What to expect at the orchestra

If You Don’t Like the Music, Feel Free to Riot

But at least give classical music a chance

By Erica Marciniec

Once upon a time, a night at the orchestra was a rowdy affair, somewhat like rock concerts are today. People talked to each other in the middle of a set, and if you didn’t like the music, you could throw tomatoes at the musicians — which actually makes the orchestra of yore more extreme than your average rock show.

That’s right; classical music lovers were once riotous party animals. Prior to the French Revolution, high society folks could be found partying it up to symphonic masterpieces played by underpaid musicians while the bourgeoisie shook their fists outside. It was not until the middle class wrested the right to a night at the orchestra that classical music started to take on its more serious form — and that was in deference to the art form, not a manifestation of social snobbery, as Alex Ross explains in The New Yorker (2008).

“The idea of the curated program — of the concert as intellectual journey,” Ross writes, merited a silent audience and paved the way for a new world of sound, from Debussy to Mahler, that depended on it. Clapping between movements disappeared in the 20th century. It was not until the 1950s that a night at the orchestra became the experience it is often perceived to be — stiff, hushed, fancy and fashion-conscious.

But if that perception seems out of accord with fun-loving, outdoorsy Breckenridge, Colorado — which has not one but two orchestras that play a full repertoire of concerts at the Riverwalk Center every summer — that’s because it is. While orchestras around the world are toning down that stiff vibe and reaching out to young people — by pairing Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra or Kid Rock with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, for example — Breckenridge has long been a place where the Average Joe can listen on his or her own terms.

For newcomers, we recommend the ever-popular family concert. This year’s family concert is “Peter and The Wolf,” a free concert starting at the kid-friendly hour of 6 p.m. that aims to entertain even the youngest audience members. On August 7, Andrew Grams will conduct the festival’s free family concert, back by popular demand. The child-centric evening features a musical symphony written specifically for children. Each of the animals in the story has a particular instrument and a specific musical theme, making it easy to follow along with the story line. The family concert is BYOB — bring your own blanket.

Generally, orchestral concerts from the Breckenridge Music Festival range in price from $25-$40 for adults, $10 for students with ID and $7 for ages 18 and under, with package and season pricing available.

Classical-curious individuals who are not yet willing to foot that bill can also stop in at the Riverwalk Center during practice. The schedule is posted on the door; it’s casual and there’s no clapping — just walk in and walk out when you’re done. Who knows? You just might discover it’s worth it to scrape up the cash for the full experience after all. If you don’t like it, you can always riot.