Pro Musica Colorado opens 2021–22 season

Both in-person and streaming options are available for the 2021-22 season

By Peter Alexander Oct. 6 at 12 noon

The Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra returns to the stage with “Rainbow Strings! A Concert of Hope,” Thursday, Oct. 7, in Longmont and Saturday, Oct. 9, in Boulder.

For their first in-person concert post-pandemic, music director Cynthia Katsarelis and the orchestra will be joined by violinist Harumi Rhodes for the Violin Concerto in G major of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges, the 18th-century mixed-race French-Caribbean violinist and fencing master sometimes referred to as “the Black Mozart.” Also on the program will be Dance Card by American composer Jennifer Higdon, and the much loved Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky.

Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Music Colorado Chamber Orchestra

Thursday’s performance will be at 7:15 p.m. in Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum, with tickets available from the museum. Saturday’s performance will be at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Boulder. Tickets for the concert are available through the Pro Musica Web page. Proof of vaccination and masks will be required for both in-person performances. Like other concerts in Boulder this fall, the program will be about an hour in length, with no intermission.

Digital access will also be available for anyone who prefers not to attend in person. Thursday’s performance in Stewart Auditorium will be recorded and streamed for digital access at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at the time of the Boulder performance. Access to digital streams of this and other Pro Musica concerts in the coming year is available here.

Like other conductors this fall, Katsarelis thought seriously about how she wanted to begin live performances after such a long layoff. One consideration is that she wanted music that connected to Pro Musica’s mission. “We really believe in celebrating great music, and bringing forth voices that deserve to be heard,” Katsarelis says. That specifically means lifting up composers and music from under-represented groups, she says, listing BIPOC (Saint Georges), women (Higdon), and members of the LGBTQ+ community (Higdon and Tchaikovsky) for this program.

Jennifer Higdon. Photo by J.D. Scott

“Maybe you can’t hear [the color or sexual identity of the composer], but we can celebrate it,” she says. “I think that diversity, inclusion is about the tapestry of humanity. We want to experience all the parts of this tapestry and celebrate the difference, celebrate the identity, and celebrate the great music.”

Higdon’s Dance Card is particularly effective as a place to start because it is a fun and energetic piece. “It’s about the joy of being a string player,” Katsarelis says. “It has that rhythmic vitality that we associate with American music. Her music is very colorful in general, but her slow movements are impressionistic in an American way.

“It’s a fun piece to play. It’s a difficult piece, it’s a very tricky piece, but I think our players will sink their teeth deeply into it.”

Saint Georges is one of the most interesting composers of the 18th century. He was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, the child of a wealthy planter and a slave. He was educated in France, becoming both a virtuoso violinist and an accomplished swordsman. He played in and conducted an orchestra in Paris that commissioned and premiered the six “Paris” Symphonies of Joseph Haydn. After the revolution he fought for the French Republic as a colonel in the first all-Black regiment in Europe.

Chevalier de Saint Georges. Painting by Auguste Robineau.

Katsarelis and Rhodes had first planned to perform the concerto more than a year ago, but that performance was postponed due to COVID. “We didn’t want to cancel it, we really loved the piece,” Katsarelis says. “It’s got a lot of that style that you kind of expect around Mozart. It’s definitely that classical style, with a sort of French twist. And the virtuosity of string writing! I mean, it goes way up into the stratosphere. You can tell he was quite the virtuoso.

“When I hear his music, you can really see the Chevalier de Saint Georges with his sword. There’s a whole series of gestures that come with that. I can not hear that he’s black, but I believe that I can hear that he’s a champion fencer.”

The final work on the program was also chosen for this particular time, because it is a well loved and comforting piece for many listeners. The Serenade for strings is “a really heartfelt piece, one of Tchaikovsky’s favorites himself,” Katsarelis says. “He wrote it in the style of Mozart in terms of the form, but the emotional content is his. And the deeper I look into it [I find] how he goes from one place to another is not only genius and not only beautiful, but he’s found the way to be beautiful and at the same time his harmonies pull at the heart strings. 

“We call the concert ’Rainbow Strings,’ but it really could be ‘Heart Strings.’ The emotional content is really rich, deeply heartfelt, and I think very authentic. I thought it would be a great piece to hear, to experience, and for the players to play after the last year and a half of loss. 

“I think it’s going to be cathartic for us all.”

# # # # #

“Rainbow Strings! A Concert of Hope”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, Music Director and Conductor
Harumi Rhodes, violin 

  • Jennifer Higdon: Dance Card
  • Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges: Violin Concerto in G Major
    Harumi Rhodes, violin
  • Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings 

7:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7
Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum
(Tickets available from the Longmont Museum)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9
First United Methodist Church, Boulder
In person and digital access tickets

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