High Country Sinfonia celebrates spring with new program
It may be off-season, but it’s also time for High Country Sinfonia’s spring concert series, “Chopin!” The concerts are May 4, 6, and 7 at TACAW, the Carbondale Branch Library, and the Aspen Chapel, respectively, and are free and open to the public.
“We play all up and down the valley,” said violinist Stephanie Zaza. “We want to draw as many people in as possible by pulling together a program that will appeal to everyone in the community. We’re not trying to squeeze ourselves into a single niche.”
To that end, the spring performance will include multi-movement pieces full of drama, adventure and romance with works by Frederic Chopin, C.P.E. Bach, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The concert will feature local pianist Kevin Kaukl as guest soloist for the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-minor. Along with the Chopin movement, the local string ensemble will present the rarely performed Sinfonia No. 2 in B-flat major by son of Johann Sebastian Bach, C.P.E. Bach. The concert is rounded out with a spotlight on the ensemble’s cello section performing the opening chorale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
“Chopin is just such an incredible composer,” said pianist Kevin Kaukl. “He wrote this piece when he was 20 years old. It’s a concerto that it has a spectacular piano part. Obviously, he was a pianist, and he wrote primarily for the piano, but it’s also got a tremendous amount of orchestral playing. So, it’s a big work for all of us. It’s worth mentioning that of all the works that Chopin composed, in terms of his entire output, more of a percentage of his works are commonly performed today than any other composer in the Western classical music canon.”
Kaukl first came to the Roaring Fork Valley in the early 2000s as a student at the summer music festival and said he found himself being drawn back throughout the years. He decided to move here after completing graduate school because he “fell in love with the beauty of the mountains and the vibrance of the community.”
High Country Sinfonia’s founder and board president, Wendy Larson, has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for 48 years and taught at Aspen Middle School for 30 of them. A cellist, she has performed with various groups around the valley, including Aspen Choral Society. After retiring, she founded High Country Sinfonia in 2015.
“I noticed in the last 15 years there were more professional musicians moving and living in the valley,” she said. “Kevin is one of them. A lot are former music school students from the music festival, but they have chosen to live and work in the valley, and there were enough professional level musicians to start what we call a chamber orchestra, which is a smaller orchestra, and it’s lovely. We aren’t just musicians. We are your friends and neighbors. We live and work and exist here.”
Another thing that makes High Country Sinfonia unique is that they don’t have a conductor, so the musicians need to be prepared and carefully listen to one another — a reality that makes things more interesting for concert master Delaney Meyer.
“It’s definitely a different role when there’s not a conductor,” said Meyer. “Because you are in charge of showing the entrance, of giving energy for what a certain piece or a certain movement is meant to sound like. You’re kind of the conductor and the section leader at the same time. And it’s fun. A lot of collaboration, across sections, everybody taking ownership and taking charge of leading no matter where they’re sitting in the orchestra.”
High Country Sinfonia’s concert series will be presented at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, at The Arts Campus at Willits; 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, at the Carbondale Branch Library; and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, at the Aspen Chapel. Admission is free with a suggested donation of up to $20 (no donations at Carbondale Branch Library).