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High notes rise in elevation

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI

BRECKENRIDGE – As Breckenridge strives to expand its reputation as a cultural arts center, the most popular art form hits a high note at the Riverwalk Center this week.The Breckenridge Music Festival presents a new choral event called the Breckenridge Choral Festival.Nearly 28.5 million adults and children regularly perform in choral groups nationwide, making it the most popular art form in the United States, according to a recent national study by Chorus America. The group estimates there are 250,000 choruses in America. Most singers begin in elementary school.Based on the popularity of choral singing, Gerhardt Zimmermann, conductor of the Breckenridge Music Institute (BMI) Orchestra, and Robert Shoup, director of the Virginia Symphony Chorus, hope to expand the festival into a multiweek gathering of individuals. The festival could offer theory lessons, rehearsals and performances in Breckenridge, similar to the four- to five-week Berkshire Choral Festival in Massachusetts.But for now, it’s starting slow.Last year, the Virginia Symphony Chorus performed one show with other Front Range choruses, but they only rehearsed once together. This year, Shoup plans to rehearse all week with the Summit Choral Society, the Virginia Symphony Chorus and a couple of other individual singers so he can guide them to a more refined performance.”Although all of the groups were great last year, there’s just no way you can come to agreement in one rehearsal,” Shoup said. “This year, I want to create a structure that will allow a deeper level of work – details of dynamics, tempo, pitches, notes, vocal timbre, breath marks and agreeing on (pronunciation) of German and Latin (words).”For example, at Thursday’s concert, which features American songs, Shoup will help the chorus make the songs sound more common – partially by imitating barnyard animals. The concert opens with Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.””Copland’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ is the promise of living, and ‘America the Beautiful’ sums it up without having to say much of anything about what the Salute to America (concert) is,” Zimmermann said.Mark Laycock’s “American Fanfare,” composed in the summer after Sept. 11, 2001, follows. The opening motive conveys a similar feeling as the opening notes of Beethoven’s powerful Symphony No. 5.The mood lightens with Gershwin’s “American in Paris,” and then it gets silly with animal sounds in “I Bought a Cat.”Saturday’s concert contrasts the common sound Shoup aims for Thursday with Mozart and Haydn’s smooth, elegant sounds, which Shoup says singers need time to practice together to capture. For the Mendelssohn pieces in Saturday’s concert, he will ask the singers for a fuller, more robust sound.The performance opens with Mozart’s “Rejoice Queen of Heaven” and Haydn’s short choral mass including Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei.The second part features Mendelssohn’s “Lobgesang” (“Praise to God”), first performed in 1840 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg’s printing press invention.The BMI Orchestra performs a Baroque Bash Tuesday, a Salute to America Thursday and an evening of choral music Saturday. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverwalk. For tickets ranging from $17 to $27, call (970) 547-3100.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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