BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Music Festival launched its 2020 virtual series on Thursday to give supporters and fans a way to enjoy classical concerts remotely. The first performance features the Takács Quartet based in Colorado, a video was produced in advance for each performance and becomes available online every Thursday for the next six weeks.

(credit: CBS)

“It kind of equalizes everybody, it puts everyone in the same square, same size square,” said Peter Oundjian, music director for the festival. “You know you’re all looking at each other’s faces.”

Oundjian is an accomplished violinist and international conductor who most recently was the music director for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He joined the Colorado Music Festival last summer for his first season with the series. This year he lead the festival through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and helped to create the virtual schedule. Using Zoom video conferencing like so many for meetings and communication, it is a part of the experience online for the festival. He enjoys the advantages it brings to creating a unique experience.

“So there’s not a bad seat in the sense, and there’s also not a seat that’s far away,” Oundjian told CBS4 over a Zoom call. “Every guest artist that was going to play in the summer is going to appear in our virtual festival.”

(credit: Colorado Music Festival)

The festival has a history of more than 40 years in Colorado, taking place each summer at the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder. While Oundjian knows it is a spectacular venue for live music, both as performer and an audience member, he hopes the remote experience can still allow classical music lovers to enjoy some of their favorites from home. The orchestra that usually comes together each summer is made up of musicians from across the country. The virtual concerts will highlight some of their performances in addition to the guest artists scheduled each week.

“We’re going to see them up close, in some cases they’re going to show us how they play things,” he said. “The interviews are much more in depth and because we’re very close up with the artists.”

Unlike a physical performance with a set time, each concert will debut on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. but viewers can choose to start the video at any time after it is posted online. Oundjian suggests having dinner or enjoying a drink while you watch the concert from home.

“Be entertained in a way that is really very different from anything you’ve ever seen,” Oundjian said. “It’s obviously an experience that makes everybody really hungry and to realize how much value there was in that experience.”

The concerts are free in part thanks to the support of sponsors and ticket holders for the festival choosing to donate their funds to the organization rather than asking for a refund. It will not make up for the in-person experience so Oundjian plans to be back in the auditorium for the next season. He believes a limited experience may be possible with social distancing but to see the concerts people have enjoyed for years and as recently as 2019, he says a vaccine will be needed.

(credit: CBS)

“We really missed that experience of sitting together because there is something magical about being with a group of people,” he said. “My sense is that the 2021 festival will be incredibly exciting and that people’s enthusiasm to be able to be back at Chautauqua and listen to the orchestra is going to be pretty overwhelming and moving.”

You need to register online with the festival and login to the website to start viewing videos each week. The festival runs June 25 to July 30.

LINK: Colorado Music Festival

Shawn Chitnis

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