Past meets present at the opening night of the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra’s 34th season Thursday when William Harrison Briggle and his wife, Kathleen — two figures in Breckenridge history — take the stage to welcome concertgoers and recognize the work of local historical societies.
Historian and author Sandra Mather plays Katie Briggle, a musician who gave recitals in her home at 104 N. Harris St. (now a historic walking tour stop) and played in the Eclipse Theatre at 121 S. Main. Mather describes Briggle as “the premier piano teacher in town at a time when learning the piano was recognized as the way to assure finding a suitable husband” and insists that she would have never made a public appearance without her husband. So, Mr. Briggle accompanies, played by Jerry Dziedzic, board president of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. The two will recognize the local historical societies — Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, Frisco Historic Park & Museum and Summit Historical Society — for their work in preserving Summit County history.
“We’re calling it ‘Heritage Night,’” said Marcia Kaufmann, executive director of the Breckenridge Music Festival, which launched an outreach effort to honor local nonprofits last year, starting with St. Anthony’s Hospital and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. “Breckenridge has really made itself what it is by preserving and making its heritage and history a strong part of its character.”
“Reaching out to the historical societies is a marvelous idea,” Mather said. “Music and the arts were part of the lives of residents from the earliest days of the prospectors and miners.”
There were stag dances — a way for men to blow off steam dancing — and an early theater in Parkville, a ghost town that was once the county seat. There were dance halls, fiddle and piano music in Breckenridge saloons and hurdy-gurdy halls, where women were employed to dance with men.
“During the Victorian era, the homes were cluttered with artwork, fashionable clothing was the rage for those who could afford it, photography graced the walls, music groups sang in the saloons … there was a women’s glee club, a Shakespeare society and a literary society,” Mather said. “Homes and churches had pianos and reed organs. … The newspaper filled its pages with reports about the ‘arts’ in Breckenridge and neighboring towns and camps. So the outreach is quite appropriate.”
“It really highlights that there’s this great synergy between the arts, culture and heritage groups within the town,” said Larissa O’Neil, executive director of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. “So much is offered by the cultural organizations in town, and we all work together to highlight all we have to offer.”
34th concert season
Like much of the festival’s programming, opening night will feature works selected to highlight the instruments of the chamber orchestra as “conversational partners in the music” as opposed to “a huge mass of sound,” said Kaufmann, including pieces by Saint-Saens, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Britten.
“I think of Mendelssohn when I think of someone who really understood the tonality of the different instruments and how they relate to each other with different personalities. He’s a master of that kind of conversation,” Kaufmann said. “Mozart, too, wrote beautifully for our kind of ensemble.”
“This season promises the most varied programming to date,” said Gerhardt Zimmermann, musical director and conductor of the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra.
All season long, the orchestra will celebrate the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten. On Aug. 10, Zimmermann collaborates with Colorado pianist Lei Weng, who will perform the Third Piano Concerto by Rachmaninoff, which was featured in the movie “Shine.” Zimmermann also looks forward to conducting the last movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 at “In Sync,” the annual joint concert between the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra and the National Repertory Orchestra on July 27.
Works by American composers are a hallmark of the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra’s annual repertoire. “Celebrating American Music” on July 25 will feature works by American composers Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Meyer and Mizesco.
“Musically, America is the place to be,” Zimmermann said. “The most important living composers no longer come from Italy, Germany or Europe. The major composers are right here in America.”
As in the past, the summer repertoire also will include concertos spotlighting festival artists. This season, Kathryn Hatmaker will solo on the Meyer Violin Concerto. Principal horn Joseph Assi will solo on Richard Strauss’ First Horn Concerto, and concertmaster Nathan Olson will be featured with David Requiro on the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello by Brahms.
“I try to make the orchestra’s offerings as varied as possible,” Zimmermann said. “I certainly take into account what I think the audiences would like to hear. I also want to program repertoire that will interest the orchestra (and myself), as well.
“I have a sign posted on the bulletin board outside my office at the Butler School of Music. It simply reads: ‘Passion, period.’ That’s what the BMF musicians have — passion. This is why I choose to return each summer to Breckenridge. I enjoy — I love — their passion for music making, and I believe that passion is transferred to our audience members. It is fun for me to conduct this orchestra. I hope and believe that it is also fun for our audiences to come and share in our music making.”
Erica Marciniec is a paid writer with the Breckenridge Music Festival.