Colorado Symphony continues to #PlayOn

Virtual concerts, education keeps audience engaged during COVID-19 hiatus

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Whether it is performing at a Rockies baseball game or a Broncos football game, composing original music for the state government or putting on a small concert at a brewery, the Colorado Symphony is uniquely Colorado.

“We celebrate what we are as a community and all things Colorado,” said Anthony Pierce, the Colorado Symphony’s chief artistic officer. “The orchestra is committed to doing everything it can to be there for the community.”

The Colorado Symphony is a not-for-profit organization that consists of 80 full-time musicians. Though based in Denver, the orchestra performs more than 150 concerts across the state to fulfill its mission to “inspire, educate, support and entertain,” Pierce said.

Social distancing orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic have prohibited gathering of large crowds, including live music and concert venues, so the Colorado Symphony has gotten creative on its offerings to fulfill its mission during this time, Pierce said.

One way is continuing to provide music virtually through various social media platforms, as well as the orchestra’s website, with the hashtag #PlayOn.

Its March 23 posting of #PlayOn: Colorado Symphony’s Digital Ode to Joy generated 559,037 views as of May 11.

“Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is an ode to humanity, to peace over desperation, to universal kinship and, of course, to joy,” the Colorado Symphony posted. “We hope that this small tribute stands as a reminder that community is powerful and together, despite the anxiety and separation, we will come back stronger than before.”

Expanding on its weekly #PlayOn Virtual Music Hour, the Colorado Symphony is also launching its MusiCurious Instrument Interview Series. MusiCurious is one of the symphony’s education programs.

“Sharing the art is one thing,” Pierce said, but “education is also a big part of what we do.”

The MusiCurious Instrument Interview Series is an online exploration of the orchestra featuring video demonstrations by Colorado Symphony musicians on their respective instruments. The videos are available for streaming on ColoradoSymphony.org and will be released on a bi-weekly basis.

The first one launched on May 13, and features Yumi Hwang-Williams, violinist and concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony, who is celebrating her 20th year with the orchestra this season.

The Colorado Symphony continues to be a progressive ensemble and is “in the forefront of the symphonic world,” Hwang-Williams said, pointing to movie score performances and projects involving collaboration with local artists.

“When we’re on stage, the most important thing is to deliver our best and share our love of music,” Hwang-Williams said. But for now, she added, “we’re happy to be working on the virtual offerings and keeping the audience engaged during this time.”

The Colorado Symphony’s musicians truly care about their audiences, said Jason Shafer, the orchestra’s principle clarinetist.

“We’re doing something that makes them very happy (and) we’re looking forward to bringing live music back to everyone as soon as we can, safely and creatively,” he said. “But it’s amazing what we can do with technology. It is wonderful that we can still bring the happiness and emotions of a live concert to your home computer.”

Because the Colorado Symphony is adventurous with its programming, it offers something for everyone of all ages, said Carolyn Kunicki, second horn with the Colorado Symphony. Everything from symphonic classics to performing with well-known rock bands such as The Flaming Lips or The Lumineers, for example; and featuring up-and-coming artists as well as performing alongside local musicians such as a tango group and others, Kunicki added.

“People need to experience live music (and) that emotional level and community will all be there when we get back,” Kunicki said of live performances. “An orchestra is a cultural necessity. Denver would not be the same city without its world-class orchestra.”

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