Monthly Archives: December 2011

Strings Music Festival has presented a holiday children’s concert since 1991. The first concert was held at the Sheraton in Steamboat Springs and was called “Moguls to Mozart.” In 1994, Katherine Collier, our music director at the time, developed an educational story about Mozart. The performance was called “Mozart’s Magical Life in Music” and was later adapted for the internet, where teachers around the country used it as a classroom tool. You can find the complete presentation by clicking here.

Posted on December 30, 2011
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For hit music, 2011 was the year of girl power. In the Billboard year end charts, seven of the Top 10 albums were from female artists and female artists took the majority of Grammy nominees in the categories record of the year, album of the year, and best solo pop performance, among others. From MTV to Billboard to Grammy nominees to our own office, here’s the consensus on the best ladies of 2011.

Adele

The most listened to song this year is “Rolling in the Deep” from 21. The song’s fierce lyrics give women all the power while the man is left burning in despair. “Someone Like You” also tells girls that once they’ve said goodbye to one man it’s time to move on and find another.

– Seven Grammy nominations, including record of the year, album of the year, and song of the year
– #1 on Billboard’s Top 10 Songs
– #1 on Billboard’s Top 10 Albums
– #1 on MTV’s Best Songs

Lady Gaga

As usual, Lady Gaga pushed the envelope with costumes and creativity in her new album. “Born This Way” certainly hits on girl power as well as power for all races, sexual orientations, religious groups, and economic backgrounds. The music video even shows a stripped Lady Gaga, uncharacteristically without costume, heavy makeup, done-up hair, or over-the-top accessories, showing that she too is accepting of her natural self.

– Three Grammy nominations: album of the year, best pop solo performance, and best pop vocal album
– #3 on Billboard’s Top 10 Albums
– #5 on MTV’s Best Songs

Rihanna

Rihanna hit the top of the charts with her feature in Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” But “We Found Love” from Talk That Talk also snuck its way into popularity. More hopeful than Adele, Rihanna sings to the ability to find love even in your weakest moments.

– Six Grammy nominations, including album of the year, song of the year, best pop vocal album
– #9 on Billboard’s Top 10 Albums
– #3 on MTV’s Best Songs

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is an overnight sensation who exploded this year with her debut album Pink Friday and hit single “Super Bass.” Playful and flirty, Nicki Minaj explores the fun side of being a girl, batting eyelashes at boys across the bar, the fluttering heart of a new crush. But she knows she’s hot stuff, which means he better treat her right.

– Three Grammy nominations: best new artist, best rap performance, and best rap album
– #8 on Billboard’s Top 10 Songs
– #7 on Billboard’s Top 10 Albums
– #2 on MTV’s Best Songs

Posted on December 29, 2011
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Ken Greene

“Ken Greene – Always lucid information about music and composers, clearly spoken and concise.”

“Ken Greene’s commentary, which always added an extra dimension.”

“The knowledge and presentations by Ken Greene…always inspiring!”

“Ken Greene makes every piece so much more meaningful with his commentary. I love his sense of humor and funny anecdotes about composers. It cracks me up to think of Mozart throwing pages of manuscripts out the window before the ink was even dry. I think what Mozart could have done with a computer. Thanks Ken for making the composers into real people.”

Ken Greene has been the Strings Music Festival commentator since 1988. His witty notes and historical facts presented before classical pieces let the audience’s imagination roam while listening to the music. Thank you, Ken for your many years at Strings.

Posted on December 23, 2011
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Last week I explored the newest holiday hits, but one classical work has been on the top of the holiday hit list since its premiere on December 18, 1892: The Nutcracker, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The Story

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara, a young girl, who is given a nutcracker as a Christmas gift from her godfather. Enamored by the figurine, she falls asleep under the Christmas tree with him in her arms. She then enters into a fantasy land with toys larger than life and embarks on a journey full of battles, snow, and sweets. The most famous rendition of the story is The Nutcracker and the King of Mice written by E.T.A. Hoffman.

The Music: Variations and Arrangements

The ballet provokes powerful emotions with its dramatic crescendos contrasted with delicate phrases. One of the highlights of the piece is the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” which incorporates the celesta, a novel instrument for the time. Tchaikovsky wanted to be the first to use the celesta at a concert in Russia, so he had it secretly shipped from Paris, France. The sound of the celesta was to be such a surprise that it wasn’t even allowed to be played until the last rehearsal. Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, and other musicians share more englightening stories in the video below.

For those of you who prefer non-traditional versions, there are plenty of boogie woogie, pop, and jam band arrangements of The Nutcracker.

Jazz lovers will enjoy Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s The Nutcracker Suite interpretations, recorded in 1960.
And The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s piece “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” kicks the ballet up to the rock level.  
Music from The Nutcracker has also slipped into many movies, films, and television shows, but my favorite incorporation is in Disney’s Fantasia. The film includes eight of Tchaikovsky’s dances, illustrated with fairies sprinkling drops of dew, mushrooms and flowers energetically dancing, and fish lurking in seaweed. 

Tomorrow night Strings Music Festival presents The Nutcracker with Jim Gamble Puppet Productions. This adaptation uses marionettes and the full-size puppets to bring the story to life. The show is sold-out, but you can call the box office on Thursday at (970) 879-5056 x 105 to see if any tickets have become available.

Posted on December 21, 2011
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The Miami String Quartet
Would you like to go to Florida for a Strings Music Festival concert? Well, in the early 90’s you could have!

1990: Strings had its first concert in Miami, Florida on a cruise ship. At the time, many people from Florida were visiting Steamboat Springs. Newcomers were invited to attend the concert to get interested in Steamboat and Strings.

1991: Strings presented its second Miami concert: The Miami String Quartet performed at the Howard Hughes Plantation in Coral Gables. At this time the Guild also had two branches: one in Steamboat Springs chaired by Gloria Smith and one in Miami chaired by Susan Fields.

We eventually moved all operations back to Steamboat, but The Miami String Quartet has remained one of the regular favorites, returning for concerts in 2000 and 2007.
Posted on December 16, 2011
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Most people admit there’s nothing like a little Christmas music to get into the holiday mood. Whether it’s the Christmas Classics by Bing Crosby, Mannheim Steamroller’s many arrangements, or traditional Christmas songs by your favorite orchestra, everyone has a guilty pleasure. And each year there’s more music to choose from. Pop artists love releasing holiday albums, and some of this year’s include Michael Bublé’s Christmas, Lady Gaga’s A Very Gaga Holiday, and don’t forget the Cast of Glee’s Christmas Album, Volume 2.

Perhaps the most popular Christmas album this year is Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe. It has already reached #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 and remains in the #3 spot this week. While some of my friends expressed concern that I had listened to the album on Spotify, I admit that I caught a little Bieber Fever. For the most part Bieber’s musical collaborations and mix of new songs with classics hit the holiday spot. But his slow tempos and relaxed jazzy sound brought me back to an older holiday album.

In 1998, NSYNC released Home for Christmas. This album reached the top of Billboard’s #1 Holiday Albums, and in the height of the boy band era, all my friends had it on repeat that Christmas. With two NSYNC albums released in the same year, everyone impatiently awaited the debut of No Strings Attached. In 2000, No Strings Attached became NYSNC’s most popular album, and it still holds the record for the most albums sold in one week.

Bieber’s boyish charm has certainly put him among the ranks of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, so perhaps Under the Mistletoe is more than just a cute holiday album. By stealing the spotlight this winter, he might just be setting up his next release to have the most sells ever, moving his career from a boy band frenzy to an established adult artist.

Whether it’s a great career move or just plain fun, I have to admit that I love the new holiday albums. What are your favorites to listen to during the holidays?

Posted on December 14, 2011
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Conductor Leonard Slatkin with the Strings Music Festival Orchestra

“My favorite memory of Strings is Slatkin conducting our first orchestra.”
Leonard Slatkin, Stings Music Festival

In the beginning, Strings Music Festival only presented a few chamber music concerts each summer. It wasn’t until 1992 that we held our first orchestra concert. Leonard Slatkin, conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, was the first Strings guest conductor. CBS Sunday morning came to Strings to film a segment and we made national news that September. This year marked the transition of Strings from a small community organization to a nationally known music festival.

Posted on December 9, 2011
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Simon Boyar with students at the Strings Music Pavilion

Even though Steamboat Springs isn’t the center of an arts and culture hub, our young music students have the same opportunities as students from a big city.

In the early part of November, the best music students of the region gathered together in Aspen as part of the Northwest Honor Band. This year, 13 Steamboat Springs High School students were represented as part of the 100-piece hand-picked band. High school band director Jim Knapp says the students he nominated “are all very committed and dedicated, and it showed in how they achieved: they all ranked very high in their sections.”

The Northwest Honor Band lets the best music students perform together, expanding their repertoire to more challenging music than they typically play at school. “It’s inspiring to see all these different music students come together and put something together like that,” said Honor Band student Samantha Trahan.

But closer to home there are more opportunities for young musicians. Two high school flutists performed in the flute choir under the direction of Ernest Richardson, Music Director for the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra (SSO). A branch of the orchestra, the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra Education Ensembles Concert is a place where non-professional community musicians, including youth, have the chance to play and perform. “It was really neat to play with a group of flutists who are better than me and who I can really learn from,” 14-year-old Melissa Requist said after the rehearsal.

While Richardson was here, he also visited the schools to lead rehearsals and workshops. The Lark Ascending, a Vaughn Williams composition, was certainly the highlight of the concert, and Richardson led discussions in the schools regarding how the piece made the students feel. Richardson was pleased with the strong reactions from the students and said, “When children have this visceral response to music, it affirms its power. It just takes a moment to be presented to someone, and slowly it becomes more and more meaningful.” At the SSO holiday concert, young string players performed Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming with the orchestra, further increasing youth performance opportunities.

This boom in extra-curricular music education took off in 2007 when Strings Music Festival launched the Strings School Days program. Strings’ school outreach programs began in 1997 as Youth Touring, where an original show presented the history of the Yampa Valley with music to elementary schools. Today the program involves three weeks of workshops and rehearsals with all school-age music students, field trips where non-music students see a presentation by a professional musician and performances by their peers, and two nights of free community concerts.

Now in its third cycle, we are proud to announce Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) as the next Strings School Days collaborator. DBR is a Haitian-American composer, violinist, and educator, who has performed all over the world, including at the Macau International Music Festival, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and the Sydney Opera House. DBR made his Carnegie Hall debut with the American Composers Orchestra performing his Harlem Essay for Orchestra, a Whitaker commission.

DBR plans to become the Creative Director for Strings School Days and hopes to incorporate the use of film, video, dance, singing, and spoken word to design a multi-media concert experience. He also hopes to bring local artists and musicians into the program so that the students can create and maintain long-term relationships with community members. DBR says, “These types of initiatives help to define a community and give young people a greater sense of their world beyond the confines of their school, using collaboration as conversation and a means by which every voice counts and is counted.”

Posted on December 7, 2011
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The Strings Tent in 2007

In case you missed it, we had 75 mph winds with gusts up to 123 mph in Steamboat Springs yesterday. Extreme weather is not uncommon up here in Northwest Colorado and some of our patron’s most unforgettable Strings memories involve the wind.

“The wind blowing through the old tent and everyone wondering if the tent was going.”
“Sheet music blowing on the Gallery deck.”
“Holding the music stands on windy nights at Storm Meadows.” -Ted G
“Clothespins holding the music.”
“On the deck at Storm Meadows and the wind blowing the music stands.”

It was always exciting with concerts outside dealing with music blowing away and tent sides flapping. Fortunately the new Pavilion decreases influences from the weather and we sustained no major damage in this most recent storm.

Posted on December 2, 2011
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