Butte Symphony: Wonderful Sense of Community

Maestro Luis Millán wields classical guitar in season opener at Mother Lode

New & Notable

The Butte Symphony – Montana’s original symphony orchestra – enters its 69th season Oct. 13 at the Mother Lode Theater with maestro Luis Millán, a virtuoso classical guitarist, performing the soaring Guitar Concerto #1 by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The program also includes the youthful and optimistic Serenade No. 2 by Johannes Brahms and Dances from Danserye by Tielman Susato.

The 69th season marks Millán’s ninth as the symphony’s music director and conductor and his 15th year at the University of Montana where he serves as director of orchestras, directs the classical guitar studio and teaches music theory.

He is also music director/conductor of the Montana Lyric Opera and orchestral director at the annual Red Lodge Music Festival. As a classical guitarist, he’s performed throughout the Pacific Northwest and in Vienna and Shanghai, and toured Spain five times.

Executive director Mark Hayden credits Millan with “really bringing the Butte Symphony forward as an excellent orchestra.”

“The Butte Symphony Orchestra members have a wonderful sense of community,” he adds. “Our orchestra ranges from founding member Pete Godtland who is in his mid-90s, along with cellist Ruth Rotondi, who each have a legitimate argument on who was born first, down to musician members who are students at Montana Tech and community members from all walks of life.”

Musicians travel to rehearsals from as far away as Polson, Missoula, Bozeman and Helena, and as close as Deer Lodge and Anaconda, with the core living in Butte. “Most of the members are volunteers who have learned their instrument and went into different walks of life but find the joy of being able to continue to play and bring to life music from the last half of a millennium,” says Hayden.

Butte Symphony season continues

Butte Symphony: Chris Burns
The final concert of the season on April 27 features Chris Burns, principal double bassist from the Tacoma Symphony.

The season continues Dec. 15 with Holidays with the Symphony, a concert featuring the Butte High, Butte Central, and Anaconda High School Chorales. One-hundred voices join the 50-member orchestra in holiday classics from Europe and the Americas. The audience is invited to chime in on classic carols at the end of the concert.

“This will be the fifth year we have featured high school chorales joining the symphony for beautiful holiday music,” says Hayden.

In the New Year, the orchestra celebrates Four Centuries of Music from Northern Europe Feb. 16. From Dutch Renaissance dances by Michael Praetorius, to Richard Wagner’s German operas, and wrapping up in the English countryside as interpreted by Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst (and possibly at visit to Downton Abbey), this concert promises a mix of drama, history and profound music.

The final concert of the season on April 27 features Chris Burns, principal double bassist from the Tacoma Symphony, in Concerto in D Major for Contrabass and Orchestra by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Also on tap is Franz Schubert’s 6th Symphony, and Aaron Copland’s Outdoor Overture.

Originally from South Florida, Burns has been principal bassist of the Tacoma Symphony since 2009. The Tacoma News Tribune has described his playing as “effortlessly clear and lyrical … with calm virtuosity and thoughtful expression.”

“I’m excited for our April concert,” says Hayden. “Yay for bass solos!”

All Butte Symphony concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and tickets range from $15-$40. For more information, visit buttesymphony.org or call 406-723-5590.