DENVER (KDVR) – If you are looking to take in a concert, why not look into absorbing a performance by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, a musical outfit that’s been gracing Colorado’s capital city since the arrival of its first incarnation back in 1892.
The group, as it currently exists, is the 80-membered Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which puts on roughly 150 shows a year between its home at Boettcher Concert Hall, and other venues across Colorado.
This year’s series of shows will continue the 130-year stretch of orchestral performers bringing musical culture to Denver residents.
The origin of the Colorado Symphony
According to the Colorado Encyclopedia, the region’s first iteration of a music-focused body came into fruition back in March of 1892 when P.E. Collins established the Symphonic Music Society. The group dissolved later that year after performing twice at the Colorado Mining Exchange, which now functions as a Wyndham Grand Hotel and Spa on Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs.
According to the Colorado Virtual Library, the timing of the society’s collapse occurred alongside the country repealing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which stopped all federal purchases of silver and moved the United States to the gold standard.
Fast forward to the early years of the 20th century, and you see the arrival of two orchestras; Denver’s first symphony was launched in 1900 by Henry Houseley and the competing Denver Orchestra Association was formed in 1903, according to the Colorado Encyclopedia.
After a few years, the Denver Orchestra Association founded by Raffaelo Cavallo was left standing.
Cavallo eventually turned over the reigns to Horace Tureman, who would go on to help start the Denver Philarmonic Orchestra in 1912, according to the Colorado Encyclopedia. In 1922, after World War I concluded, Tureman launched the Denver Civic Orchestra, which consisted of 90 musicians.
This system of part-time musicians became a bit of a problem once the Great Depression hit. Tureman realized something had to change when it came to compensating the musicians so, according to the Colorado encyclopedia, he did something about it in 1934 when he formed the 43-member Denver Symphony and offered performers higher wages.
The arrival guild-given support
In 1935, Denver’s Symphony Guild formed and aimed to be a supporter of Tureman’s Denver Symphony Orchestra. The guild achieved this when it reached its fundraising goal of $30,000 in 1941. Just four years later, its annual fundraising goal had risen to $125,000.
With the guild’s funds and other contributions, the orchestra, now being run by Saul Caston, was able to become fully professional.
Caston retired in 1964 and, despite a bump in funding, the orchestra had the lowest weekly salary of any orchestra in the country by the mid-1960s.
A decade later the symphony would relocate to a venue more acoustically tuned to its performances, holding its first concert at Boettcher Concert Hall on March 5, 1978.
However, the following decade was also a time of financial woes, and according to the Colorado Encylopedia. On March 25, 1989, after the concert season started three weeks late, the Denver Symphony held its final performance before declaring bankruptcy.
That same year, the musicians within the disbanded group decided to form the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and on Oct. 26, 1989, they graced McNichols Sports Arena with their first performance.
A symphony in a new century
The symphony continued to maneuver through challenging financial situations but maintained a steady footing, according to the Colorado Encyclopedia. In 2011 the season was delayed after several members of the board that oversaw the symphony resigned.
The 2010s started to turn around financially when it started offering performances and events that seemed to cater to the younger crowd, including a series entitled Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series, which drew some condemnation from the City of Denver.
Today, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra puts on a wide array of performances, including collaborations with local and national acts such as Herbie Hancock, Josh Groban and Devotchka.
“One of the first notable instances of such a collaboration involving the Colorado Symphony occurred in 1992 with a performance alongside The Moody Blues at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre,” Creative Director of the Colorado Symphony Nick Dobreff told FOX31. “We’ve always got new and exciting things in the pipeline because we’re constantly striving to innovate and reach audiences that may have never been to see a live symphony orchestra before.”
The symphony has also focused on having a positive impact on the youth community.
“We’re involved in many different initiatives. There’s nothing quite like the Imagination Artist series, but we’re doing great things on the education side of things as well,” Dobreff said, highlighting the Lift Every Voice Youth Concert series that started as a virtual project during the pandemic but was brought to the stage with live audiences last season.
Like most in the music industry, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Colorado Symphony, but it has since bounced back and is putting on shows several times a month.