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Symphony brings musicians together

Marice Doll

Symphony in the Valley is bringing everyone from high school players to bell ringers together for its Christmas concerts this weekend. The show features Martha Robinson playing Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Bassoon, Nadia Beyea playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, Connor O’Meara playing Clarinet Concerto in A Major, and the Kokopelli Bells Choir from Grand Junction playing seasonal favorites. When it comes to musical instruments, Robinson seems to have played them all, from tuba and Chinese percussion to bassoon and piano. “I learned the unusual ones because I played a lot in ethnic Chicago,” Robinson said. Robinson has played Chinese percussion for Luogo – a type of Chinese ensemble – Javanese music and Balinese music in the Gamelan style. “You play Javanese music for 12 hours, with stops to eat, drink, smoke. The music is really slow and often performed with shadow puppet plays or weddings. The balinese is really fast,” she said. Robinson said she got into the whole world of music because she came from “a minister’s family, so of course, I began by playing the organ.”She graduated from Northern Illinois University with degrees in music (bassoon) and classical language, and then married Mark, a horn player and composer. “Vivaldi, called ‘the Red Priest,’ wrote 60 bassoon pieces at an orphanage where he worked,” she said. “The pieces are all very flashy and technically difficult because they were all practice pieces. They showed the player how to operate the instrument and how to play it fast.”Robinson said she prefers the second movement, which is popular among bassoon lovers. “It shows off the bassoon’s quality: it’s not loud, it’s soft acoustically. I really want people to see how beautiful the bassoon really is.”Violins, clarinets, and KokopelliNadia Beyea and Connor O’Meara will perform student recitals. Music accompanies Beyea wherever she goes, not just because she plays the violin, but also because her mother, Nancy, is a band teacher.It is no surprise, then, that Beyea was introduced to violin at age four. She studied the suzukin method with her mother until age 14 when started to study under Carlos Ilias, guest conductor at the Grand Junction Symphony and head of the Mesa State College music faculty. “This is a big first for me,” she says. “First time for soloing, concertos, everything.”Beyea chose the Mozart work because she “likes faster pieces – it keeps you thinking and going. He’s hard, but I’m going to do him justice.” The piece has special meaning for Beyea because her brother, Blake, played it at his graduation and she played it at a classmate’s memorial. Symphony in the Valley has been a family affair for Beyea: Her mother has played the violin in it for five years, and Blake, now in environmental law at the University of Colorado, played in it for two years.After she graduates from AHS, Beyea plans to major in hospital administration and minor in music education. Like Beyea, O’Meara also got an early start in music, with the clarinet in the fifth grade. O’Meara chose the first movement because of its innate appeal to him: “It was something about the way the piece flows and repeats. It’s like coming into a room and saying ‘How are you?’ and then getting to repeat it because it feels good. The repeats register the same, but I feel it differently every time I repeat, and it builds differently each time too.”I’d bore myself if I played it exactly as it is on the page, just like the ink,” he observes. Although he said there is no music in his family, O’Meara also said, “We had a clarinet. It was there and I practiced it and now it’s something I couldn’t do without. Music is what I do.”After a lifetime in the Roaring Fork Valley, O’Meara hopes to attend the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley to study music performance.The Kokopelli Bells Choir from Grand Junction will perform the last portion of the concert. Kokopelli has 14 members who use handbells to represent “a finger on a pianist’s hand and only plays notes to which they are assigned,” said Ron Swim, bell ringer and arranger.Swim, has a bachelor’s degree in visual and performing arts from Mesa State College in Grand Junction. The valley is probably most familiar with him for his work on a commercial to Marc’s Toys and Pets, once in the Glenwood Springs Mall. Wendy Larson is the symphony’s conductor and artistic director with John Bokram as associate conductor. Symphony in the Valley is a 60-member, nonprofit, volunteer community orchestra.


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