Brass players to headline first Colo. Symphony pot concert

The Bartels Brass
Brass players from the Colorado Symphony

For Justin Bartels and his quintet, next weekend’s performance at the Space Gallery on Santa Fe is just a typical gig. “Yeah, pretty much,” the Colorado Symphony (CSO) principal trumpeter says. “It’s like another house party.”

Not quite.

Friday night’s 70-minute program by the Bartels Brass, an ensemble made up of CSO brass players, highlights the first event in the Colorado Symphony’s “Classically Cannabis” series. The series is generating national headlines, boisterous public debate, legal wranglings and continuous local news coverage.

Sponsored by the Denver-based Edible Events pot-themed catering service, the concert features serious indoor classical music and serious outdoor smoking of marijuana on the gallery’s enclosed patio.

Bartels is aware of the publicity surrounding the program, but remains unconcerned. It’s about the music, he says. “They’ll be exposed to something that they haven’t heard before."

Bartels will be joined by friends and orchestra mates Steve Kilburn (trumpet), Gregory Harper (trombone), Michael Dunn (tuba) and Kolio Plachkov (French horn) in a wide-ranging program of music by Malcolm Arnold, Wagner, Debussy, Puccini, Holst, Percy Grainger and Bach. The program will also include some surprises.

Bartels doesn’t expect the Space Gallery crowd of 250 to resemble a bunch of rowdy stoners.

Quite the opposite, agrees Edible Events owner Jane West.

West gives high marks to her list of invited guests -- the City of Denver nixed the original idea of open public attendance. Those asked to participate, West says, are her “personal contacts in the cannabis industry” and “longtime clients.”

“We have a name, and we’re changing the image of what we do,” West says of her company, which provides pot-free food and drink along with marijuana-imbibing in a grown-up style social setting.

In addition to West’s VIP list, the CSO has extended invitations to some of its supporters -- without divulging specifics.

Bartels and West agree that many of the gallery attendees will be more interested in chatting and networking than in music-listening. But West will nonetheless supply 50 Adirondack chairs with accompanying eye masks for those who want to focus on the music after imbibing on the smoke-filled patio.

“I think a lot of people will be there just to socialize,” Bartels says, pointing to a similar mix of music and conversation at the CSO’s recent “Beethoven and Brews” event. “I think people are smart. Many of them will want to explore what we do. But with the presence of food and drink, well, it tends to get social.”

As for the presence of that controversial, newly legalized consumable, Bartels can only shrug. “Hey, I’ve met people in the cannabis industry, and they’re pretty normal.”