The white-spired Festival Tent seems to sail above a sea of wildflowers in this year’s Music in the Mountains poster. Created by Denver artist Stephanie Hartshorn, it could be a ship floating between mountain and meadow.
Launching July 10, the 31st festival begins with an inventive chocolate-plus-music benefit at Purgatory. Next, two chamber music concerts unfurl in Durango churches followed by the first of six full-orchestra concerts at the Festival Tent. Along the way, more classical, popular and family-friendly concerts will be presented at Fort Lewis College and Cortez. In total, three weeks of music-making will feature beloved masterworks plus some unexpected surprises.
Six classical music performances by the Festival Orchestra with accompanying free pre-concert lectures anchor the season. In addition, one world-music night, two Pops concerts (Broadway and jazz), five chamber music performances, a family picnic-concert, and several Conservatory student recitals are on deck. The pop-up concerts will appear in town featuring the Cézanne Quartet. Four free master classes will be held at Fort Lewis College, and many morning orchestra rehearsals are open to the public. Check out the newly revamped website at www.MusicintheMountains.com for well-organized information. The webmaster has included listening icons for just about every piece on the orchestra concerts.
“First Chair,” the first full orchestra concert, unfolds at 5:30 p.m. July 15. It will begin with a world premiere.
Composed by Michael Udow, “Mountain Myths” will envelope the audience with antiphonal sound. Back-and-forth musical calling over open space has a deep history.
“Historically, antiphonal music was derived from indigenous people throughout the world to communicate over long distances,” the composer said in a telephone interview last week. “This morphed into the Tower Music of the Middle Ages.”
These sources, Udow added, “plus the wonderment and energy of the forever-changing mountains – and the need to protect this natural legacy – were in my mind as the work germinated.”
Percussionists will play from the middle of the tent; trumpets, horns, trombones and tuba will play across and through the audience.
“Programmatically, the work represents the geologic upheaval of the Rocky Mountains, the First Nation peoples who inhabited the land and the glorious beauty of the mountains throughout seasonal changes,” Udow said. “It opens with an ascending scale, the idea of rising up through geological time, the first upheaval – violence, beauty and … majesty.”
The fanfare was commissioned by Festival and Conservatory Director Greg Hustis:
“I’ve known Mike Udow since we were kids at Interlochen,” Hustis said. The two met at Michigan’s famous music camp, and their professional paths have crossed many times since.
“A day after last year’s festival, I got the idea for a mountain fanfare to open the season,” Hustis said. “Now we have Mike’s work. We’ve paired it with two of the greatest pieces ever written, Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 and Dvorák’s cello concerto with Wendy Warner as soloist.”
Udow and his wife, Nancy, will attend the premiere. The Udows now live in Longmont, and he continues to compose, perform and conduct percussion clinics around the country, including FLC at the invitation of John O’Neal. Udow is professor emeritus of percussion at the University of Michigan. Local opera fans may recognize Udow, as he served as principal percussionist at the Santa Fe Opera from 1968 to 2009.
Wherever you sit in the Festival Tent on July 15, remember: Three trumpets, four horns, two trombones, a bass trombone, a tuba, timpani, tam tam, snare and concert bass drum, suspended cymbals, chimes, and two Chinese opera gongs will call you to the mountains.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.