Cheyenne, Wyoming has a remarkable entertainment that many northern Coloradans don’t know about—the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra. Henry and I learned about it from our friend, Jean Farley, who plays violin in the orchestra.
“Go to the Cheyenne Symphony,” she told us two years ago. “It’s one of the best you will ever hear!”
Some people think it’s too long to drive from Fort Collins, or Loveland or Greeley, for a night concert. But it is a simple and beautiful drive. Past Wellington, the view ahead and on each side of the car becomes open. Without tall urban buildings, the gorgeous beginning of mixed-grass prairies becomes the view of pioneer life. We occasionally see not just cows on the ranchlands, but bison, sometimes antelope, even deer, and then a windmill. It’s a peaceful, natural drive.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to downtown Cheyenne. It’s very easy to park and then walk into the big, well-built symphony building. At the concert we attended at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, Conductor William Intriligator told us about the music. While his job is conductor of both the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra in Iowa and the Cheyenne Symphony, he’s not just a music conductor. He acts like a comedian, a dancer and the most energetic speaker to people in the audience.
Not only does Maestro Intriligator (what a last name!) talk like a friend, so does everyone else. Before the concert, people came up to us and talked, or sat next to us after the lecture and talked. We were in the community!
The performance started, but there were still words. The conductor walked onto the enormous podium and told us about the first piece, laughing and smiling. And then it started! Each piece was different, with more musicians coming in to change the music.
The second piece was the Piano Concerto No. 20 by Mozart. It even had some tiny minutes, played just on the piano, which were composed by Beethoven after Mozart died, because Mozart had not papered that part of the music in the 1700s for the piano concerto. Maestro Intriligator explained this to us. So as Lei Weng, international pianist and Keyboard Head at UNC Greeley, played the emotional music in a beautiful way without sheet music, all memorized (he occasionally looked up at the ceiling, his fingers playing all over the keys), we knew when it was Mozart and when it was Beethoven. We heard all the emotion. At the end, people made happy noises and quickly stood up to clap for a long time.
The last piece in the performance was Beethoven’s first symphony, which he composed when he was 29 years old, right before the beginning of 1800. Because Beethoven wanted to make people hear different music at that time, there was a metronome number—how fast it would be—to make it sound like modern music in the 21st century.
Maestro explained that he would be forcing all musicians to play as fast as Beethoven wanted it! And he did! He jumped up and down, danced, and slapped his arms back and forth to push rhythm. The orchestra managed it well and fast. I felt we were not hearing 1700s classical music; we were hearing musicians playing serious rhythm and dynamics as modern music. And that was what Beethoven wanted.
People were astounded by how it made them feel. What a performance! And then there was a party a few blocks away, in the bar at the historic Cheyenne train debot. A trolley took us there, we had beer and free desserts, and talked to all kinds of people, including pianist Lei Weng and Maestro.
During the party, a guy named Robert came up to us, and we all talked about how much we loved the conductor.
“He’s like a captain in a stormy bow, running the boat in wild ocean waves,” Robert said.
“You’re right, Robert!” I laughed. What a party! We made it home by midnight, and could not believe the phenomenal music, the many friends we talked with, seeing Maestro’s long hair behind him moving almost harder than the violin and cello bows, and the great party after the performance.
Just to let you know—Cheyenne music is more of a party! The next performance is Saturday, April 22—a blockbuster season finale called The Majesty of Mahler. You can find out more at www.CheyenneSymphony.org. See you at the party!