The Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s first “Classically Cannabis” event began Friday night like any other fine-arts fundraiser — with suit- and dress-wearing attendees politely mingling in a high-ceilinged art gallery, sipping drinks and shaking hands.
No clouds of pot smoke, no tie-dyed T-shirts. Not at first, anyway.
A closer look revealed the distinctly cannabis-related nature of the event. The first of three fundraisers in which invite-only attendees were encouraged to bring their own marijuana, Friday’s “Classically Cannabis” event also featured a patio on which attendees casually smoked pot from joints, vaporizer pens and glass pipes under umbrellas as a light rain fell.
The back of the Space gallery on Santa Fe Drive, which was covered with an L-shaped lofted area that supported a half dozen more small tables, also featured vendors from dispensaries and pot shops that sponsored the event, such as Wellspring, Gaia and Boulder’s The Farm.
As the night wore on, the sticky-sweet smell of marijuana wafted in regularly from the wide garage door that opened onto the patio, which led to another small outdoor area with food trucks and a pair of ice cream and popsicle vendors, where attendees also openly smoked cannabis.
“We’re bridging the gap between classical music and marijuana in both directions,” said Morgan Carr, co-owner of Wellspring, as he showed off the complimentary vaporizer pens (pre-loaded with hash oil) and Wellspring-branded glass jars and disposable lighters.
Classically Cannabis: Read about the event’s tumultuous history
The event, which was switched from public to private after the City of Denver warned the CSO about the illegality of public marijuana consumption, has garnered international attention and speculation since it was announced. The 250 or so attendees shelled out at least $75 per person to support the CSO’s experiment in culture-bridging.
“Look around, this is not stoner town,” said Evan Lasky, executive vice president of the CSO, who characterized the series as just another designed to tap into new donors. “We have to build new audiences because the old people are dying off. We have to fight this perception of elitism.”
The CSO brass quintet, dressed in all-black suits with pale green ties, began its 45-minute performance with Richard Strauss’ ominous “Also Sprach Zarathustra Fanfare,” followed by short speeches from the CSO and sponsors.
The acoustics in the unadorned space were sharp and bright as the quintet continued with recognizable classical favorites from Debussy, Bach, Wagner and Puccini. The chatter of side conversations from attendees, who stood or milled about due to the casual, non-seated setup, nearly rivaled the quintet’s volume at times.
Compared to the average Red Rocks show, it was a staid affair. But it’s unlikely any sponsored, official classical-music event with a city organization has ever attracted so so much open marijuana consumption. Or contended with so much weed smoke hanging in the humid air.
Co-organizer Jane West of cannabis company Edible Events said $30,000 had already been secured in sponsorship for the night, and CSO officials confirmed another $20,000 was garnered from attendees. The CSO is hoping to raise $200,000 from the three Space gallery shows and another, non-pot-sanctioned Classically Cannabis event at Red Rocks this summer.
“There didn’t use to be any events I felt welcome at,” said West. “But after legalization happened we wanted to start putting on events we would actually go to.”
For their part, the CSO musicians treated it as just another gig, even as the smell of weed began wafting to the opposite side of the gallery where they warmed up in a private room.
“We love playing chamber music wherever,” said trombone player Greg Harper. “It is what it is. We’re just going to play the pieces we know and hopefully people will appreciate it.”
John Wenzel: 303-954-1642, email@example.com or twitter.com/johnwenzel