Spring concert blending talents

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— This year's Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra may present the Yampa Valley Community Chorus with all they need to step out on their own.

And while it's also Robert Ritschel's first time conducting a chorus in Steamboat, he said the chorale has what it needs to structure its own concerts.

Typically, the Chamber Orchestra presents three concerts throughout the year, however this year was the exception with a mid-winter concert in the beginning of March. And when they invited the Community Chorus to accompany two pieces of the program for the spring concert, Ritschel said, of course, they were delighted.

"This is the first time ever, to my knowledge, they were asked to do anything in the spring," said Ritschel, a doctor in music education.

It's been very gratifying that so many people who are experienced singers willingly practiced for the last two months to put it together, Ritschel said.

Ritschel's duties as chorus conductor is to prepare the chorus for the literature it will sing. Depending on the level of the chorus, Ritschel said certain material is more appropriate than others.

"It gives you this warm feeling that you're performing something worthwhilefor personal enrichment," Ritschel said of the need to choose pieces that fulfill personal desires. "You're looking for an aesthetic response."

While there may be an abundance of good literature, choruses need the opportunity to display their talents in the spotlight.

"If it's time for this chorus to be on its own, then it's time to do that. Maybe next fall they'll have another group to stand on its own two feet," Ritschel said.

With Ritschel's belief in the chorus' superfluous talent, alto singer Carolyn Peters said she still wants to be a part of the orchestra if they ask again.

"It's been fun and the pieces are very interesting. It's very inspirational and moving ... a challenge," Peters said of the music. "To hear the two things blend is wonderful. It's spine tingling."

Peters, a member of the chorus for 10 years, said the most challenging is that the pieces they sing are in Latin.

"Not only are you thinking the words and what they mean, but also how to pronounce them," Peters said.

Although Ritschel has conducted many other church, school and community chorales, Steamboat has yet to see the mad musician at work.

But Ritschel will not stand on the podium May 6. His presence will be heard in a range of pitches among the other 40 singers Sunday night.

The honor will go to William Burkhart, conductor of the orchestra.

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," orchestra manager Larry Lucas said. "We're gradually improving on what we can play and how we can play it."

Lucas 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.

"Mass in G," a collaboration with the orchestra and the chorus, is in Latin, like most chorale pieces, and comes from the Romantic period, Ritschel said.

Franz Shubert typically does not compose chorale pieces, however, "Mass in G" and the famous "Ave Maria" are his two Latin pieces.

The second piece, "The Promise of Living," by 20th century composer Aaron Copland, is a piece that tells the story of the land that we use.

"It has become such a powerful and dynamic chorale setting that it's often performed by itself," Ritschel said. "The text is a reflection on how we use the land for growing and living ... and how this affects us living our lives."

Although Ritschel said he has not conducted in quite some time, he thought trying it again was analogous to riding a bike. Once you've got all the tools and the experience, it's just a matter of getting the best out of the people.

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