Local violist Lyrica Smolenski will perform from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Transfer Warehouse Wednesday during the first Chamber Music Happy Hour. (Courtesy photo)

While the annual Telluride Chamber Music Festival was postponed this summer, there are still several opportunities to indulge in the ageless music.

The chamber board recently announced a Chamber Music Happy Hours schedule throughout September, in partnership with Telluride Arts, at the Transfer Warehouse.

The first happy hour is today (Wednesday), when local violist Lyrica Smolenski will perform from 5:30-7 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place at the Liberty.

“Lyrica Smolenski is a great violist who studied at the famous Jacob's School of Music (at Indiana Universtiy),” said Claire Beard, the chamber music festival’s new managing director and a classically trained flute player.

The desire to spread the joy of chamber music is something Beard has always wanted to do, and now in her new role, she’s exploring new options to do so, she explained, including the new happy hours.

“It started with a conversation with Kate Jones (Telluride Arts executive director),” she explained. “The Transfer Warehouse had been wanting to have some classical music in the venue and it seemed like a great opportunity to create a chance for local players to perform and also to have a classical series that was more relaxed than the usual format and might appeal to a wider audience.”

Beard is playing the second happy hour concert Sept. 8 with pianist Travis Fisher. On Sept. 14, Fisher will perform with violinist Anneke Dean. On Sept. 21, violinist Annie Foxen and pianist Colby Morrison are performing. Donavan Daily, playing classical guitar, rounds out the schedule on Sept. 29. All happy hour performances are free. A negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination is required.

“We tried to create a program that included a range of players and instruments to showcase some of the great local talent we have here.

A few of the players such as Annie Foxen and Colby Morrison have moved here recently so this is a first chance for them to perform in their new home town,” Beard said. “Travis Fischer I actually first met in true Telluride fashion on a chair lift during ski season. He trained in Los Angeles and it has been wonderful finding a classical pianist to play with.

“Anneke Dean is a fantastic violinist who is part of the local band Birds of Play and frequently appears with other local musicians. Fewer people know that she trained classically (she attended Chicago School of the Performing Arts) and so it's great to see her in this capacity. Donavan Dailey is a longtime local and exceptional classical guitarist. In the past he has frequently performed at the Telluride Chamber Music Festival's Picnic in the Park. All the performers have been wonderful to work with and are excited to get to play classical music again, especially since the pandemic has meant less chance to do so.”

Classical music is more accessible than one may think, too, Beard explained. It’s not all knickers and powdered wigs anymore, as the music has become a part of popular culture. Even though the mention of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” or Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” may not spark someone to hum along to the well-known tunes, most will recognize them if they heard them.

“I think the biggest thing is that you don't have to ‘know’ the music to enjoy it. Classical music covers every range of emotion and in that sense is really universal. That being said, I think most people would be surprised by how much they do recognize. Classical music has been used in so many commercials, films, etc. that often it's far more familiar than one might first expect,” Beard said. “These concerts are intended to be very relaxed and informal so I hope people might be surprised by how much they enjoy something they may have considered out of their comfort usually.”

For more about the happy hour concerts, visit


The chamber previously announced a free memorial concert for Robin Sutherland, the beloved pianist and former San Francisco Symphony member, Sept. 12 at 4 p.m. at Christ Church. Violinist Roy Malan, who co-founded the festival with Sutherland in 1973, will perform. Recordings of Sutherland’s Goldberg Variations will also be part of the memorial. A reception will follow. Anyone interested is invited to attend.

“Certainly there is a lot of interest, particularly from those who've attended the Chamber Music Festival and heard Robin's wonderful playing. He was an integral part of chamber music for 47 years, which is just amazing,” Beard said. “I think what people are most looking forward to is having the chance to honor an incredible musician who was such an important part of the chamber music community for so many years. Without him and Roy Malan (festival cofounder and artistic director) the chamber music festival would never have started or held such longevity.”