Symphony in the Valley presents annual fundraiser |

Symphony in the Valley presents annual fundraiser

Carla Jean Whitley


Symphony in the Valley’s Symphony Swing

Friday, 7 p.m.

Ute Theater in Rifle

Heavy appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and dancing

$65; premium tables $550

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

Full plated dinner and dancing

$95; premium tables $800


Frank Breslin performed on many stages over the years. He was a touring guitarist, a choir member, a rock ’n’ roller and a Chicago bluesman. In his final years, Breslin realized a lifelong dream: to sing the music of his youth with a full orchestra.

Symphony in the Valley’s annual fundraiser, Symphony Swing, brought Breslin’s dream to life. This weekend, his son Thomas will honor his father’s memory by performing in his place. The elder Breslin died in August.

“He’s performed in nearly every capacity. He’s the one who taught me how to sing, and now it’s my job. It meant everything to him,” said Breslin, whose songs will include his father’s favorite, “Beyond the Sea.” “[Symphony Swing] was the pinnacle of performance for him.”

The first of two weekend performances, Friday in Rifle, coincides with Frank Breslin’s birthday. The elder Breslin also served eight years as mayor of New Castle and was a town councilor at the time of his death.

“My dad gave me this gift,” said Breslin, who is a performer in Denver. “He taught me how to perform, how to sing, so not only being able to honor him in that way gives me a great deal of satisfaction and also some closure. But being able to do so with what he considered to be something that was so important to him and a pinnacle of his music career, that means everything.”

It’s also an opportunity for Breslin to reconnect with another lifelong influence: Symphony in the Valley conductor Kelly Thompson. Thompson was the younger Breslin’s music tutor and taught him in elementary music classes.

Since Symphony Swing launched more than a decade ago, Thompson’s voice has been a familiar part of the program. He’s performed with the organization in a number of capacities, including trumpet and percussion, since 2001. Thompson has been music director and conductor since Carlos Elias left in 2013.

He understands why performing with a full orchestra was such a thrill for Frank Breslin:

“As one of the people who’s singing with the group, it’s really a thrill to sing with the big band behind you instead of just a piano,” Thompson said.

In fact, it’s unusual to hear a full orchestra perform swing music at all, he said. SITV has commissioned new arrangements of some of the songs for that reason.

Longtime Symphony Swing attendees will recognize many of their favorite songs from performances past, but this year’s also program includes 11 new additions. The program includes more than 40 songs total.

The 2017 program will feature the most singers yet, with 11 voices on hand. Most of SITV’s concerts feature the orchestra alone, and Thompson said incorporating voice at the annual event is a treat.

The amount of money raised varies year to year, he said, based in part on the event’s costs. Although the event is a significant fundraiser, it isn’t the only way the organization generates money. It relies on grants and support from entities such as the city of Rifle, Garfield County and the Ute Theater Society.

The musicians are volunteers, but the organization has two paid employees and music expenses.

Later in the year, SITV will perform a Mother’s Day program featuring music by composers whose names start with the letter B.

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