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Seven Symphonic Portraits: A Weld County Reflection

Exhibit Explores Greeley and Weld County History Through Music

Seven Symphonic Portraits: A Weld County Reflection" opened November 16, 2023, at the Greeley History Museum. The exhibit features music by Dylan Fixmer, Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra's composer-in-residence. Dylan’s work premiered in October 2023 at the orchestra’s performance of "Portraits of the West: Picturing Utopia."

To compose "Seven Symphonic Portraits," Dylan spent hours exploring Greeley and Weld County stories. He traveled the area, met colorful characters and found inspiration in the Greeley Museums' archives. The seven movements that resulted convey the hopes, dreams, and struggles of the people who lived and worked here.

In a recent Weld Found podcast with Tim Coons of the Weld Community Foundation, Dylan explained how he researched the stories that shaped the movements.

“I tried to collect as much information from as many different people as possible, and the museum made that very easy for me. They have this collection of oral histories in these giant file cabinets in the basement—just file after file of people talking about their experiences living in Greeley and in Weld County,” Dylan said. “I read through so many of them looking for commonalities, and when I found something I really liked, I would go ask if I could have access to the audio files.”

He says that the process of sifting through oral histories helped him start to find common threads that he wove into seven themes.

“So, the seven movements… are representative of common experiences within people in Weld County. I tried to distill all of those oral histories and all of those photographs that go with them into these movements. Each movement represents some shared experience of the people,” Dylan says. (To listen to the two-part podcast, visit WeldFound.Podbean.com.)

For the exhibit at the Greeley History Museum, Dylan collaborated with the Greeley Museum staff as they used images and objects from the museum's collections to create the exhibit. Visitors can use QR codes in the exhibit to hear recordings of the music as performed by the Greeley Philharmonic.

The Greeley History Museum, 714 8th Street, is open Thursday to Saturday. For more information, contact the Greeley History Museum at 970-350-9220 or by emailing museums@greeleygov.com.

Seven Symphonic Portraits: A Weld County Reflection

I. Dreaming: Visions of Utopia

As Dylan researched to create this work, he read about all the dreams and aspirations that different peoples brought to the land. An Arapaho quote heavily influenced one of the melodies: “My children, my children, Here it is - I give it to you - the earth, the earth. “

II. Yearning: Searches for Knowledge

What does a community long for when they are in this region? They want their children to have knowledge and be ready for life! In this movement, Dylan quotes a hymn that is the club song for the Want to Know Club, a gathering of women in Weld County founded in 1890. (The group is still active today!) The hymn, “Scatter Seeds of Kindness,” can be heard throughout the movement. 

III. Changing: Cycles of Renewal 

This movement portrays how change is cyclical by showcasing similar chords in a continuous progression. It was inspired by seeing a city management building that was, over time, built, razed and rebuilt again. Does the flickering melody sound familiar? Dylan quotes the chickadee, a migratory bird that is seasonal in our region, to reemphasize constant change and renewal. 

IV. Enduring: Hard Times 

There are large events that globally affect a community beyond its control—wars, famine, depression, a pandemic… changes in history that affect lots of people quickly and test a region’s spirit! There is a uniting aspect to these outside hardships. This piece is paired with the 5th movement as a pair of challenges. 

V. Judging: Divisions Between Us

Another challenge explored in this orchestral work comes not from outside, like difficulties found in movement 4, but within. Where does the ignoring of human dignity and created divisions bring us as a community? Listen to the strings, found to be classical and serious, as they are in conflict with the rest of the more modern-sounding orchestra.

VI. Celebrating: Moments of Unity

Movement 6 is based on a contra dance. This old-fashioned form of line dancing (think a barn dance from Little House on the Prairie), means you are moving against each other, or contra. But it is the contrast that makes the beauty happen. Communities share in the dance when they are distinctly themselves as cultures and peoples, yet in sync with each other in a way that benefits the whole. 

VII. Imagining: Utopia Re-envisioned

We begin at the beginning, and you hear the themes from movement one played again, but instead of a descending line, the melody lifts and ascends into a bright, re-imagined future.

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