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National Repertory Orchestra celebrates American musical history

Benjamin Paul
Special to the Daily
In a concert titled “The Americana Symphony Project," music by American composer and fiddle virtuoso Mark O’Connor will be set to the nature photography of Summit County’s John Fielder. Both O’Connor and Fielder will be in attendance for the event, which will also see O’Connor and his wife, Maggie O’Connor, performing on violins.
Jason Elon Goodman / Special to the Daily |

If you go

What: “Americana Symphony Project,” the National Repertory Orchestra featuring nature photography by John Fielder

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 1

Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge

Cost: Tickets are $25 to $40, or $7 for youth 18 and younger

Program: “Celebration,” by David Anderson; Four Dance Episodes from “Rodeo,” by Aaron Copland; “Strings and Threads,” by Mark O’Connor; “The Americana Symphony,” by Mark O’Connor

More information: Call (970) 453-5825, or visit http://www.nromusic.com

Three days before the Fourth of July, Breckenridge’s National Repertory Orchestra will honor America’s natural beauty and proud musical traditions with its Wednesday, July 1, concert, “The Americana Symphony Project.” Music by American composer and fiddle virtuoso Mark O’Connor will be set to the nature photography of Summit County’s John Fielder. Both O’Connor and Fielder will be in attendance for the event, which will also see O’Connor and his wife, Maggie O’Connor, performing on violins.

The program’s opening piece, David Anderson’s “Celebration,” is the season’s third composition by an NRO alumnus. Anderson is currently the principal bass with the Louisiana Philharmonic. He composes music for both classical orchestra and jazz and often blends the two genres.

“Celebration is a dynamic fanfare and a perfect opening for this concert,” said Doug Adams, CEO of the NRO.

The evening continues with a performance of a symphonic suite drawn from Aaron Copland’s 1942 ballet “Rodeo.” Copland, one of the most important musical voices in a country and era dominated by strong traditions of popular music, did not limit himself to the European schools of composition. Instead, he drew inspiration from American history and folk song in order to bridge the gap between the American public and the classical concert hall.

“Rodeo” tells a Western love story through a series of folk music-inspired dance scenes, the most famous being the concluding “Hoe-Down.” The symphonic suite that the NRO will be performing was first performed by the Boston Pops in 1943 and has become even more popular than the ballet itself.

About the composer

Mark O’Connor is living proof that the classical tradition is still alive and growing, and his 2009 “Americana Symphony” proclaims a proud place in this tradition for Colorado’s own beautiful landscapes. A world-class fiddler as well as a composer, O’Connor is rooted in both classical music and American forms. He has won two Grammy awards, including the 2001 “Best Classical Crossover Album” for his work in a string trio with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Meyer. He is also a seven-time national fiddling champion and a six-time winner of the Country Music Association’s “Musician of the Year” award.

The symphony adopts themes from O’Connor’s “Appalachia Waltz,” originally written for the string trio of O’Connor, Yo-Yo Ma and Meyer, into a musical interpretation of the American westward journey. The music flits cinematically between several characteristic American scenes: evocations of mountains and open prairies, joyous dances of early Appalachian communities and the great vistas that awaited those who made it all the way to the Pacific.

The fifth movement, “Soaring Eagle, Setting Sun,” will be especially powerful during the symphony’s Breckenridge premiere: O’Connor said that it “invokes the emotional journey of ascending the majestic Rocky Mountains.”

About the photographer

No one is better suited to capture the imagery of O’Connor’s music than Summit County resident and renowned nature photographer Fielder. Fielder has been photographing Colorado’s diverse natural beauty for more than 40 years, and his book “Colorado 1870-2000” is the state’s best-selling regional title of all time.

“The subject of the American landscape is central to Fielder’s images as it is to the narrative aspects of the Americana Symphony, which in essence is the journey West,” O’Connor said.

As the NRO musicians perform the symphony, Fielder’s carefully choreographed photography will be projected onto a massive screen behind the orchestra. The evening will also feature O’Connor and his wife, Maggie, performing the composer’s “Strings and Threads Suite” on violins. The collection of 13 fiddle tunes for violins and orchestra is intended to represent the evolution of American folk music over the centuries.

The NRO’s sponsors for this concert are Blue River Bistro, High Country Healthcare, John and Carolee Hayes and Pat and Steve Larson. For tickets and more information, call (970) 547-3100 or visit http://www.nromusic.com.

Benjamin Paul is the marketing and public relations intern for the National Repertory Orchestra.


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