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‘Music at McIntosh Lake’ harmonizes casual community and classical music

Making classical music more accessible to the Longmont community
Music at McIntosh Lake

Kellan Toohey and Brittany Bonner, founders of the 'Music at McIntosh Lake' concert series, are making classical music more accessible to the Longmont community with an expanded summer schedule that now includes three free performances.

Bonner is a dedicated classical oboist and an active member of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra as well as the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra. Toohey is a classical clarinetist who contributes his talents to various professional orchestras and ensembles across the Front Range region, notably the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.

Melodic Light is a musical initiative started by Toohey and Bonner who are dedicated to delivering innovative performances of both well-known classical works and fresh compositions. Their mission is to bring top-notch classical music performances to their local community, catering not just to regular connoisseurs of the genre but also to those who may not ordinarily engage with it. They host performances that aim to choose unique and aesthetically pleasing spaces like McIntosh Lake for their music presentations.

“The performances are all very high quality, but we are eliminating the barriers of ticket price, dress code, etcetera that discourage some people from attending classical music concerts. We don’t want our audience to have to worry about what to wear or when to clap,” Bonner said.

Toohey is responsible for selecting the music for each concert. He carefully curates the setlist ahead of time, providing the chosen music to the musicians so they can rehearse in advance.

"We aim to choose music that's more upbeat and uplifting, considering our outdoor venue and the communal, relaxed environment we're creating," Toohey said.

The selection also depends on the available musicians for each concert. The upcoming concert, for instance, will feature Toohey on the clarinet, his colleague Bonner on the oboe and a string quartet. The music selection was tailored to this specific ensemble of instruments.

The concert program includes a quartet by Mozart specifically written for the oboe and strings. A composition by Maestro Bill Douglas, named 'Songs and Dances for Oboe and Strings', will be played, which is particularly delightful and melodious. To top it off, the 'Quintet for Clarinet and Strings' by Carl Maria von Weber will be performed.

A project they had been contemplating for years, the roots of the 'Music at McIntosh Lake' concert series are intertwined with the local community, as founders Toohey and Bonner are themselves residents in the vicinity of McIntosh Lake. 

"We go there a lot to run, walk or kayak. It's such a beautiful spot. We both thought it would be a wonderful place for a concert in the park," Toohey said.

The community response to the series has been overwhelmingly positive and has grown to draw a crowd of 200-300 spectators. One particularly unique feature of these concerts is the blend of music with the local landscape. 

"People out in their kayaks or paddleboards on the lake will come over and sit near the shoreline on their watercraft, just to listen to the music," Toohey noted. 

Reflecting on their beginnings, Toohey admitted that the first concert felt like a "huge unknown," not knowing whether anyone would show up. However, the overwhelming community response and generous donations from the first concert gave them the motivation to continue this venture.

The Music at McIntosh Lake summer series is set to feature three more concerts on July 29th, August 12th, and August 18th, all at 7:30 pm. These events, hosted at Flanders Park on the north side of the lake, present a relaxed atmosphere where community, music and nature come together in perfect harmony.