Classical music festival in motion |

Classical music festival in motion

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

BRECKENRIDGE ” The 2007 season of the National Repertory Orchestra, which begins Saturday night, marks the 30th anniversary of music director Carl Topilow.

In honor of this occasion, a special event is planned for June 29, which will not only highlight Topilow’s career, but the history of the orchestra itself.

The NRO’s inception dates back to Estes Park in 1960, when an innovative conductor named Walter Charles imagined an orchestra which would prioritize the musicians’ training over the audience experience. The Blue Jeans Festival Orchestra mandated the participating musicians work full-time day jobs ” young people were needed in the hotels and restaurants for the growing tourist industry ” and perform a six-week schedule chock full of the classic repertoire.

In June of 1966, Charles moved the orchestra to Evergreen and renamed it the Colorado Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1977 the board of directors and Charles clashed, and he was removed as music director.

The long work days for the musicians came to an end in 1978, when the project was reorganized to allot the day hours to rehearsals and performances. Carl Topilow, who had served as assistant conductor from ’72-’75, was named music director.

In the mid-80s the orchestra was renamed yet again, finally taking the National Repertory Orchestra moniker. It was also during this time that it made its move to Summit County ” which promised benefits from the resort community.

But not yet to Breckenridge. The NRO first settled in Keystone in 1987, but soon after received and accepted an invitation to be housed in the new Riverwalk Center.

(Historical information provided by a story in “Historical Jeffco,” written by Alice Millett Bakemeier in 2006.)

During the June 29 event, several short pieces will be performed by the NRO, interspersed with stories from alumni and a duet by Topilow on the clarinet and his brother Arthur on the piano.

The Riverwalk Center will be set for both cabaret style seating at cocktail tables, as well as general admission seating.

Tickets for the June 29 NRO “Celebration of Then and Now” are $27 for general admission seating and $47 for special table seating (which includes specialty appetizers and a champagne reception with the maestro following the concert). Contact the Riverwalk Center Box Office at (970) 547-3100 for tickets.

Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 668-4626 or

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