Tree City Chamber Players to celebrate Idaho through music

The Tree City Chamber Players perform at their Fall Concert in 2021. From left to right: {span}Melanie Keller on flute, Chad Spears on Piano and Ryan Klein on oboe.{/span}

In 2019, the Boise-based Tree City Chamber Players used a grant to commission composers to write pieces celebrating the Gem State. On Saturday, June 4, the classical trio will bring these compositions to life at The Argyros Performing Arts Center from 7:30-9 p.m.

The group comprises Melanie Keller on flute, Ryan Klein on oboe and Chad Spears and piano. Cellist Stephen Mathie joins them as a special guest.

“We had this idea of presenting a program that celebrating the beauty of the state of Idaho,” Keller said.

The composers tasked with this challenge were Jim Cockey, Eric Alexander and Dave Earnest.

Cockey’s earliest memories are cold mornings at his family’s cabin on the Big Wood River.

“Idaho is in my blood and has always held me emotionally captive,” Cockey said. His piece, “Three Places in Southern Idaho” was initially inspired by summers in Idaho and the friends with whom he spent those enchanted months.

“I love the landscapes of Idaho and I love the friends who have accompanied me though those landscapes,” Cockey said. “This piece is a tribute to Idaho and to the people who love and care for its beauty.”

Each movement identifies an iconic place in southern Idaho—Craters of the Moon, the Snake River and Slick Rock—and is dedicated to a friend who is inextricably linked to that place.

“I like with that particular work the sense of nostalgia because of the memories [Cockey] associates with that music,” Spears said. “It’s so interesting with each of these composers how they decided to represent Idaho.”

Alexander’s “Sawtooth Sketches” travels to the majesty of Thompson Peak and the wildfires that have ravaged so much of our land.

Earnest’s “Campfire Stories” includes the bouncing movement “Jackalopes,” which imagines the animal running amok, causing a riot and terrorizing the citizens of downtown Boise.

“He really nailed it,” Klein said. “With how Western music is notated, composers are pretty limited with what they can accomplish ... on five lines with 12 notes. He really did quite a good job of depicting what he wanted to do there, weaving in that hilarious aspect of Idaho mythology.”

Even the musicians themselves are inspired by the grandeur of Idaho.

“There are so many people that travel to Idaho and enjoy skiing or hiking and fishing in the summer,” Keller said. “Just being able to see all this beauty, it’s such a unique place.”

For the past few years Keller has performed with the Sun Valley Music Festival. This summer, she and Klein will teach with the SVMF Institute.

“There’s something about Idaho that draws in wonderful artists,” Klein said.

At the show on Saturday, Tree City Chamber Players will also play works from Wayne Barlow, Daniel Dorff and Ruby Fulton. General admission costs $20; tickets for young adults under 25 cost $10. For more information, visit 

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