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Telluride Chamber Music Celebrates 50 Years, a Reimagining and New Endeavors
March 25th, 2024

Telluride Chamber Music Celebrates 50 Years, a Reimagining and New Endeavors

By Ellen Metrick

Telluride Chamber Music (TCM), producers of Telluride’s first-ever festival, began regaling enthusiasts in small spaces in 1973 — small spaces because that’s the very definition of chamber music. It is music written to be played by a small group of instruments in palace chambers, but TCM, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this past summer, takes the genre to new heights and now celebrates chamber music year-round in a variety of spaces.

Chamber music has also been called the music of friends, and that’s certainly the way it has thrived in Telluride. Founded by two friends, violinist Roy Malan and the late pianist Robin Sutherland, TCM for many years was a summer music festival and a mission, in part, to “provide musical experiences of quality, intimacy and community interaction.”

After 47 years as a festival, the TCM board decided to try something a little bit different in 2021, sprinkling chamber music throughout the community all year long. The new focus of the reimagining has been on innovative programming of world-class musicians and local talent that makes the music accessible and approachable for everyone. Executive Director Claire Beard calls it “classical music with a Telluride vibe.”

As with any business, music “is one of adapting,” says Warner Paige, board president and retired owner of a fourth-generation music store business. Partly due to that willingness to make changes, he notes, “TCM continues to be vibrant after 50 years in a little mining town … it’s pretty amazing.”

The new year-round series format has flourished. Last summer, internationally renowned musicians like the New York Philharmonic Brass Quintet performed in private homes, outdoors and at the Sheridan Opera House “to wonderful crowds — a great celebration of TCM’s 50th year,” according to Beard.

TCM is also boosting educational programming with musician visits to area schools and the Wilkinson Public Library, while continuing to bring unique and compelling music to the box canyon. Beard, who is also a classical flutist herself, attributes some of TCM’s vibrancy to community support via “an amazing network of volunteers and housing donors, as well as memberships, donations and grants.”

Other contributors to TCM’s vibrancy and success are the region’s musicians, who are important partners in the new direction that the organization has taken. Says Paige, “There is a lot of incredible local talent in Telluride ... since we changed our format, we get to highlight local musicians in a very intimate setting, like at the happy hour series at Telluride Arts HQ.”

One of those local musicians is Anneke Dean, a violinist and fiddler who moved to Telluride in 2018 and serves as board secretary at TCM. “I’ve spent my entire life in classical music,” she says, adding, “It’s important to be able to listen to all sorts of musical genres, so TCM plays a valuable role.”

TCM also collaborates with Telluride Dance Collective to bring a show every other winter to the local Michael D. Palm Theatre. This winter, TCM events include a concert with TAKE3, a violin, cello and piano trio that will perform a family-friendly holiday show on Dec. 29 in collaboration with local arts group Palm Arts. There’s also Love Letters to Vincent Van Gogh, a performance that will take place on March 24 and features local poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and pianist Kayleen Asbo.

Another exciting development at Telluride Chamber Music was bringing MusicFest under its banner in 2022, which has allowed both programs to thrive. A much-loved, long-running local series that takes place over nine days in late June and early July, MusicFest offers a uniquely intimate chamber music experience in private homes.

And, because friends are all around and adaptation means thriving, there are more exciting events being planned all the time. “It’s my dream to one day have the whole New York Philharmonic orchestra on the Town Park stage,” says Beard. “If anyone has a creative funding idea, do get in touch.”

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