Rock promoter Barry Fey saved Denver's symphony in 1989 -- and was honored by a plaque in Boettcher Concert Hall for his efforts.
But last year, when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra hit the rocks, its leaders weren't interested in Fey's help, much less locating his plaque.
Last June, the CSO -- the organization that had emerged from the ashes of the Denver Symphony Orchestra -- faced a $1.2 million cash shortfall despite record sales in the 2010-2011 season. Fey, who'd stepped in more than twenty years ago to rally community support for the symphony and host fundraisers, said he'd offered to help again, but the CSO rebuffed his entreaties.
He wasn't the only one who found CSO administrators turning a deaf ear. In September, the 79 musicians in Colorado's only full-time professional orchestra accepted a $530,000 total pay reduction -- and twenty boardmembers resigned in a major shakeup, after several blamed "greedy" musicians for the problem. And when Westword asked about Fey's plaque, we got this response: "That plaque predates anyone in the current administration by at least a decade, and we haven't been able to find it."
Very few members of that administration were in evidence Saturday night, at the 2012 Symphony Ball celebrating a re-energized CSO, with many past and present supporters again making beautiful music together. Fey, who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in February, was there, as were all the musicians and new leaders of the CSO -- some of whom, like board chairs Mary Rossick Kern and Jerome Kern, as well as CEO Gene Sobczak, had rejoined the symphony last fall to help bring the organization back from the brink.
And this time, Fey rated a shout-out from the stage, rather than a slap.
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For the record, his plaque -- along with one dedicated to then-Denver Symphony Orchestra president Lee Yeingst -- is still missing. Here's how it read: "The Colorado Symphony salutes Barry Fey, the man who lit the fuse and ignited the rocket that is now known as the Colorado Symphony."
Says Fey in his book Backstage Past, "Despite all of my bravado and madman act, I've done some really good shit for the City of Denver."
As did a ballroom full of symphony supporters Saturday, who voted with their checkbooks -- and their hearts -- for the future of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
In addressing the Symphony Ball, Governor John Hickenlooper cited the stat that earned Denver the rank of ">coolest city last fall, and ball co-host Arrow Electronics agrees. Read more in "Arrow Electronics CEO says Colorado is cool because it's where 'could be' meets 'can be.'"