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Ode to Joy: Four Ways to Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday

Today is Beethoven's 250th birthday.
Today is Beethoven's 250th birthday.
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While the great German composer Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17, his birthday was likely December 16. But confusion over the actual date hasn't prevented concerts around the world from setting up celebrations honoring Beethoven, born 250 years ago this week.

The Colorado Symphony had birthday tributes lined up across the state but was forced to cancel them because of the pandemic; the orchestra instead is offering virtual tributes on its social media channels. And it's not alone in offering celebrations.

Here are the four best ways to celebrate:

A Beethoven Birthday Bash
All Week
The Colorado Symphony has been honoring Beethoven with virtual tributes on its social media channels throughout the week. That series includes this video by spoken-word poet Frankie Le'Troy giving a performance of his work "Lift Every Voice," accompanied by Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 as part of the 2020/21 MusiCurious Youth Concerts. It's free to watch here.

Incessant Hum: Beethoven 2020
Saturday, December 19, 7 p.m., and Sunday, December 20, 2 p.m.
In honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the Boulder Chamber Players commissioned an intriguing, theatrical-musical event earlier this year: Incessant Hum: Beethoven 2020, featuring the later works, which were composed after Beethoven became deaf. Artistic director Barbara Hamilton enlisted the aid of award-winning actor-director Mare Trevathan and playwright Jeffrey Neuman, himself profoundly hearing impaired, to create the piece. The task was daunting, Neuman says “because I wanted to serve Beethoven well — both the music and the man — and because I’d never really written about hearing loss, a subject that seemed a bit too close to home.” The result features acclaimed actors Chris Kendall as Beethoven and Chelsea Frye as Elise — a name familiar to every piano student who ever attempted Beethoven’s lyrical Fur Elise (Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor). It represents a melding of artistic disciplines and a profound tribute to the great composer. Tickets are $25 for families, $10 for individuals and $5 students/unemployed at coloradochamberplayers.org.
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The Great Cat
All week

Guitar and violin shredder the Great Kat just debuted Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony for Guitar and Symphony" on video, which includes thunderstorms, fire, lightning, Beethoven and Zeus all uniting to bring Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” (Symphony #6) to life. It's free to watch here.

Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements
Saturday, December 19, noon

In honor of Beethoven's birthday, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic is partnering with Rocky Mountain Women’s Film to screen the HBO documentary Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, a deeply personal memoir about a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata. The showing is free.

Do you know of other Beethoven birthday events? Send information to editorial@westword.com.

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