre to appeal to a broader range of people, including families and youth, said resident Conductor Brian St. John.

The symphony board spent much of this year finding ways to “change our focus and find an audience for the next generation,” he said.

That includes a partnership with the dance company for the symphony’s much-anticipated presentation of “The Nutcracker” as well as a family show entitled “A Musical Storybook,” which also features the Longmont Youth Symphony in a presentation of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals.”

By mixing classical music with dance, concerts become a “work of art created right before your eyes,” St. John said.

It also pulls in a different audience that might never have attended the symphony before.

“Collaborative events tend to work very well for our community size,” St. John said. “It’s nice to see arts organizations working together.”

The other component of successful concerts is the musical selection.

“People love to hear pieces they know,” he said.

Music by Beethoven, Brahms and Rachmaninoff are always crowd pleasers. The challenge is to mix in new pieces by less well-known artists to keep the Longmont Symphony Orchestra’s repertoire alive, he said.

“Every concert has a different challenge. Some repertoires are really complicated,” St. John said. And others, like “The Nutcracker,” which musicians have performed for years, pose their own set of challenges, such as complacency, he said.

Artists are so used to performing the music one way, it is hard to break them of their previous habits, he said.

As part of its strategy to reach families and youth, the symphony is introducing a new show this year, “Christmas by Candlelight,” a mixture of symphonic music and traditional Christmas carols. The performance is Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 350 11th Ave.

The Christmas show is a “a new effort for us and we have almost 20 sponsors already,” St. John said.

“Orchestras get a reputation of being an exclusive club,” he said.

The best way to combat that image is to keep coming up with new collaborations, continue mixing traditional musical selections with newer symphonies and appealing to a wider audience.

The first concert of the season is on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Vance Brand auditorium, 600 E. Mountain View Ave.

Titled “Ultimate Drama of Death and Life,” the event will feature superconductor Leona Stoecker, who will lead the symphony in “The Col. Bogey March.”

Stoecker, who earned her role as superconductor for her fundraising efforts on behalf of the symphony, said she hasn’t been invited to rehearse with the symphony yet, but, “I’m used to winging it. I learned that as mayor and that’s the only salvation I have,” she said with a laugh.

Stoecker has been a major supporter of the Longmont Symphony since its inception.

“I love music and always have,” she said. “I guess I’m just a supporter of Longmont. I think it is important for a well-balanced city to have arts, music and schools.”

“The Col. Bogey March” is a “fun, upbeat march,” Stoecker said, and she is looking forward to conducting it at Saturday’s performance.

“They don’t need me at all. I’m just standing in front of them,” she said.

As part of every superconductor’s indoctrination they receive a conducting lesson and a rehearsal so they “can pose knowingly with the symphony,” St. John said.

The honorary job moves quickly from “terror to exhilaration,” he said. “I’m anticipating Leona’s first rehearsal.”

This is St. John’s 11th season with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra. He shares duties with Conductor Robert Olson.

If you go

What: Longmont Symphony Orchestra presents “Ultimate Drama of Death and Life” featuring superconductor Leona Stoecker

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Vance Brand auditorium, 600 E. Mountain View Ave., Longmont

Tickets: Tickets are available at the door or at the Longmont Symphony Orchestra offices at 519 Main St. $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $11 for youth.

More info: 303-772-5796

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211 or