Steamboat orchestra to delve into story behind symphony |

Steamboat orchestra to delve into story behind symphony

Nicole Inglis

Ernest Richardson leads a rehearsal for the strings section of the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra during a March rehearsal at Strings Music Pavilion.

— For the final performance of the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra's 20th anniversary season, the ensemble will take a different approach in presenting a famous symphony.

Before diving into the complex emotion of Johannes Brahms' "Symphony No. 1," music director Ernest Richardson will spend the first part of the performance exploring the background of the piece in the context of Brahms' life, emotions and the musical climate of the Romantic era.

"The idea behind it is that as the orchestra develops its fluency in the language of music, the audience that has been coming to all or most of the performances has been growing alongside them," he said. "We've been building up to this piece.

"And here, it's all going to come together to help really understand on a visceral level what the music is about."

The show is at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Strings Music Pavilion. There will be an opportunity for students to meet Richardson before the show at 4:45 p.m.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, $10 for children 12 to 15 and $1 for children younger than 12. Call 970-970-8223 or visit for tickets.

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During the first part of the performance, as Richardson explains Brahms' influences and tribulations, pieces of the orchestra will demonstrate the themes that resurface again and again, relaying the underlying message of the piece.

"This whole symphony is about tension and release," Richardson said.

"Brahms and all the composers after Beethoven were frightened of the symphony. They felt Beethoven was looking over their shoulder. (Brahms) is trying to write a symphony after Beethoven's 'Symphony No. 9,' and it's a long journey."

It was certainly long and laborious — Brahms worked on the piece for 14 years. And intertwined in his musical life was a story of unrequited love, which also shines through in the symphony.

"Ultimately, there is victory and resolution," Richardson said.

After an intermission, the orchestra will perform all four movements in their entirety.

But that's not the end of the show. In a season finale encore, the orchestra will perform two pieces from the "Star Wars" score.

The encore is more than a treat for movie and "Star Wars" fans; Richardson said the audience would be able to recognize distinct similarities in John Williams' "Star Wars" throne room music and Brahms' first symphony.

During a strings section rehearsal Thursday evening, flute player and orchestra founding member Mary Beth Norris sat in the audience, listening to the strings go over the symphony's first movement.

"We've not performed, as an orchestra, anything like this before," she remarked. As a member of the orchestra, she said the group has not heard Richardson's history of the piece in full, and she's looking forward to an education on exactly what is going on behind the complex piece of music.

"It's an experience of learning we're all going to have together as an audience and an orchestra," she said.

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

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