Ivalas Quartet, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, will perform as part of Colorado Music Festival’s virtual finale airing on July 30. CMF, originally scheduled to take place at Chautauqua in Boulder, is now being viewed on the web. Pre-recorded performances are free to view with a simple registration. (Ivalas Quartet/ Courtesy photo)

Live music events across the country have come to an abrupt halt due to the pandemic. Colorado Music Festival, a six-week celebration of classical music scheduled to be held at Chautauqua, has gone virtual. While the in-person event — that has captivated Boulder audiences since 1976 —  was to feature 23 diverse performances of orchestral and chamber music, this year’s cyber offerings have been scaled down, yet are still every bit as compelling and entertaining.

Christina and Michelle Naughton, critically-acclaimed twin pianists, will perform as part of Colorado Music Festival’s virtual finale on July 30. (Christina and Michelle Naughton/ Courtesy photo)

On June 25, the CMF kicked off with a performance from Boulder’s Takács Quartet who took the spotlighted stage in an empty Chautauqua Auditorium.

Viewers have the opportunity to catch three more Thursdays filled with stirring music from world-renowned virtuosos for free. Pre-recorded performances by international and stateside musicians are delivered right to participants’ inboxes and available to view at 7:30 p.m. Viewers simply register and receive the links to watch the specific performance for that evening. All performances will be available to watch for a time even after the festival closes.

On Thursday, virtual festival attendees can watch award-winning pianist Jan Lisiecki perform Beethoven’s piano concertos and post-performance enjoy a discussion with Lisiecki and CMF’s music director Peter Oundjian.

On July 23, Brooklyn Rider — a string quartet of violin, viola and cello players, known for its surprising rock edge — will explore the healing power of music. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment — that gave women the right to vote — festival musicians will also perform “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5,” by composer Joan Tower.

A pre-recorded performance by Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet based in New York, can be viewed on July 23 as part of the Colorado Music Festival’s virtual offerings. (Erin Baiano/ Courtesy photo)

In addition to offering free entertainment, the festival is helping to shape future generations of musicians.

From July 20-24, CMF and Lafayette-based Center for the Musical Arts are holding a Virtual Youth Musician Seminar, allowing advanced high school musicians — and those out of school — to experience priceless training from industry experts. Registration is currently open.

We caught up with Oundjian to find out what it’s been like to deliver these concerts via the web, how an unexpected intimacy has arisen from viewing these performances and talk-backs outside of an actual venue and what folks can expect from the finale on July 30.

Daily Camera: I imagine coping with the pandemic has been very difficult as a music director for such a highly anticipated festival. What has the experience been like going virtual?

Peter Oundjian: The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to think differently about how we can present our product to the world. We all love the experience of a sold-out concert at Chautauqua Auditorium and we miss that, but there are definitely some upsides. These virtual concerts are giving us the opportunity to create more intimacy between the viewer and the artists. Many artists are performing from their homes — though Augustin Hadelich came to my home in Connecticut to record his performance — and I am able to speak one-on-one with each of them, which provides the viewer with a more personal connection.

Peter Oundjian, music director of Colorado Music Festival. (Dale Wilcox/ Courtesy photo)

DC: What prompted you to want to go virtual and offer all of these performances at no charge? Did ticket holders choose to donate or were they given refunds?

PO: We really couldn’t present our concerts live at Chautauqua Auditorium, given the new rules of life during the pandemic. We also didn’t want to not perform this summer, so offering our product virtually was the right thing to do. We’re offering the concerts for free because we want to show our appreciation to our donors, subscribers, ticket buyers and the broader community. Offering these concerts for free was a decision we made after the support we received from our ticket buyers when we had to cancel the festival. Our patrons donated their ticket value at a rate higher than we were hoping for, which has helped us be able to present this virtual festival as well as to pay our orchestra members for the summer.

DC: What has the feedback been like from viewers that have tuned into performances so far?

PO: We have heard such wonderful feedback from our audience. Everyone appreciates the intimacy of these performances, the back-and-forth dialogue I’m able to have with each of the audiences and the phenomenal music provided by both the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra and visiting artists.

DC: What can we expect from the Jan Lisiecki performance on Thursday? I read that you will be discussing the pieces by Beethoven he will be performing. Is this a Q&A post-performance?

PO: This is a back-and-forth conversation between myself and Jan about how Beethoven constructed his cadenzas. It gives us a glimpse into how Beethoven himself might have improvised and also a glimpse into the mind of a brilliant young pianist.

DC: What are you most looking forward to about the finale and what can we look forward to? Ivalas Quartet sounds interesting.

PO: Ivalas are wonderful players and beautiful musicians. The piece by Jesse Montgomery — “Strum” — will be fascinating. The Naughton sisters are a real sensation. Identical twins, they play and feel absolutely as one. The Beethoven 7 movements, recorded and played from all across the country will be a fantastic finale.

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