Fort Collins Symphony starts new concert season on high note

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Collegian | Sara Shaver

Cello players in the Fort Collins Symphony warm up before “Escape to Enchantment,” their first signature concert of the season, in The Lincoln Center Performance Hall Oct. 1.

DJ Vicente, Staff Reporter

On Oct. 1, the lights dimmed in The Lincoln Center, and attention was drawn to the Fort Collins Symphony orchestra as Maestro Wes Kenney took the stage to kick off the symphony’s newest season with “Escape to Enchantment.”

“Escape to Enchantment” belongs to the symphony’s newest season of themed concerts, “Escape to New Realms,” which will consist of eight concerts from Oct. 1 through May 13, 2023, each tailor-made to “whisk you off to unexpected places,” according to the symphony’s website.

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At "Escape to Enchantment" performed by the Fort Collins Symphony, Director Wes Kenney tells the audience about Encuentros
During “Escape to Enchantment,” performed by the Fort Collins Symphony, Maestro Wes Kenney tells the audience about “Encuentros,” a piece composed by Samuel Zyman to evoke memories of Mexico, in The Lincoln Center Performance Hall Oct. 1. (Collegian | Sara Shaver)

The symphony performed under the watchful eye of Music Director Kenney, who just entered his 20th season directing for the symphony. He reflected on his purpose as a director and his desire for listeners to connect to the musical ideas of the composers.

Kenney explained the process he undertook when choosing pieces for each concert, usually deciding based on budget, instrumentation and the theme of the concert, describing themes as an “excuse to hang good music on.”

Kenney also mentioned the need to highlight composers from different backgrounds and cultures, noting classical composition history as being harsh and unfriendly to composers of color.

“At this point, in many ways, we have now folded into our programming ideals that include diversity, equity and inclusion and Black, Indigenous and people of color,” Kenney said. “I think now, to really in many ways be socially viable, you have to delve into this other repertoire.”

“I really think of the musicians as the performers and the conductors as my audience; they’re the people who are engaging most directly with my music. … If I’ve done my job well of making the music satisfying for the performers, the audience will experience that as well.” -James David, composer of “Ostinato Fantastico”

“Escape to Enchantment” featured five pieces from a number of composers and included a number of different styles. Two of the pieces, “Lyric Fanfare for the National Anthem” and “Ostinato Fantastico,” were written by Fort Collins composers Ethan Boxley and James David, respectively.

David, composer of “Ostinato Fantastico,” commented on the history of his piece, having readied the work at the request of Kenney for performance in May 2020, but it had never been performed until now due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“He wanted to program it as soon as possible,” David said.

David also mentioned the purpose of his piece and how it connected to himself as the composer.

“I really think of the musicians as the performers and the conductors as my audience; they’re the people who are engaging most directly with my music. … If I’ve done my job well of making the music satisfying for the performers, the audience will experience that as well,” David said.

Throughout the night, three more pieces were performed at The Lincoln Center. As described by Fort Collins Symphony Assistant Conductor Jeremy Cuebas, each piece holds significance through connections to specific cultures, presenting a myriad of ways to view the concert.

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Colorado State University professor Dr. James M. David tells the audience about Ostinato Fantastico
Composer and Colorado State University professor James David tells the audience about “Ostinato Fantastico,” which premiered for the first time at “Escape to Enchantment” in The Lincoln Center Performance Hall Oct. 1. (Collegian | Sara Shaver)

“Symphony in D Minor” by Cesar Franck “is, in its own way, a mixture of different influences and cultures from somebody who is a little bit of a musical outcast,” Cuebas said.

“Symphony in D Minor,” due to Franck’s musical uniqueness, hadn’t been fully appreciated until the present day, now finding a home within the repertoire of “Escape to Enchantment.”

“Encuentros” by Samuel Zyman and “Capriccio Espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Kórsakov provide cultural influences from Mexico. “Encuentros” was created by Zyman, a Mexican composer, and Korsakov was a Russian composer who mixed Hispanic themes with his own Russian influences.

Cuebas and Kenney agreed that being able to inspire the community through the performance of great music allows audience members to engage on a different level musically and socially.

“As the conductor of the orchestra, it’s my job to make sure that we are exploring the depths of humanity,” Kenney said.

The symphony orchestra’s next concert, “Escape to the Dungeon,” will be Oct. 27.

Reach DJ Vicente at entertainment@collegian.com or on twitter @CSUCollegian.