Music in the Mountains gets a jump on summer |

Music in the Mountains gets a jump on summer

Tom Durkin
Special to Prospector

Memorial Day Weekend is the traditional "start of summer," but in reality, summer is still almost a month away.

But Music in the Mountains can't wait. It's kicking off its summer season with a Memorial Day Weekend concert series next week, with events running through May 25.

MIM then "springs" into its Summer Fest, still a few weeks before official summer, with 15 programs between June 11 and July 3. Then, of course, there's the Sierra BrewFest party in August.

"Yeah, we're pretty much going gangbusters this year," laughed Cristine Kelly, executive director of MIM. "It's a really huge lineup."

Memorial Day weekend is booked

When MIM saw the Nevada Theatre was open Memorial Day weekend, they deferred their usual April choral series and booked the theatre for a four-day stand.

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"We thought we would put together a weekend of concerts as sort of a prelude to the entire summer," Kelly explained.

"We love the intimacy of the Nevada Theatre. Acoustic music sounds really lovely in there," she said.

"Normally, those concerts are held at a church," Kelly said, "but the theatre gives us a different vibe, and it allows us to expand our repertoire."

For instance, MIM booked popular Musical Art Quintet, which is known for their crowd-pleasing "Nuevo Chamber" music – "That wouldn't be quite the kind of concert you'd want to do in a church," Kelly explained.

While the musical Art Quintet is expected to be a big Friday night draw, Kelly emphasized that May 22 Young Musicians Competition fulfills MIM music education mission. The competition will feature an opening performance by the new Nevada County Youth Orchestra.

The Songs of Peace and Remembrance concerts May 24 and 25 will feature a small orchestra and a large chorus opening with a musical eulogy to Nelson Mandala followed by music celebrating the spirit of Memorial Day. The Musical Art Quintet will also play.

Again, following MIM's aggressive music education program for youth, the Apprentice Musicians Project will also debut in the Saturday and Sunday concerts, Kelly confirmed.

Summer Fest, best yet

Four of the 15 concerts scheduled during MIM's Summer Fest are going to be big outdoor concerts, Kelly said.

• World-renowned fiddler Alasdair Fraser will host the "Grand Fiddler's Rally" June 21. This is the first time his Sierra Fiddle Camp Concert will be hosted under the auspices of MIM. "That's always a huge party," Kelly said.

• "The Fab Four – the Ultimate Tribute" June 27 strays about as far away from MIM's classical music roots as you can get. "Hey, it's the 50th anniversary of the Beatles [in the U.S.]," Kelly said. "The last time we had them here, everybody just absolutely loved it."

• June 28, "We're doing 'A John Williams Spectacular' with all-movie music by our orchestra," she said. "That will be a fun, family-friendly picnic outdoor concert."

• As always, Summer Fest will cap off with its annual, "Happy Birthday USA" concert July 3. "We're kind of shaking up that concert this year, Kelly said." Instead of all-traditional music, they're going to blend in a selection of uniquely American show tunes from Hollywood/Disney to Broadway. "We're going to keep it on the safe side" – so, no fireworks. She said they're planning on a light show and/or other surprises.

All of these shows will be on the main lawn at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Several of the other 11 Summer Fest concerts will also be at the fairgrounds at the Amaral Center as well as at Peace Lutheran Church and the Center for the Arts.

Changing with the times

"One of the things we're planning on doing this year is enlivening the festival, making it more experiential. Kelly said. For example:

• "Tales from the Exotic East" June 25 – "We're actually going to have an authentic Bedouin tent outside that people can tour."

• "On 'Gershwin Night,' you're going to walk in to what's going to feel like a speakeasy." – July 1

• The Young Composers Project, Parts 1 and 2, will illustrate the intersection of art and environmentalism in a multimedia performance, "Prelude for Yuba Salmon."

However, the most important change MIM is committed to is youth music education.

"We are replacing a lot of music education. We're expanding our music education as our schools are shrinking theirs," Kelly stressed.

As a consequence, MIM has attracted many passionate, generous donors. Apparently, this has given MIM an advantage over other nonprofits that are languishing in a stagnant economy, Kelly said.

"Of course it's tight," she said. "We're a nonprofit."

Nevertheless, "We're doing good. We're really lucky."

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at

Know & Go

WHO: Music in the Mountains presents

WHAT: Memorial Day Concerts and Summer Fest

WHERE: assorted venues, Nevada City and Grass Valley

WHEN: May 22 through July 3

TICKETS: There is a broad array of concerts and ticket prices. Please see the Music in the Mountains calendar online at for event times and ticket prices. (Special prices for youth 18 and under, with some events free.)

INFO: Contact Music in the Mountains at 530-265-6124 or

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