High Country Sinfonia (HCS) presents “Spring for Joy,” a revival concert series, on the weekend of May 21 in Basalt, Carbondale and Aspen.
HCS, founded in 2015 by President Wendy Larson, is a 22-member, all-volunteer string orchestra comprised of professional and semi-professional musicians who live in the Roaring Fork Valley
Larson said many HCS musicians work at the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) and AMFS’s after-school program, AfterWorks Beginning Strings, which teaches string instruments with performance opportunities for elementary school-aged students.
This year’s HCS members also include four AMFS-sponsored AmeriCorps ArtistYear Fellows teaching in Roaring Fork Valley schools. The national program allows artists, many coming from masters or doctorate programs, to dedicate one year of service in elementary schools.
“Spring for Joy” will feature musical selections from Beethoven, Bach and Haydn, along with works from two lesser-known composers — Josef Suk and Benjamin Britten.
Emily Acri, concertmaster, and Katie Ralston, principal second violin, will open with one movement from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, often referred to as the “Bach Double.”
Ralston said, “It’s the sort of concerto that every violinist learns, usually in the middle of their violin studies.”
Ralston serves as the AMFS Executive Office Operations Manager and teaches violin in elementary schools in the Aspen and Roaring Fork school districts.
She graduated from New York University with a degree in Music Business. Of reuniting with her fellow musicians, “Even just getting together with other people to play in the same room feels really good.”
In her first year with HCS, Acri moved to Carbondale in August. As an ArtistYear Fellow, she taught music to Crystal River Elementary School (CRES) first-graders. She happily told The Sopris Sun she was hired as a full-time music teacher at CRES, beginning next school year.
Acri and three other HCS ArtistYear Fellows recently played a concert for CRES first graders. “This idea of being both educators, as well as performers,” Acri mused, “I think that is such a cool combination, and it’s really fun to share that with our students.”
Roberto Arundale, principal cellist, hails from Fairbanks, Alaska. The Basalt resident said the Roaring Fork Valley “is about as close to Alaska as you can get without being in Alaska.”
A former ArtistYear Fellow, he taught music at Sopris Elementary in Glenwood Springs and is a 2014-2016 AMFS summer music festival alumnus. Arundale is finishing his doctorate of musical arts in cello performance from the University of Colorado Boulder and is currently the chamber music instructor at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork.
Arundale will play a solo in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major and explained, “It’s one of the most beautiful and demanding cello concertos out there.”
Of the other music, Larson explains that English composer Benjamin Britten’s “Simple Symphony,” a work with four movements, was written when he was a teenager as a dedication to his childhood viola teacher. “When you listen to that, you’ll have a smile on your face,” she assured.
Czech composer Josef Suk was one of composer Antonín Dvořák’s most promising violin students. HCS will perform the first movement of Josef Suk’s “Serenade for Strings,” which Larson said “is kind of a romantic piece – it’s flush, it’s full, it’s beautiful.”
The concert closes with “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, arguably one of the most recognizable works in the classical repertoire. It was composed as a triumphant celebration of humanity itself.
Larson hopes the music will bring joy to concertgoers, saying, “I think people are kind of starved for live music performances. You can come to the park, bring a blanket, have a picnic lunch and hear some great music.”
Admission to all performances is free, with donations of up to $20 suggested to assist the HSC with performance-related costs. Audiences should adhere to county public health requirements for facemasks and physical distancing.