Oldies but goodies, indeed.
The Denver Philharmonic Orchestra is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and it is planning a jubilant throwback concert.
“We’ve been operating continuously for 75 years and putting on wonderful concerts for the community for all those years,” said Lawrence Golan, DPO’s conductor since 2013. “This particular concert is the culmination of our 75th anniversary, basically a re-creation of May 18, 1948, which was our first concert.”
The 75th anniversary Crown Jewel program takes place on May 25 on the Antonia Brico Stage at Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., in Denver.
The renowned Antonia Brico
By the time she had settled in Denver, Antonia Brico had conducted professional orchestras in Europe and the U.S., including the Berlin Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic.
According to the DPO’s website, Brico saw a “need for a classical music venue to showcase the talents of local, classically trained musicians ‘with no place to play.’” She founded the DPO as the Denver Businessmen’s Orchestra in 1948.
Brico, who lived from 1902-1989, continued to conduct the DPO until her retirement in the 1980s. Today, she is the namesake of the stage that the DPO performs on.
Same music, different eras
Golan plans to boost the nostalgia quotient of the Crown Jewel concert with performances from the organization’s inaugural program. It will include three selections from the 1948 show, including Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture,” “En Saga” by Jean Sibelius and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40.”
“The original concert was much longer, two or three hours,” Golan said. “At that time, it was before television, and (it) was a time really used for live entertainment (and) live events, whether it was theater, opera, symphony.”
Today, there’s many forms of entertainment — including TV and the internet — and more things that families do together, Golan added.
“Everybody is so busy these days,” he said, “and concerts tend to be short.”
He expects the Crown Jewel program will last about an hour-and-a-half to two hours, including intermission.
More Than Music
Attendees will also get to participate in the DPO’s More Than Music. These events are themed for each concert and offer an additional experience to the concert. More Than Music ranges from pre-concert chats, during which concert-goers learn insight into the program’s music, to post-concert receptions where concert-goers can enjoy refreshments and meet the musicians.
To get an idea of how the More Than Music themes work, when DPO performed its Celtic Celebration around St. Patrick’s Day, the program included both Scottish and Irish music — Mendelssohn’s Scottish symphony, as well as an Irish piece of the Brendan Voyage, written by Shawn Davey, a living Irish composer.
“Before the concert, and during intermission, there were more happenings, such as serving Irish whiskey and Scotch, plus tastings and Irish step dancing,” Golan said. “For the kids, we had miniature golf.”
He added that the sport was born in Scotland.
Roger Haak joins the DPO
As DPO reaches back this year, the organization recently welcomed Roger Haak as its new executive director.
Haak replaces Valerie Clausen, who is transitioning from the position after 11 years. Clausen has been a violinist in the orchestra for 17 years, and it is expected she will continue to serve the DPO.
Haak’s background includes work with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and the Artosphere Festival Orchestra in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He also is a classically trained vocalist and a new talent coordinator at Comedy Works in Denver, which occasionally requires a little standup on his part.
Haak comes to DPO from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where he was VIP ticketing manager.
“I’m like a one-stop shop,” Haak said, adding his role with the DPO touches upon just about every detail involved in running such a unique organization. The DPO “enables me to incorporate everything I learned at DCPA and elsewhere.”
A local connection
Antonia Brico was a trailblazer, Haak said. She was told that she could not be a conductor of an orchestra based solely on her gender, he added.
But “she came to Denver, and now we get to perform this again in Denver,” Haak said of the Crown Jewel concert. “There’s a real local connection happening here.”