The 23rd Annual Music in the Mountains festival kicks off tonight at the Moomaw Ranch in Pagosa Springs.
While the weekend's benefit concerts by classical guitarist Sir Angel Romero - the second of which will take place Sunday at the Durango Mountain Resort- will treat those in attendance, they are more geared toward the festival's most loyal patrons. The benefit concerts may not be as accessible in cost or quantity for the broader concert audience.
Such is not the case as the festival gets under way full-tilt Monday night at Durango Mountain Resort. And while the Festival Orchestra waits eagerly in the wings, the first week of performances comes at us in smaller packages that pack the same talented punch as the larger group.
On Monday, the world-renowned American Brass Quintet puts its one-of-a-kind spin on chamber music for one night only. It's the first, but not the last, can't-miss show of the three-week festival. The group is in its 49th year (although no original members remain) and the five members are at the top of their professions.
With Juilliard pedigrees, the quintet is trumpeters Raymond Mase and Kevin Cobb, horn player David Wakefield, tenor trombonist Michel Powell and bass trombonist John D. Rojak. Their individual résumés are staggering in experience, and the planned program is intriguing: It includes old works by William Brade and Josquin des Pres, with Mase's own unique arrangements. It also has the most curious selection, music of the 26th North Carolina regiment of the Confederate army from the Civil War.
On Tuesday, strings will fill the tent, but not in the classical sense. Nine-time All-Ireland fiddle champion Eileen Ivers and her backers Immigrant Soul are modern-day Celtic music legends. It may look like a violin, but that's a fiddle on Ivers' shoulder, despite the New York Times dubbing her "the Jimi Hendrix of the violin." (A fiddle is a violin, but there's a difference, and you'll know it when you hear it.)
Ivers' shows at DMR on Monday and BootJack Ranch in Pagosa Springs on Wednesday, will be of the up-on-your-feet, stomping-in-the-aisles variety. If that doesn't sound particularly Music in the Mountains-like, it's because it isn't - by design.
"What we hope is by offering something a little outside of the 'classical' music box, a new group of folks who might not normally attend Music in the Mountains will buy a ticket, pick up a program and possibly see something else they might like," said Susan Lander, the festival's executive director. "It's all part of plan to develop new audiences and keep our festival live and vibrant for many more years."
Local audiences would be wise to take her advice.