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Nine days before his mysterious death, the incomparable Tchaikovsky conducted, in October 1893, the premiere of his unforgettable Sixth Symphony. It was remembered as a brilliantly moody performance of gloomy elegance. Afterwards, he took his usual position in the lobby of the theater in St. Petersburg to wait with intense anxiety for the impressions of the public and the music critics.

Eventually, a respected reviewer came to the genius composer. He could not control his tears and said: “Maestro what have you done? How can you inspire such intensity of emotions with music? — This is a requiem!”

This authentic anecdote illustrates, vividly, the magic of live performances; the touching vulnerability of the performer and the unique ability of great music to penetrate our souls to a depth that is almost indescribable.

When Larysa Blavatsky enters the stage with her violin, her long dark hair flows over her beautiful gown. Her face betrays the classic nervousness of the performer. “Before a performance,” she writes, “I feel very anxious … but once I begin to play, all my worries disappear and I feel very calm …” All talented musicians experience a sense of being transported, almost under the spell of the music.

Larysa, a Butte Central Catholic High School senior, is the youngest person on stage with the Butte Symphony, but all generations are well represented. She treasures the age diversity: “I get along very well with other members in the symphony … Music is ageless, and it is exciting to connect with people of all different ages that play music.”

Whoever considers classical music stuffy has never met Butte Symphony music director Maestro Luis Millan. His infectious smiles offer a comfortable balance to the formality of his impeccably tailored black coattails. He looks happy to bring to life the masterpieces from the past. His considerable gifts are shared with the audience without even a hint of self-importance. Throughout the program, his terrific sense of humor generates laughter.


Millan has a lot of respect for his musicians. About performing with guest soloists he writes: “The Butte Symphony is an excellent collaborative orchestra. They listen to and react to the soloists so well it is always a very rewarding experience for the orchestra, soloist, and audience.”

He remembers fondly the first time he met the orchestra: “The reception was so warm and the rehearsals were so enjoyable.” He, also, speaks about his audience with obvious affection: “The audience in Butte is always enthusiastic and appreciative. It is always a joy to perform for them.”

More than a performance, Butte Symphony puts on an event. As a member of the audience you get the sense that you are experiencing something vibrant and important. Glen Johnson, the gentleman who sits, with his wife, next to me, expresses it perfectly: “What I like most about a live symphonic performance is the very ‘aliveness.’ The enveloping sound in the live with all its dynamics both visual and auditory. Recordings can never duplicate that to that degree.”

Four years ago, I discovered the splendid Mother Lode Theatre. Immediately after the first concert that I attended, I wrote with excitement to family and friends: “We have a world class theater in Butte!”

The Butte Symphony experience cannot be adequately captured without a tribute to its grand home. The acoustics are impressive and the interior sheds an ambiance of warmth, style and history. Distinguished and nostalgic ghosts of a refined past undoubtedly dwell here.

No education is complete without experiencing the enchantment of a live symphonic performance. I strongly encourage parents and grandparents to take their children at least once. It opens their minds to a sophisticated universe of beauty and passion. Just like Albert Einstein famously played the violin to resolve mathematical enigmas, so, also, a certain kind of music can unveil spiritual and emotional jewels concealed inside young hearts.

Arguably, no composition has recently introduced more children and adults to the grace of classical music than Tchaikovsky’s Christmas favorite – “The Nutcracker.”

A friend of mine from faraway New Zealand is flying into Butte on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 6.30 p.m. I will immediately take him and his staff to the Butte Symphony Holiday Concert (7:30 p.m. in the Mother Lode). The program that evening is very exciting with the participation of the choirs of Butte High, Anaconda High and Butte Central. I will do it, of course, for the enjoyment of my guests. But, I also love the idea of showing off to a man of great taste and a world traveler, the hidden treasure in our midst.

Father Patrick Beretta is parish priest at St. Patrick and Immaculate Conception churches in Butte, and chaplain at St. James Healthcare, Butte Central Catholic Schools and Montana Tech.


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