Steamboat Springs Under the baton of music director Ernest Richardson, the Steamboat Springs Orchestra has become a community experience in music making.
Taking on a new challenge in the classical music repertoire with each performance, the group and its largely local cast has proven itself capable of providing classical enrichment.
And that’s great, but it’s not enough to deliver good concerts with great, old music on the program.
Richardson, the SSO board of directors and the ensemble’s 60-plus musicians take the next step toward sharing that music with everyone else, always allowing plenty of entry points into the orchestra experience.
That was the case Saturday night with the orchestra’s annual holiday concert at Steamboat Christian Center.
The program started with Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, a four-part work featuring themes that would be familiar to many listeners. Richardson framed the symphony as Mozart’s look ahead to what the future of classical music could be, and the orchestra brought that vision to life by milking every nuance of the piece in its performance.
Each of the countless lovely moments Mozart wrote into the symphony — the oboe harmonies in the first movement, careful progression of the second, lead-footed march of the third and frantic optimism of the fourth — came through in the most serious selection of the night.
The centerpiece of any holiday concert is the holiday music, and this weekend’s performances offered plenty of it. Bringing in musicians from the Steamboat Springs Youth Orchestra, and Marie Carmichael and her Mountain Madrigal Singers and Yampa Valley Singers, the second half of the program was a communal effort.
Richardson’s arrangements of Vivaldi’s “Winter” and Franz Gruber’s “Silent Night” highlighted string players of all ages, with heavy solo work going to young violinist Willy Gunn.
The ensemble’s take on Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” is as much a comedy routine as it is a holiday concert staple, and it played at just the right moment to spread a loose holiday spirit through the room.
Next came the jazzy “Hot Chocolate” from the movie “The Polar Express.” On film and in person, it’s one of those holiday songs that uses schmaltz in a way that could be considered cheesy if it wasn’t so fun and endearing.
Matt Naughtin’s “A Christmas Feast” highlighted the Mountain Madrigal Singers with a classy selection of Renaissance holiday pieces. After that, the lights came up, the Yampa Valley Singers came on stage, more youth musicians set up their stands and the audience joined for a Christmas singalong.
Richardson pointed out several times through the night that he hoped each selection would apply to anyone in attendance, regardless of holiday tradition.
He also highlighted a hope to inspire as many people as possible to make music in Steamboat Springs. A holiday concert that brings orchestra members, young players, two choral groups and the entire audience into the creative process isn’t a bad start.