CMF founding director Giora Bernstein and pianist Olga Kern return to Boulder

Opening weekend: “high-profile guests, big orchestral pieces, variety, intensity”

Olga Kern

Olga Kern returns to CMF for the opening concert, June 29. Photo by Chris Lee.

By Peter Alexander

The opening weekend of the Colorado Music Festival’s 40th anniversary season, Thursday, June 29 through Sunday, July 2, will set the pattern for the entire 2017 season.

“It will be a microcosm of the whole festival,” music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni says. “A variety of repertoire, Baroque, Classic, Romantic, 20th-century, high-profile guest soloists, big orchestral pieces, variety, intensity; it sums it all.”

The opening concert will feature pianist Olga Kern playing two Russian concertos: Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Framing Kern’s solo turns will be Shostakovich’s Festival Overture, and Rachmaninoff’s deeply Romantic Symphony No. 2 in E minor.

Kern will also appear in a solo recital of American and Russian music on July 1, featuring Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Balakirev and several pieces by Gershwin. The next day, CMF founding director Giora Bernstein returns to Boulder for the first time in 10 years to conduct the CMF chamber orchestra. 

GIora Bernstein

CMF founding director Giora Bernstein

“The greatest satisfaction is that (CMF) really has established itself,” Bernstein says. “To see it 40 years (after its founding) is just wonderful.”

The first weeks of the festival culminate with performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14. 

“It’s basically right in the middle of the festival so it’s a way to mark a certain apex,” Zeitouni says.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Colorado Music Festival (Classical Concerts through July 14)
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, music director

Opening Night, Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor: Olga Kern Plays Rachmaninoff, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29

Olga Kern solo recital: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1

Mozart with CMF Founder Giora Bernstein and CMF Chamber Orchestra: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 2

“All-American” concert, Festival Orchestra with conductor Cristian Măcelaru and violinist Elina Vähälä: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 6

Young People’s Concert, directed by Scott Terrell: 10 a.m. Saturday, July 8

Chamber Music: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 8,

Beethoven’s Ninth, Festival Orchestras, Jean-Marie Zeitoun, conductor: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13

Fresh Fridays – Beethoven’s Ninth: 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 14

Chamber Orchestra with Pianist Stewart Goodyear: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16

All performances in the Chautauqua Auditorium

Tickets 

CU NOW rewards audiences, composers and performers

Adamo’s Gospel of Mary Magdalene is getting an intimate makeover

By Peter Alexander

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2016 CU NOW rehearsal. Photo by Peter Alexander

CU NOW, the University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program’s annual New Opera Workshop, is one of the most rewarding events on the Boulder classical music scene.

It is an opportunity to see how operas are put together. It is an opportunity to hear new works, often before their professional world premieres, and possibly, through feedback sessions with the composer, to influence the final product. And falling between the end of the main music season and the beginning of the summer festivals, it comes at a time when the classical scene is starting to get dry.

And that’s just the benefits for the audience. It almost goes without saying that the composer has the reward of seeing his work in an informal setting, where he can tweak the score and make improvements, and the singers reap the reward of learning a new work and preparing it for the composer. I count that a win-win-win.

Usually a workshop for completely new works, the NOW program goes in a different direction this year. Composer Mark Adamo is in Boulder to re-work his Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was premiered by the San Francisco Opera in 2013 (under conductor Michael Christie, known locally for his years at the Colorado Music Festival). Following the somewhat controversial premiere, Adamo decided to revise the opera to make it smaller in scope than the San Francisco production, more intimate, more human.

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Composer Mark Adamo

Or as he was quoted in the CU press release, he wanted the show to be “more witty and modern, a lot closer to Godspell.”

Complete performances of the re-worked Gospel of Mary Magdalene will be free and open to the public, 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Imig Music Building Music Theater. The cast and ensemble of CU students and alumni will be accompanied by piano and harp.

Knowing the history of CU Now, Adamo says he was unsure about bringing a work that had already had a premiere, and a grand one at that, to Boulder. “Leigh (Holman, director of the Eklund Opera Program) talked to me about this, because ordinarily CU NOW does pieces before they’re given a premiere,” he says. “I wanted to revisit this because I’m not sure that the show that we staged (in San Francisco) was entirely the show that I meant.

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Leigh Holman

“It was a beautiful production, it was brilliantly cast, it was a beautiful set, it was a beautiful design, the direction was very sensitive, and yet . . . I didn’t feel like the tone was what I hoped for. And so Leigh said ‘we’re absolutely the place for that.’”

Adamo wrote both the libretto and the music for The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. The opera places Mary Magdalene at the center of the story, making her an important influence on Jesus’ teachings. Adamo’s libretto is based in part on the Gnostic Gospels, early Christian texts that were discovered in 1945. Not accepted by most Christian traditions, the Gnostic Gospels suggest that Jesus and Mary were lovers, and later married, and that Jesus was illegitimate.

The libretto grew out of Adamo’s own research, which was so thorough that the libretto even contains footnotes, some of which are sung. One important part of his goal was to counteract anti-female ideas of some Christian traditions. The opera opens with modern characters expressing their unease with the negativity toward sex and women that they have encountered in the church.

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San Francisco Opera production of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Set by David Korins. Photo by Cory Weaver.

In the San Francisco production, which Adamo describes as “more King of Kings, if you will, that kind of Biblical spectacular look,” the modern characters got much less emphasis than he wanted. “Given the grandeur and the somberness of the setting, it was a stage that you could not do anything remotely personal, or witty,” he says.

To shift the focus back to the modern characters, and their relationship with the Biblical characters they conjure from their imaginations, Adamo cut the cast from 72 including chorus down to 16. “In San Francisco we had the five seekers (modern believers) and the chorus in modern dress, and then the Biblical characters, and all the supporting characters,” he explains. All of that has been reduced to the four principals—Yeshua (Jesus), Mary Magdalene, Miriam (Mary) and Peter—plus a dozen ensemble singers who take the other roles.

The original production was 2½ hours of music, plus intermission, which some listeners found to be ponderous. Adamo says he has reduced that to under 2½ hours including intermission. “Here’s the joke,” he says, “Nothing has been cut. A five-minute opening has been added, and the running time is shorter than in San Francisco.”

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Mark Adamo

“It starts with me,” he admits. “I had under-marked the tempos to so dramatic a degree that when I went back to the score in preparation for this production, I was looking at the metronome markings and saying, ‘what was I thinking? Are these tempos sponsored by Ambien?’

“All of this needs to move much more conversationally. When I met with (conductor) Andrew (Bisantz), I said, ‘assume the metronome markings you’ve got are 12 (beats per minute) slow.’”

Finally, Adamo wanted a setting that was not as monumental as the San Francisco production. “Is there a setting that is illustrative of the concerns of the show, that allows more nimbleness and a wider variety of dramatic tones?” he asks. “I did come up with that,” he says, adding slyly, “I’ll leave the surprise for you if you see the show.”

Adamo is particularly happy that the smaller number of singers and the more intimate setting has shifted the emotional focus of the performance. “For the most part, the stress is squarely on what the performers are doing and how they are defining the space and the emotional terms of the piece, rather than anything more elaborate,” he says.

“That and making the whole stage into a group, rather than principals and then a chorus, have been the principal innovations, and it has been a delight.”

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CU NOW
Leigh Holman, founder and artistic/general director

The Gospel of Mary Magdalen
By Mark Adamo
Andrew Bisantz, conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 16
2 p.m. Sunday, June 18
Music Theatre, Imig Music Building, CU

Free and open to the public

Advisory: These performances include adult content, sexual situations, and a stylized suggestion of violence, and may not be suitable for children.

Sharpsandflatirons one of the top 50 classical music blogs?

A limited but interesting list is posted by the blog sharing page Feedspot

By Peter Alexander

Classical Music transparent_1000pxFeedspot, a Web page that aims to bring some order to the varied world of blogs, has selected Sharpsandflatirons one of the “Top fifty classical music blogs and Websites for classical music fans.”

While I neither endorse nor discourage readers from making use of the Feedspot page—you can apparently start for free—it is gratifying to be included on a list with blogs by Greg Sandow in ArtsJournal, the classical music blog pages of the New York Times and the Telegraph, and the Classics Today blog. What I do encourage is that readers check out the full list. I found some new blogs that I will want to read regularly, and you may as well.

I will add that there some excellent blogs that were missed in the Feedspot list, particularly Alex Ross’ “The Rest is Noise” and the classical music news page of Arts Journal. But the really important message here is that there is a lot going on in the classical world, and you have many sources to turn to for news, all at your fingers, thanks to the magic of the Internet.

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A programming note for my followers: I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks, camping in Utah and entertaining family in Colorado, but the classical scene in the Boulder area is heating up for the summer. Look for coming stories on CU NOW, the Colorado Music Festival, Central City Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, and whatever else catches my attention and fits into my schedule.

Bach Festival 2017–18 Season will avoid busy Fridays and Saturdays in Boulder

Long-range plan: an historical-instrument ensemble for Boulder

By Peter Alexander

newBBFLogoSquareWebsiteThe Boulder Bach Festival has announced its 2017–18 season of five concerts, three to be presented in both Boulder and Longmont.

Of the other two, one will be presented only at the festival’s Boulder home, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and the other in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium. In a significant change, the concerts have been scheduled to avoid the busy weekends in Boulder.

“Boulder is saturated,” Bach Festival director Zachary Carrettin says. “We have so many wonderful music presenters and organizations for such a small community, so I’ve put us on Thursday nights in Boulder and Saturday nights in Longmont. That’s my contribution to the scheduling madness we’re experiencing in Boulder.” (See the full schedule below.)

Carrettin is confident that having performances on Thursday nights will not limit the audience as much as the scheduling conflicts might. “We have a very specific audience,” he says. “They want to hear the particular, distinct programs and artists that we offer. And I think by and large, it doesn’t matter to them which night of the week (the concerts are presented).”

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Zachary Carrettin

Rather than build a season around a single theme, Carrettin looks for connections across seasons, from year to year. ”Each time we finish one season, I ask, where did we start to go?” he says. “What doors did we open? What happens next?”

 

One example is that the festival has programmed music from Venice, one of the musical centers that influenced Bach and others of his generation. In 2016, it was a program titled “Venice on Fire,” featuring chamber music that Carrettin called “the rock ‘n’ roll of the Baroque.” And the 2017–­18 season will close with “La Venexiana,” a concert of music from Venice for orchestra, soloists and chorus (May 24 & 26, 2018).

That concert also represents the beginning of a new long-range project of the Bach Festival: the establishment of a standing Baroque orchestra. Carrettin’s goal is to establish in Boulder a center for historical instrument performance, much as exists in New York, Boston, Amsterdam, and other cities around the world.

“We are introducing concert by concert, season by season, our own in-house Baroque orchestra, on historical instruments,” he says. “Due to the generosity of some donors, we have decided to fill in some of the gaps on the front range by purchasing instruments, three instruments a year for the next three years. You’ll see more (orchestral) concerts each season, and a larger and larger Baroque orchestra.”

The Boulder Bach Festival is partnering with CU Boulder and other musical organizations for this project. “We are working with doctoral students and recent graduates of CU who want to have a world-class international experience with historical instruments here on the front range,” Carrettin explains. “We are offering them access to luminaries in the field—our guest artists—access to the instruments, access to master classes, lessons and reading sessions, so that they can explore the world of early music.”

That project reflects a major thread that connects one season of the Bach Festival with another: the exploration of the many aspects of historical performance practice. “Next year we are engaging even more in the dialog of original instruments, or historical instruments,” Carrettin says. “That dialog is one that I hope results in some unexpected delights.”

In the festival’s recent seasons, the dialog around historical instruments has expanded from Bach and the Baroque era to the late 19th century, where questions of historical performance are not as obvious, but are still significant. “We play Bach with harpsichord and with chamber organ, then why would we not pay Brahms with the straight-strung 19th-century piano?” Carrettin asks. “When the Boulder Bach festival started doing that two seasons ago, our artists were able to work with a piano that has very different properties than today’s concert grand.”

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Mina Gajic’s historic 1895 Érard piano.

That piano was manufactured in Paris in 1895 by Érard and belongs to pianist Mina Gajic, the festival’s director of education and outreach. (Further information on the straight-strung Érard is here.) It was used in a concert of music by Bach and Brahms presented in 2016 that included the Brahms Horn Trio played on a 19th-century-style natural horn (without valves) and a violin with natural gut strings.

The Érard will return in the coming season for “A World Transformed,” a program the encompasses the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Dec. 9, Longmont). “We are opening a new door in the 36-year history of the Bach Festival,” Carrettin says of the program. Opening with some late Romantic music by Brahms the program will move on to works by Bartók, Ives, Enescu and Berg. Gajic and her historic Érard piano will be joined for the program by Carrettin, on violin and clarinetist Richie Hawley, playing a clarinet manufactured in 1919.

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Zachary Carrettin

“What we’re looking at is an early 20th-century clarinet, a violin set up in the manner of the time with silk and gut strings and the piano from the period as well,” Carrettin says. “We are performing (the pieces on the program) as they would have been heard at that time.”

Historical instruments will also be featured on the seasons opening concert, “BachtoberFest,” a concert of chamber music by Bach, Handel, and their contemporaries (Oct. 12 Boulder, Oct. 14 Longmont); and Baroque orchestra concert that closes the season, “La Venexiana” (May 24, 2018 in Boulder, May 26 in Longmont).

For the Bach devotees in the festival audience, the culminating concert of the year may well be on March 15, in Boulder only. Titled “Eternal Spirit,” the program features four of Bach’s best known cantatas: No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden; No. 50, Nun is das Heil und die Kraft; No. 61, Nun kumm, der Heiden Heiland; and No. 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag.

“These works are chosen because of their musical content,” Carrettin says. “The four masterworks represent different periods of Bach’s life, from 1707 to the 1720s. Liturgically they come from different parts of the church year. One special work on the program is Cantata 50, which is a single movement double chorus, based on the chorale Nun kumm, der Heiden Heiland.

 “This work has trumpets and timpani and orchestra, and where we connect season to season is that last October we did three different settings of that chorale, for organ and choir and strings. And now we bring back that chorale in a rarely performed masterwork of Bach.”

 

Boulder Bach Festival
Zachary Carrettin, artistic director
2017–18 Season

Bachtoberfest
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont
—Program of chamber music by Bach, Händel and other Baroque composers performed on historical instruments

A World Transformed
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—Music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries performed on historical instruments

Schwartz-Bournaki in Recital
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—A recital by the New York- based duo of Julian Schwartz, cello, and Marika Bournaki, piano, winners of the 2016 first Boulder International Chamber Music Competition.

Eternal Spirit
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
—Four Bach cantatas performed buy the Boulder Bach Festival Chorus, orchestra and soloists.

La Venexiana
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 26, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—Vocal and instrumental music from Venice, including works of Giovanni Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Merulo and Vivaldi, plus the Bach Orchestral Suite in B minor.

All-access passes available at (720) 507-5052.

Elliot Moore chosen to lead the Longmont Symphony

Moore will conduct the orchestra’s annual Fourth of July concert.

By Peter Alexander

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) announced last night at their spring pops concert that its board has signed Elliot Moore to a two-year contract as its next music director.

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Elliot Moore, new director of the Longmont Symphony

Moore was selected at the conclusion of a year-long search that included appearances by four candidates with the orchestra. He conducted a concert with the orchestra in November. He will succeed Robert Olson, LSO director for the past 34 years. Olson conducted last night’s concert, titled “A Few of my Favorite Things,” concluding the orchestra’s 50th anniversary season.

Moore, who currently lives in Detroit, has said that he and his wife will move to Longmont by the fall, so that they can become part of the community. For the 2017–18 season, he will conduct all rehearsals and performances. These include six subscription concerts at Longmont’s Vance Brand Auditorium, the holiday candlelight concert and two Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet.

Because of the planning involved, it is likely that the 2017–18 season will not be announced until August. In the meantime, Moore will make his first appearance with the orchestra in their annual Fourth of July concert in Thompson Park. In the coming year he will also lead the orchestra’s community engagement concert for St. Vrain Valley School District fifth graders, and two concerts in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum.

In a statement released by the Longmont Symphony, board president Robert Pilkey wrote, “The entire LSO family—musicians, board members, and our many volunteers—are thrilled to have Elliot Moore as our new music director. He will play a major role in civic and social activities throughout our community, paying special attention to our youth and the expansion of our community engagement programs. We’re delighted with Elliot’s enthusiastic commitment to continue the legacy of our iconic community orchestra.”

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Elliot Moore. Courtesy of the Longmont Symphony.

As part of a wide ranging conversation, Moore talked extensively about his move to Longmont. “The plan is definitely to become part of the fabric of the Longmont community and to really invest our lives here,” he said. “By being a member of the community, I hope that people will feel free to come up to me and introduce themselves.

“I hope people will stop me when they see me in the grocery store and have a conversation about what’s going on in the town, what’s going on in the community. I hope that my being here in the community will play a role in making the symphony an even more integral part of the Longmont community.”

Moore said he is looking forward to taking a role he described as the “full-time steward” of the Longmont Symphony. “I have various ideas about how an orchestra can really impact the community, how a symphony is a symbol of the community,” he said. “How players listen and respond to one another is symbolic of what a community does.

“One thing about a vision is not coming in with a preconceived idea, but communicating to community leaders, asking them questions, asking the orchestra questions, and asking the board members questions about their vision—where they would like to see the orchestra go in the next several years. So while I do come in with various ideas, I also want to make sure that what we do is authentic for Longmont.”

Moore is especially interested in the educational activities that the LSO offers. “One of the things that I am very excited about is the 5th-grade concerts that we have in January,” he said. “I want to have a further reach into education. One of the ideas I would love to do is to teach people who don’t have much knowledge about conducting—or even about music—what a conductor actually does.”

Moore has several engagements for the coming year outside Colorado. This is normal for any conductor of a less than full-time orchestra, in order to supplement his income, but Moore made it clear that the LSO will remain his top priority. “The rehearsal schedule and the concert schedule leave room for guest conducting with other orchestras,” he observed.

Moore was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and lived briefly in Denver when he was six years old. He has also lived in Texas, Cleveland, New York and Switzerland, as well as Detroit. He studied at the University of Michigan, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. He has been conductor of the Blue Period Ensemble in New York and the Detroit Medical Orchestra. In 2015 he also became director the Michigan’s Five Lakes Silver Band.

He has led rehearsals and/or performances with Mexico’s Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, Canadian Chamber Opera of New York City, Sewanee Symphony Orchestra and Canada’s National Arts Center Orchestra, as part of its Summer Music Institute Conductors Program. After completing his doctoral work at the University of Michigan, Moore was invited back to lead programs of the University Philharmonia Orchestra and the Contemporary Directions Ensemble.

Seicento Baroque Ensemble appoints new artistic director

Kevin T. Padworski will succeed founding director Evanne Browne

By Peter Alexander

Seicento Baroque Ensemble, a Boulder-based choral organization specializing in the music of the early Baroque period, has appointed composer/conductor/organist Kevin T. Padworski to succeed Evanne Browne as artistic director.

At the same time Amanda Balestrieri, a soprano who is well known for her early music performances, has been selected as assistant conductor of the group.

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Kevin T. Padworski has been appointed artistic director of Seicento

Browne founded Seicento in 2011 with the goal of “performing worthy but rarely heard music of the early Baroque musical period,” their Web page states. Under Browne’s leadership the auditioned choir has employed historically informed performance practice and period instruments in their performances.

In a statement released by Seicento, Browne praised the choice of Padworski as artistic director, saying, “Seicento is honored to have a musician of this caliber lead our group into the future.”

“Evanne clearly has kind of established a little bit of a legacy here in Colorado,” Padworski says. “I’m following an incredible woman in her field, and I’m excited to work on the repertoire. I’m excited about being able to perform Baroque repertoire up to historically informed performance practice.”

The transition has been made easier by planning that already taken place for the 2017­–18 season. Themes have been selected for two concerts during the year. “The fall theme will be ‘Luther to Bach,’ and that can mean a whole bunch of things,” Padworski says. “That’s really exciting because Luther’s influence was widespread in Europe, so that leaves a lot of composers available to explore.

“Then in the spring they had established a theme called ‘Mad Madrigals.’ It gives us a breadth of madrigal repertoire from a couple of centuries. As I look at that, my initial reaction would be to try to make that as broad as possible.

“I see it as a privilege to work with and collaborate with the people in the ensemble, and to offer music to greater Boulder.”

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Amanda Balestrieri will be assistant conductor of Seicento

Balestrieri has been a frequent soloist with Seicento, most recently for Browne’s last performances with the group March 24–26. She worked closely with Browne and the ensemble over the past six years, and has also appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival, Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, and other performing organizations in Colorado.

“I think it’s going to be a really good collaboration,” she says of her role working with Padworski as assistant conductor. “Kevin’s skills are huge. He’s a singer and a conductor and a keyboard player, and he has energy and wonderful musicianship. What I bring is how to technically execute some of the more difficult parts of the early music style, and a much longer experience in the early music movement.”

Padworski is a doctoral student in choral conducting at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is artistic director of the Colorado Chorale and director of music and organist at Calvary Baptist Church in Denver. He is the composer of both choral and instrumental works, available through MusicSpoke and Santa Barbara Music Publishing.

He performs as an organist, singer, pianist and harpsichordist with an interest in early music. He has appeared professionally with the Jubilate Deo Chorale and Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Colorado Choral Arts Society, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Symphony Chorus, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Opera Colorado and American Baptist Churches USA, among other organizations.

Padworski holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern University, a certificate in leadership from the Foundations program at Duke Divinity School, and a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.  He has been a conducting fellow with the Sarteano Chamber Choral Workshop and with Chorus America.

Protest precedes Boulder Chamber Orchestra performance

Corporate contribution attracts activists’ attention

By Peter Alexander

They started blowing their whistles about three minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin.

Last night (May 5) was one the biggest nights in the history of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO). Just before 7:30 p.m., the players were all on the Macky Auditorium stage, along with members of the Boulder Chorale, getting ready to perform Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony.

BCO November Concert 2009

Artistic director Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

It would be the climactic concert of their 13th season. The house was filling with a large audience.

Suddenly, several protesters—I saw three but it sounded like there were more—stood up and started blowing police whistles. The audience suddenly grew quiet. A woman near me stood up and started shouting, although her words were lost in the general din. Loud voices could be heard from other parts of the hall.

The woman hurried down the aisle, still blowing her whistle and talking to several audience members on the way. A man near the back was shouting, and raised a fist in protest; I saw one or two others rushing out of the auditorium. They made a quick exit from the building, leaving behind flyers headed “Community Alert.”

The protestors were from East Boulder County United (EBCU), an activist group that opposes fracking. The group’s Facebook page lists as one of its goals “to protect our community and neighbors from the dangers that oil and gas development poses to our health, the quality of our air and water, and our agricultural heritage.”

They had already stated their opposition to contributions the BCO received from Extraction Oil & Gas, which describes itself as “a domestic energy company focusing on the exploration and production of oil and gas reserves in the Rocky Mountains.” It is likely that EBCU alerted some of the media of the planned protest against Extraction, since the Boulder Daily Camera had a reporter and photographer at Macky before the performance.

As soon as the EBCU protesters had left the building, the concert continued as planned. Board chair Jessica Catlin spoke briefly from the stage, acknowledging the BCO’s supporters. Conductor Bahman Saless came onstage and talked about the program, as he often does. The performance took place without further incident.

There was no evidence that the musicians were rattled in any way. Their ardent performance received a boisterous standing ovation. With people on the main floor and in the balcony, this was likely the largest audience the BCO has played before.

After the performance, BCO board member Ari Rubin said that the board and orchestra had received no notice or threat of the protest. “It saddens me that they would choose to use this as an outlet rather than contact their elected officials,” he said.

The trouble between EBCU and the orchestra began about April 30, when the BCO posted a notice on their Facebook page that a gift from Extraction Oil & Gas would help pay the cost of free student tickets to the performance. EBCU responded with a message to supporters, asking them to “Please contact the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and call on them to end their partnership with Extraction Oil and Gas. . . . We are calling upon (the BCO) to immediately return all money you have taken from this lethal corporation and remove all promotion of them from your publications. Make music, not pollution.”

EBCU also posted protests on the BCO Facebook page. Those posts were taken down, and the BCO board issued a statement that read in part: “Organizations like ours have increasingly been forced to look towards private donations and corporations to help fund our mission to educate and expand the cultural fabric of our city. . . .Donations are necessary [for us] to survive and thrive as a nonprofit.”

The donations from Extraction was one of three gifts that provided free tickets to the performance for students from Boulder Valley School District, Jefferson County School District, and St. Vrain Valley School District. The University of Colorado, Boulder, and Excel Energy also contributed to this initiative. According to the board statement of May 2, “Students have responded eagerly to our offer, and we must honor our commitment to them.

“We understand corporate donations may present difficult and controversial issues, but we viewed the acceptance of funds as way of ensuring that some good can come from otherwise divisive issues surrounding corporate stewardship.”

Extraction Oil & Gas is one of 15 sponsors listed on the BCO Web page. Total corporate contributions, including Extraction and other local businesses, are reported as 17% of the BCO’s budget.

Regarding the larger controversy that ECBU has generated, Saless  and the BCO’s acting managing director, Nell Clothier, have declined to comment. Members of board have indicated that they prefer for the board’s written statement, posted May 2, to speak for itself.

UPDATE: According to a report published in the Boulder Daily Camera, EBCU member Kristin McLean said that there were seven activists who blew whistles in Macky Auditorium before the performance. She was also quoted saying that the group had paid $562 for their tickets to get into the auditorium.