For a short spin around Europe, look no further than the Alpine Orchestra’s spring concert series, April 7-9. Conductor Lt. Col. Beth Steele described the concert as good music with “a little bit of everything.”
As the aptly named performance title implies, “Treats and Suites!” incorporates a number of musical suites written for orchestras, including “Children’s Game” (Jeux d’enfants) by George Bizet, selections from Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” and Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville,” “A Shepherd’s Hymn” (aka the Pastoral Symphony) by Ludwig Van Beethoven, and the Mendelssohn Nocturne from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Approximately 40 community musicians from Summit County to Salida comprise the orchestra, and members range from 7th graders to 80-year-olds. Steele travels each week from Breckenridge to Buena Vista for rehearsals and is in her fourth season with the orchestra.
Instrumentalists commit two hours weekly to the group, practicing from 7 to 9 p.m. each Monday evening at the Buena Vista High School. Maintaining consistent practices over the winter is Steele’s greatest challenge directing the community orchestra. “This year we started practicing at the end of February. The next Monday it snowed. Last year our spring concert had to be rescheduled because of a blizzard. No one can control the weather. We just cross our fingers and pray.” Nonetheless, Steele said conducting community orchestra is rewarding. “The [orchestra members] are all dedicated and want to play music.”
A trumpet performance major, Steele joined the Army as a conductor after completing her master’s degree. She was one of 21 officers commissioned to conduct and characterized it as an extraordinary experience, noting opportunities to meet Sandra Day O’Connor and Vice President Joe Biden as well as perform at the opening weekend of the Women in Military Service Museum. She spent her last four service years in Germany and traveled across Europe. “We brought America to places like Red Square in Moscow, Serbia and Croatia. We met the Queen of England.”
She recounted tales of logistical and language challenges as an Army conductor. “We had to be sure we were playing the right kind of music for the population and advancing diplomatic ties. I had a four-star general tell me he could send the band places he couldn’t send other troops. He said the Army band is the best weapon of peace.”
Steele said her favorite composer is whomever her orchestra is practicing at the moment. “I am always a fan of Beethoven or Mozart, all the masters, but I develop a deeper appreciation of [a composer’s] craft when we are rehearsing their work.”
The Alpine Orchestra currently has a few gaps and is in need of percussionists and string musicians. The nonprofit group is always willing to accept financial donations, as purchasing music for rehearsal and performance is costly.
The “Treats and Suites!” concert schedule is 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, at the Lake County High School in Leadville; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Salida SteamPlant; and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9, at the Clearview Community Church in Buena Vista.
To donate or learn more about the orchestra visit alpineorchestra.org.