Sacred & Profane & Tragic & Comic


— An exponential list of praises from conductor Dr. William Burkhart described this year's Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra, its abundance of talent, the expression of movements and the meanings behind the composers.

"I'm just completely charmed by this orchestra. They're hard working, dedicated, a fun-working group," Burkhart said.

While speaking of a music piece that will follow intermission for the Thursday and Friday night shows, March 1-2, Burkhart said, "I was captivated, the music was so radically different than what I'd heard before. There is less tragedy and more resignation. The love is almost transcendent."

For the first year, the orchestra will present a winter concert at 7 p.m. for a family outing March 1, with a community concert at 7 p.m. March 2. This year's theme, "Sacred and Profane; Tragic and Comic," expresses the meaning of the pieces to the conductor and the symphony.

The 40-piece orchestra not including the more than 20 non-active members who also are a part of the orchestra will start with a piece based on Don Quixote, which the Steamboat Springs Youth Orchestra will take part in for the second year. The Chamber Orchestra also will play in Telemann's Don Quixote, but only with strings.

"This piece is inspiring for our players," Burkhart said. "(The youth orchestra) is excited to play with the big orchestra."

Larry Lucas, orchestra manager, said in the four years he's been involved in the orchestra, he has seen the number of musicians grow rapidly and their talent grow immensely.

"We're trying to accomplish our mission to provide classical music in the valley and provide music education for our youth," Lucas said.

Established in 1991, the orchestra, started by Mary Beth Norris and friends, included eight members that performed in the living room of another member's home.

Ten years later, the orchestra has grown five times the initial amount with three to four concerts a year, a conductor and a manager.

"We're a more complicated orchestra that takes on a wider variety of music," Lucas said. "We're gradually improving on what we can play and how we can play it."

This refined orchestra, after playing Don Quixote, will perform a piece that resembles an Easter Mass, "Alleluia Prayer," by Joseph Haydn, to help generate a celebratory spirit in the high school auditorium, Burkhart said.

Within the three movements of the orchestra, the first will create a different feeling, the second will be a solo by flutist Katherine Saatjian, a high school senior, and the finale will be a large minuet.

Being the youngest member of the Chamber Orchestra, Saatijian said the rest of the musicians treat her like one of them. And as for this year's composition, she said it tops other concerts she's played.

"It's the best music I've ever got to play," 17-year-old Saatijian said. "I like the instrumentation and I like the strings. It's the orchestra music that's better."

With the above qualities Burkhart attributed to the piece after intermission, the balance of the program will be a piece from the play, "Pelleas et Melisande." This French version of "Romeo and Juliet," containing more mature subject matter, is composed by Gabriel Faure.

"He preserves, in tragic moments, a gentle lyricism and a warmth that is incredibly touching," Burkhart said of Faure. "It is bittersweet. Melisande is a warm and engaging woman. Although she is married, she presents this warmth and you understand her."

Burkhart's words describe what a play might depict, but the orchestra allows the audience to see the images through the music he conducts.

"Folk Song Suite" will mark the second piece following "Pelleas et Melisande." This piece contains three folk songs. The wind, brass and percussion sections of the orchestra will play marches for the first and third pieces of the whole. The second piece will be a serenade.

A piece describing the wild, chance-taking, passion for life is Brahns' "Hungarian Dances," the last piece of the orchestra's winter concert.

Burkhart told a story of his connection to the music.

"I studied in Vienna and because it's such a short drive to Hungary, there are many Hungarians in Vienna. A man grabbed another's flute and enjoyed and played wild gypsy music," Burkhart said. "That's what music is like for Hungarians."

Burkhart described the music as flirtatious, swaggering and manly.

"It's like these extreme skiers on the mountain trying to impress the women," Burkhart said of the music.

While also rehearsing for the spring concert in May, the orchestra will take an enormous step and practice a Beethoven piece. Burkhart said the orchestra hadn't played a full symphony previously and "it's a pretty mature undertaking."

Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra normally plays a fall concert, a Christmas event and a spring concert. Adding a new winter concert in March allowed the orchestra to expand its resume and show the community its talent.

"The orchestra had more potential than we were allowing for. We finally hit that potential right now," Burkhart said.

Lucas said Burkhart has been a phenomenal conductor because he challenges the orchestra to play what they may not have chosen otherwise. And the orchestra continues to expand its repertoire.

Burkhart said his approach in choosing the music for the concert is to question its content and quality. Burkhart said knowing the answers to these questions gives every piece a background.

With a doctorate in conducting from Colorado University at Boulder, Burkhart tries to answer the questions: "What does the music mean? Does it contain emotions of joy, sorrow, celebration? A piece that is introspective where emotions are expressed, that's what really matters to me."

After conducting the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra, among others, and moving to Colorado, Burkhart found the job of conductor four seasons ago by word of mouth. With a second master's degree in composition and now a doctorate in conducting, Burkhart said he loves his position in life physically and metaphysically.

A conductor chooses the music that is appropriate for the orchestra and researches what sounds complement each other.

"You choose something that is not too chaotic for expression," Burkhart said.

When Burkhart entered the orchestra area in Steamboat, so did Lucas. After playing trombone in high school, quitting for many years and then picking it up again for a jazz band at Colorado Mountain College - Alpine Campus, Lucas dedicated his trombone time to the orchestra.

"The orchestra involves playing under a rigorous rule. You can't take any license to the music. You have to play it as it's written."


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