Making waves

The Boulder Philharmonic gears up for 53rd season

Peter Alexander | Boulder Weekly


The Boulder Philharmonic opens its 53rd season at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, in Macky Auditorium with a program titled “Heroic Portraits.”


In recognition of the concert date, the orchestra will play music that was inspired by heroes: Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” written to honor the unsung heroes of World War II; his “Lincoln Portrait,” narrated by Boulder story-teller Bill Mooney; and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3,” known as the “Eroica.” The concert will open with a new work by American composer Jeff Tyzik, “Bravo Colorado.”

According to Musical Director Michael Butterman, the entire 2010-11 season has been designed to “celebrate our community in ways large and small.” Calling the season “Bravo Boulder!,” the orchestra will include works by composers from or associated with Boulder in addition to popular works chosen from the standard orchestra fare.

To further the Boulder connection, there will be local soloists, works chosen for their appeal to Boulder audiences and, on opening night, a special tribute to local heroes.

The season comprises six themed concerts, each offering some kind of twist on traditional orchestral programming, plus a production of the popular “Nutcracker” ballet with Boulder Ballet in November. (See for details.)

Butterman says he and the program committee try to embrace the diversity of Boulder audiences — what he calls “folks that are traditionalists and folks that are looking for experiences.” Now in his fourth season as music director, Butterman recalls that “when I first came to Boulder I had the impression that it was a place that was quirky, that [audiences] wanted anything but the usual fare. But what I’ve found here is that yes, people want something that is interesting, that is different, and yet, especially when it comes to classical music, boy oh boy, people sure enjoy something that is tried and true. It is not the sort of place where you can just do a kind of fringe program. So [on each concert] we have something for the experience seekers and something a little more traditional.”

Certainly the first concert is not out on the fringe.

And yet Butterman is clear that it will appeal to the “experience seekers” in the audience.

“On the first half [we have] what I would call a concert enhancement,” he says. “I’m a pretty big believer in finding ways to enrich the concert experience, especially for people that are less familiar with sitting and listening to abstract sounds for a couple of hours at a stretch.”

For Saturday’s concert the enhancement is “photochoreography,” a shifting series of photographs that are projected on screens above the orchestra and timed in coordination with the music. The technique has been developed by James Westwater, whose photochoreography for Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” has already been performed by several orchestras around the country.

Butterman has not seen Westwater’s “Lincoln Portrait” live, but he has seen it on the Web. He found the combination of music, narration taken from Lincoln’s speeches and photochoreography very effective, something like a Ken Burns documentary.

In fact, he liked it enough to ask Westwater to create new photochoreography for the Boulder Phil’s performance of “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

“We struck on this idea [that since] we’re talking about Lincoln as a hero, maybe we can focus on the unsung heroes in this community,” Butterman explains. “We approached a dozen or so social service organizations in and around Boulder and asked them if they would provide photos of the work that they do. We got probably a couple of hundred [photos] and sent them on to James. He is taking those and deciding according to his artistic sensibility how they would work with the Copland fanfare.”

The local groups that provided photos to be shown during the performance include Boulder County AIDS Project, Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Care Connect Boulder County, Carriage House Community Table, Community Foundation, Imagine!, Intercambio, Neck- Lace 4 Life (American Cancer Society), Providers Advancing School Outcomes, Sister Carmen Community Center and Turning the Wheel.

Jeff Tyzik dedicated “Bravo Colorado” to Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, who owned a home in Beaver Creek. Butterman describes the score as “a glorious new work … that presents vivid sonic impressions of our state’s stunning mountains, beautiful alpine meadows and thundering whitewater rivers.”

The concert will conclude with a classical work that will appeal to the traditional symphony audience, Beethoven’s Third Symphony.

Beethoven had dedicated the symphony to Napoleon until the French general crowned himself emperor.

Infuriated at this repudiation of democratic principles, Beethoven angrily scratched out Napoleon’s name and re-dedicated the symphony “to the memory of a hero.” Today it is known as the “Eroica” Symphony, and it is regarded as the first work in what is known as Beethoven’s “heroic” style.

The rest of the season offers plenty of opportunities for both audiences Butterman identified. For the second concert (Oct. 29), some familiar classical pops — Musorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” music from Bizet’s “Carmen” — with Cirque-du-Soleil style aerial fliers, acrobats, jugglers and dancers performing onstage during many of the pieces. With Halloween-themed programming and the visual “Cirque du Symphonie” spectacle, this promises to be a program that appeals more to the audience’s sheer sense of enjoyment than their intellect.

The two audience streams will be most evident on the third concert on Jan. 15. The wildly divergent program will be titled “Rach ’n’ Roll,” as in Rachmaninoff ’s Third Piano Concerto, performed by pianist David Korevaar, and as in popular dance music, including pieces by Argentina tango king Astor Piazzolla and the notso-poppy “Be-bop Tango” by Frank Zappa.

“New World Celebration,” on Feb. 19, will include music by Boulder composer Bill Douglas, along with Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony, and “Reflections in Glass” (March 19) will combine music by practicing Buddhist and sometimes-visitor to Naropa University Philip Glass with music by Tchaikovsky.

The season ends April 30 with “Heavenly Orbits,” featuring “Lux Aeterna,” a choral work by contemporary composer Martin Lauridsen for the experience seekers, and Gustav Holst’s popular suite “The Planets” for the traditional audience.


Bravo Boulder!

Boulder Philharmonic 2010–11 season Michael Butterman, music director

Saturday, Sept. 11: “Heroic Portraits” Music by Jeff Tyzik, Aaron Copland and Beethoven

Friday, Oct. 29: “Cirque de la Symphonie” Music by Musorgsky, Saint-Saëns and others

Friday–Sunday, Nov. 26–28: “Nutcracker Ballet” Richard Oldberg, conductor, with the Boulder Ballet

Saturday, Jan. 15: “Rach ‘n’ Roll” Music by Frank Zappa, Astor Piazzolla, Sergei Rachmaninoff and others With David Korevaar, piano soloist

Saturday, Feb. 19: “New World Celebrations” Music by Bill Douglas, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Dvorák With Richard Stolzman, clarinet soloist

Saturday, March 19: “Reflections in Glass” Music by Philip Glass and Tchaikovsky With the Colorado Saxophone Quartet

Saturday, April 30: “Season Finale: Heavenly Orbits” Music by Martin Lauridsen and Gustav Holst With the Ars Nova Singers

All Performances in Macky Auditorium. For performance times, program details and tickets: www.