Symphony Swing returns to Glenwood Springs, Rifle
If You Go
Who: Symphony in the Valley
What: Symphony Swing
When: 7-10 p.m. on Friday and 6-10 p.m. on Saturday
Where: Grand River Hospital in Rifle on Friday and the Hotel Colorado on Saturday
How Much: $40/individual and $240 for a table of six in Rifle; $85/individual in Glenwood Springs
When you think of an orchestra, you probably hear Beethoven in your head before Duke Ellington.
But for the past decade, Symphony in the Valley has put on its annual Symphony Swing concert, featuring big band music from the 1930s and ’40s and giving attendees the opportunity to dance rather than sit politely in a dark auditorium.
“Usually people have to sit very quietly and listen very attentively, but this is like a big party,” said Wendy Larson, who was the music director of the orchestra from 1997 to 2008 and who helped come up with the idea for Symphony Swing.
Larson said she and former executive director Marice Doll were brainstorming new ideas for the orchestra one day when they thought of the framework for Symphony Swing.
“We had this idea to do a dinner dance, and it still is a benefit to raise money for Symphony in the Valley,” Larson said. “It was something totally different where people could have a nice dinner and listen to a live big band, live swing music.”
Usually, Symphony Swing takes place in late February or early March, but this year it will happen the weekend of Valentine’s Day.
“Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, it worked for our schedule, and we thought it would be a fun way for folks to celebrate with dinner and dancing,” said current musical director Kelly Thompson. “It’s a bit earlier than typical, but it’s working out well.”
Larson remembers that it wasn’t necessarily easy for everyone in the orchestra to play swing, which isn’t unheard of among string instruments, but is certainly less common than the classical style. Some string players were learning swing music for the first time.
By now, the members have the hang of it. Thompson said he loves being able to conduct a concert of swing music.
“I really enjoy the whole big band era,” he said. “It was an interesting time in history with World War II going on. The music lifted spirits, and I think it still does today.”
Thompson is also one of a handful of singers on the program. He said having vocalists is another way Symphony Swing is unique compared to other orchestra concerts, and the singers have a lot of fun with it.
“It’s really neat to be able to sing with a full orchestra,” he said.
And then, of course, there’s the dancing. Thompson said he’s seen some talented swing dancers on the floor in the past, and some even come from Grand Junction to dance to live music. He added that not everyone who hits the dance floor needs to know what they’re doing, though.
In addition to music and dancing, the event will feature food and a silent auction. In Rifle, hors d’oeuvres will be served beginning at 7 p.m., and at 6 p.m. Glenwood Springs attendees will be treated to a sit-down dinner with a choice of New York strip steak or grilled salmon, in addition to salads, rolls, vegetables, potatoes and more.
The silent auction features about 30 items, including hotel stays, flights, china and crystal, music items, restaurant gift cards and more. Ruth Mollman, a Symphony in the Valley board member and producer of Symphony Swing, said all proceeds from the silent auction and ticket sales will support Symphony in the Valley.
“This is our big fundraiser for the year,” she said.
Symphony Swing takes place from 7-10 p.m. on Friday at Grand River Hospital in Rifle and from 6-10 p.m. on Saturday at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. Tickets must be purchased by the day before the concert and are available at http://www.sitv.org/wp/upcoming-events.
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