“Open Space” season opens with Star Wars and ends with “Space Oddity”
By Peter Alexander April 6 at 6 a.m.
The Boulder Philharmonic is booming.
That is one of the messages of the 2018–19 season, titled “Open Space,” which the orchestra is announcing today. There will be a new series of three pops concerts over the course of the season, which will run from Sept. 29 to May 5—longer than in past years. (See the entire season below.)
The additional series means more performances—six Main Series concerts, three Pops Series concerts, plus the annual Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet in November. And more performances means an expanding budget—a sign of the Phil’s success.
“It’s a modest expansion of what we’ve done in the past, and it reflects our desire to serve the community in a somewhat more expansive way,” Katie Lehman, the orchestra’s executive director, says.
The concerts of the Pops Series will be “A Tribute to John Williams” on Sept. 29, with music from some of Williams’ most popular film scores; “Pixar in Concert,” an event with family appeal featuring music from some of Pixar Animation Studio’s films including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and others; and “The Music of David Bowie with the Boulder Phil,” an event presented by Windborne Productions featuring singer Tony Vincent that will be a combination rock concert and orchestra performance.
The pops series is not the only newsworthy part of the season. The roster of soloists will include two genuine classical superstars, starting in November with violinist Midori, who has chosen the Phil as a recipient of her Orchestra Residency Program grant. She will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Phil Nov. 4, and perform with the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras (GBYO) the following day.
While in Boulder Midori will present master classes and participate in neighborhood outreach activities, school events, civic presentations, and the Boulder Phil’s annual gala Nov. 3. The Nov. 5 concert by the GBYO will include the world premiere of a work for violin and string orchestra by CU assoc. prof. of composition Daniel Kellogg.
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson will return to Boulder for the first time in many years to perform Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto with the Phil on Jan. 19. Ohlsson, who rose to fame when he won the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, played at the Colorado Music Festival several times in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Other soloists during the season will be soprano Mary Wilson, singing Samuel Barber’s nostalgic Knoxville, Summer of 1915 and Mahler’s elegiac Fourth Symphony with the orchestra Feb. 9; and cellist Astrid Schween of the Juilliard String Quartet and the Juilliard School faculty, performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto March 2.
The main series will conclude with a collaboration with the CU Department of Theatre and Dance, with the orchestra playing onstage during a performance of Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus April 27. While the Phil has done performances with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in the past, this will be the first theatrical collaboration in several years.
Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s music director, explains that the performance will include virtually the entire play, with extended musical interludes. “The play indicates places where music is to be played,” he says. “At the beginnings and ends of the two acts we have more extended pieces, so it becomes about 50-50 in terms of play and concert.”
New for the 2018–19 season will be the Encore Concert, a community engagement event that gives amateur musicians the opportunity to play side by side with members of the Boulder Phil. The performance will be Sunday, Sept. 30, in Macky Auditorium. (The full schedule of activities will be announced later.)
The season will notably include five pieces by living composers, three of them women: Circuits by Cindy McTee and Celestial Suite by James Stephenson Oct. 13 and 14; Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds by Tan Dun Nov. 4; Starburst by Jessie Montgomery Feb. 9; and Dune Acres by Boulder native Kristin Kuster March 2.
The number of women composers is particularly noteworthy. The world of classical music has been heavily criticized for the male-dominated repertoire in the year of #MeToo and #Time’sUp. Specifically, the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra together had a total of zero women composers—in seasons far longer than that of the Boulder Phil—and the New York Philharmonic included only one. (One of many articles on this issue can be seen here.)
Butterman identified a couple of other “subthemes” to the season. “There’s some substantial stuff for the orchestra to dig into,” he said, speaking of large orchestral works that will appeal to the traditional classical audience. These include Holst’s Planets Oct. 13 and 14; Brahms Third Symphony Nov. 4; Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony Jan. 19 and 20; and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony Feb. 9.
The world of technology shows up in various ways, including McTee’s Circuits. Tan Dun’s Secret of the Wind and Birds calls for both orchestra and audience to play previously downloaded musical passages on their cell phones—“hopefully in a way that is intentional,” Butterman says. In a similar vein, the pops concert “Pixar in Concert” celebrates the world of computer animation.
The theme of “Open Spaces” continues the Boulder Phil’s history of seasonal themes around the community’s relationship to the outdoors, and it implies the extension of that vision into outer space. Thus, the first program of the season, the pops program on Sept. 29, includes Williams’ music from Star Wars and E.T., and the final program May 5 includes Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
The Main Series opens Oct. 13 and 14 with “Infinite Space,” a concert featuring Stephenson’s Celestial Suite and Holst’s Planets. The rest of the season is sprinkled with pieces that suggest either “Open Spaces” or outer space, including Alexander Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia Jan. 19 and 20; and Montgomery’s Starburst and Mahler’s vision of heaven in the Fourth Symphony, Feb. 9.
But the most significant aspect of the upcoming season is the way recent success has led to an expanded presence for the orchestra. “We have been extremely successful with ticket sales, and we’re ending the year particularly well this year,” Lehman says.
She stresses that the expansion not only gives more choices to the public, it benefits the orchestra’s musicians as well. “We are very interested in building the loyalty of our core orchestra, our most talented, exciting musicians, and to that end we want to be able to offer them more work,” she says. “We want to offer them more projects that they have more input into, because the best orchestra is going to be the one that wants to be on the stage.
“For us, building the loyalty of musicians that we really love to have with us means giving them what they want.”
The bottom line, she says, is responding to what both the musicians and the public want and will respond to: “We are in the process of doing a careful job of listening to our people and our city, and thinking about ways that we can move into the future.”
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Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra 2018-19 Season-at-a-Glance
Except as noted all concerts are in Macky Auditorium on the CU campus.
A Tribute to John Williams—Pops Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Program includes music from Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Schindler’s List
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
Encore Concert (Community Side-by-Side)
Michael Butterman and members of the Boulder Philharmonic with amateur musicians.
Sunday, September 30, time TBA
Infinite Space—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Cindy McTee: Circuits
James Stephenson: Celestial Suite
Gustav Holst: The Planets with women’s chorus
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
2 p.m. Sunday, October 14 (Pinnacle PAC, 1001 W. 84th Avenue, Denver, without video)
Midori Plays Sibelius—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Midori, violin
Tan Dun: Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Brahms: Symphony No. 3
7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.
The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71
2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, Saturday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 25
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24
Ohlsson Plays Rachmaninoff—Main Series
Alexander Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1
Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19
2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 (Pinnacle PAC)
The Heavenly Life—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Mary Wilson, soprano
Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
Samuel Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Saturday, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Elgar & Beethoven—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Astrid Schween, cello
Kristin Kuster: Dune Acres
Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2
Pixar in Concert—Pops Series
Gary Lewis, conductor
Program includes music from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23
Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Directed by Bud Coleman, with the CU Department of Theatre & Dance and choir
Music from Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, “Haffner” Symphony, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Gran Partita, Requiem, and more
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27
The Music of David Bowie with the Boulder Phil—Pops Series
Brent Havens, conductor, with Tony Vincent, vocalist
David Bowie hits including Space Oddity, Changes, Under Pressure, Heroes, Fame, and China Girl
7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5
Tickets and more information: Five- and six-concert main series packages are on sale now. New subscribers save 50% off single ticket prices. Pops series subscribers receive 10% off three concerts. Click here or call 303-449-1343.
Single tickets go on sale June 4, 2018.