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The Denver Philharmonic gets Germanic with Brass, Brats and Beer

The heat might not indicate it, but fall is coming -- and with the fall, the American tradition of, for whatever reason, celebrating things that are vaguely Germanic-seeming -- things like lagers, sausages and oompah-music. And though it might be alleged the brass section lacked a certain degree of oompah (all-trombone cover of "Candy Girl," anyone?), this weekend at its Brass, Brats and Beer fundraiser, the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra was pretty much on-point with that theme.

Not that lacking in oompah is a particularly bad thing -- and polka isn't really the first thing on the list of what the Denver Philharmonic is about, anyway. What it is about is good classical music at a ticket price that won't ruin your finances, which is a legacy the DPO has been keeping up for some 62 years now, and which on Saturday they were trying to raise the funds to continue.

"None of our staff is paid," said Roger Powell, the DPO's vice president. "Virtually everybody on staff is a volunteer. The conductor takes a fee, and the soloist gets a fee as well, but for the rest of us, this is just kind of our passion."

In spite of that passion, the Orchestra still requires funds to operate, and the informal party at Clarkson Mansion on Saturday was one of the ways the DPO has brainstormed to get them. "Our ticket sales make up about 30 to 35 percent of our revenue, so we have to come up with ways to make money," said Executive Director Russell Klein, reflectively turning a brat on the grill. "We've tried a number of ways to do that over the years. We used to have these galas and that kind of thing, but we found that the benefits don't justify the expense."

And really, the party on Saturday seemed more in line with the DPO's character than a fancy black-tie gala. Classical music has a reputation for being somewhat elitist and inaccessible, particularly in concert form; the Denver Philharmonic, in spite of the official-sounding name (until about ten years ago, it was known as the Brico Symphony), is about bringing that music to the common folks -- and what better way to do that than with beer and sausages?

The DPO's season gets started next month on Friday, October 8, with a performance from noted pianist Hsing-ay Hsu (really, she's a big deal -- check out her biography) of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 -- tickets go for the typically affordable rate of $20. But if you've already spent your last $20 on beer-steins and lederhosen, don't despair: For those who can't afford tickets, the DPO never turns anyone away.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte