Silvana Santinelli studied piano performance at University of Maryland. Courtesy

The Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra loves to engage with its audience – so much so that two patrons chose most of this month’s repertoire.

The organization’s next concert Nov. 16, “Nordic Triumph,” will feature two pieces – Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto – that were the direct result of audience involvement.

In October 2017, CSO did an audience survey during its annual movie music concert and matinee that included an open-ended comments section. At least three or four survey respondents noted that they wanted to hear Sibelius, said Executive Director Lindsey Reynolds.

“It was unusual, because you’d expect people to suggest a more well-known composer,” she said. “So that stood out to everybody.”

Then, in fall 2018, at the CSO’s annual gala, Dr. JJ Chen won the opportunity to program a piece for the next season. He’s a pianist, Reynolds said, and he decided he wanted to hear Grieg’s Piano Concerto.

Music Director and Conductor William Intriligator was thrilled. The piece is an audience favorite that CSO hasn’t performed in a while, he said, and in an effort to celebrate regional talent, he decided to feature Fort Collins-based pianist Silvana Santinelli. Originally from Mexico, Santinelli was a professor of piano at CSU for nine years and will be making her Cheyenne debut with “Nordic Triumph.”

“It’s nice to feature soloists from all over the world and people who have performed all over, but it’s also nice to feature people right from our own backyard,” Intriligator said.

He said he loves this concerto because of the unique sense of drama it provides, largely because the pianist is positioned to sort of bounce off the orchestra. It’s also lighter and a little more even-keeled than the other pieces in the program, he added, with more of a focus on the beautiful melodies.

Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, on the other hand, has to “find its own drama and mystery,” Intriligator said. But some of that drama and mystery is found in the great peaks and great depths it takes audiences to.

“The symphony is like these different jagged pieces that come together to make a magnificent whole,” he added. “I think the ending of the Sibelius Symphony is one of the most glorious and moving passages in orchestral music. The piece takes you on such a journey. When you get to that final page, it’s so magical and glorious – something that you just don’t want to miss. … It’s like a spiritual arrival.”

CSO needed one more piece to round out the Nov. 16 program, and because the first two pieces are by Scandinavian composers, it was a perfect fit when Intriligator happened to stumble upon Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s “Maskerade Overture” on YouTube one day. The piece is so rarely played that neither Intriligator nor Reynolds, a former University of Wyoming oboe instructor, had ever heard of it.

That uniqueness made it all the more appealing, even though it would take more work for the orchestra musicians to learn it. The piece is an overture to an opera about Carnival, so Intriligator said it’s fittingly lively and festive. He views it as a hidden gem, and he said he’s excited to conduct it for the first time.

Asked how the pieces work together as a program, Intriligator said there is something inherently Scandinvian about all of them that will help transport audiences to that part of the world. They’re also all about triumph and an incredible revival after a struggle, which is why he suggested the name “Nordic Triumph.”

“There’s something about their music that reflects some aspect of the life in those countries,” he said. “The terrain, the coldness – and so there’s just a nice connection between the pieces in that way.”

Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter @niki_mariee.

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