Musicians from all over come to play the Colorado Music Festival. Now they’re celebrating one special composer

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Peter Oundjian conducts a rehearsal of musicians ahead of the launch of this year’s Colorado Music Festival.

This week, a special group of musicians at the Colorado Music Festival has one job: learn, practice and interpret the music of one composer in just a few days to honor him. The musicians from all over the U.S. come together in Boulder to perform as the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra.

John Corigliano, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, and five Grammy Awards, will be a composer in residence at CMF this year. He will attend the July 13 tribute concert celebrating his life and work with the performance of three of his pieces

It’s “a very unusual thing that we're doing an entire evening of a living composer's works,” said Peter Oundjian, the orchestra's music director

Corigliano himself will also participate in the rehearsals. 

“You know, it's really amazing that orchestras can put together an entire evening of contemporary music like this in just a few days. The skill of these orchestras cannot be overestimated,” Corigliano said. “They are wizards at being able to assimilate, read, and understand music, so that music they see two days earlier, they perform that next evening. And it's really amazing.”

For Corigliano, the beginning of the concert has a special appeal. 

“The most exciting thing to me is when a conductor raises his hand and before he gives a downbeat. And we don't know what's gonna happen, [even] if we know exactly what's gonna happen,” Corigliano said. “And I hope that the audience in Boulder will approach this concert with a sense of adventure. Cause concerts should be adventurous.”

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The historic Chautauqua Auditorium sits at the base of the Flatirons in Boulder.

Oundjian says he’s hopeful the easing of the pandemic will mean audiences can again fully experience the music the festival has to offer, particularly at Chautauqua Auditorium, which sits at the base of Boulder’s Flatirons. 

“Chatauqua is as beautiful as ever. If anybody out there has not seen the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, it's quite an experience just on the eye, but also on the ear,” Oundjian said. “It's kind of a magical place. And, uh, the energy in the hall is really wonderful and welcoming and informal. I think it's just a lovely way to spend an evening.”

The Colorado Music Festival runs through August 6.

Editor’s Note: The Colorado Music Festival is a financial supporter of CPR News, but has no editorial influence.