Re-imagining the classical music experience

Denver Philharmonic Orchestra announces 2021-2022 season concerts


When Kwami Barnett was 9 years old, a clarinet was donated to him.

He grew up in a family that believed in the value of donated gifts, so he was expected to make use of it.

“I ended up picking it up and loving it,” Barnett said.

Today, more than 32 years later, Barnett still loves the instrument.

“It’s been such a commodity in my life,” he said.

Barnett is a fulltime music teacher and principal clarinetist for the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, which recently announced its 2021-2022 season concert lineup.

The season will open with a free community concert in Cheesman Park featuring a solo by Barnett performing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. The season finale will be a celebration of Beethoven, to include a performance of Symphony No. 9 “Ode to Joy.”

While these two concerts are certainly highlights of the season, Barnett believes people will enjoy the entire six-concert season.

“All of our concerts are going to be special,” he said. “We’re excited to get back into bringing music to Denver, and Colorado.”

Attending a Denver Philharmonic Orchestra concert is more than just the music — it’s the experience as well, said Valerie Clausen, a violinist who also serves as the orchestra’s executive director.

The orchestra prides itself on re-imagining the classical music experience, Clausen said.

For the 2013-2014 season, the orchestra started its More than Music, which features pre-concert activities that tie into the theme of the concert. For example, a concert by an Italian composer might feature a food truck serving traditional Italian food. The orchestra will commonly offer pre-concert lectures — at no extra cost — to inform audiences about the historical background and other interesting details about the piece or composer, and post-concert mingling with the musicians.

“We try to make the environment relaxed,” Clausen said, “and make sure nobody feels excluded from the classical music experience.”

The orchestra offers its tickets at affordable price points, and will not turn anyone away. Those who do not have the means to pay for a ticket are welcome to reach out ahead of time and request a complimentary ticket, Clausen said.

All of these experiences allow the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra to break down the barriers between stage and audience, said Lawrence Golan, music director and conductor.

“It is so gratifying to see the enjoyment the audience gets from our performances,” Golan said.

Classical music can include about 300 years of music and thousands of pieces, ranging from well-known work such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to lesser known, but equally fantastic, work, Golan said.

“And there’s new pieces being written every day,” he added.

The Denver Philharmonic Orchestra specializes in providing a cross-section of it all, Golan said. People who are familiar with classical music will still get to experience something new, and those who aren’t familiar with it will be pleasantly surprised at how exciting and entertaining classical music can be, Golan said.

“Our passion is orchestral,” Golan said. “There are very few things more rewarding than sharing one’s passion with others.”


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