Chamber orchestras flock to St. Paul

Douglas Boyd
Douglas Boyd will lead the concerts in the first week of the International Chamber Orchestra Festival. Boyd is one of the SPCO's artistic partners and a founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He says having these two orchestras play together is an occasion of great personal significance.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

Douglas Boyd is straightforward in his expectations for the International Chamber Music Festival.

"I'm sure it's going to be a highlight of my musical life," he said.

SPCO President Bruce Coppock
Bruce Coppock came up with the idea for the International Chamber Orchestra Festival before he retired as SPCO President.
MPR Photo/Karl Gehrke

Boyd is one of the artistic partners at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and he will lead the first week of concerts.

"It's the brainchild of Bruce Coppock, the retiring chief executive who is one of the most creative people I have ever met," Boyd said. "And he came up with this idea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of [the] St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, to invite some of the best chamber orchestras in the world to join with us in a kind of celebration."

The numbers are impressive: five chamber orchestras, 17 concerts and 9 venues around the Twin Cities. Boyd said it's important to remember that chamber orchestras come in a number of different flavors, and the four visiting ensembles will demonstrate that.

"I'm sure it's going to be a highlight of my musical life."

"You've got the London Sinfonietta, perhaps the greatest of all the contemporary music groups," he said. "The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which is my former orchestra, it's one of the great, great orchestras of the world. And you've got Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Philharmonia Baroque representing the very best of original instruments, so you've got very different spectrums."

Some of the concerts will be by one orchestra alone, others will feature two orchestras, and in some including the first concerts of the series, two orchestras will play together.

"And so that's the biggest challenge of all," Boyd said. "In the space of exactly two days, we have to make two extraordinary orchestra, into one even more extraordinary orchestra."

Launch breakfast
SPCO president Sarah Lutman addressed the group gathered for the International Chamber Orchestra Festival launch breakfast.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

A fanfare and a crowd of supporters welcomed Boyd and representatives of the first visiting ensemble, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, at a festival launch breakfast.

Boyd was a founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe more than two decades ago when he was principal oboe for the ensemble. The COE's General Manager, Simon Fletcher, said there can be very real dangers to trying to blend two ensembles. But Fletcher said the visiting musicians are very excited about the opportunities to learn as they work through the challenges.

"Suddenly you question the minutiae," Fletcher said. "Fingerings to the phrasing style, all of the parameters are broken out and you have to re-assess what you are up to."

A lot has to be worked out in a very short time, including even the seating. Fletcher said they've taken a very practical approach.

"And so we have really spread the personnel evenly through the sections, a bit like a snake," he said. "SPCO will sit one, three, five."

Simon Fletcher
Simon Fletcher is general manager of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He says the COE is unique in that it has no home, and so is continually touring.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

And the SPCO sits two, four and six. Fletcher said with one joint rehearsal already under their belts, he thinks the two orchestras are working well as one.

Fletcher said that not only will audiences have many concerts to enjoy over the next month, he suspects the International Chamber Orchestra Festival will have lasting legacy for the SPCO, including a reinvigoration of the musicians.

"This is an incredible initiative and it will bring a huge benefit to the SPCO and the other ensembles," he said. "I think it will really stretch the minds."

Fletcher said his only regret is that he's only here for the first week, so he'll miss all the other concerts.

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