40 years of summer: Music in the Mountains gears up for live performances with assortment of summer offerings
Special to Prospector
The staff at Music in the Mountains has put go together a compelling calendar of events to kick off their 40th anniversary celebration and summer concert series. A live concert kicked off the season on June 11 at a private residence outdoors, but moves inside to their residence at The Center for the Arts tomorrow evening, June 18 with a “Serenade of Strings.”
Music in the Mountains Artistic Director and Conductor Ryan Murray has put together a series that will captivate a wide audience. Murray, who has been involved with Music in the Mountains since 2008, took on his current role in 2018. COVID-19 changed the way the works could be performed so he spent 2020 learning to edit and present full concerts on Zoom.
Murray said staying connected virtually was a priority — and gratifying — but different from being live.
“Music in the Mountains did a lot of virtual content last year. We had great performances and we got to reach out to our audience. That was wonderful and we were really excited to stay connected. But, for musicians, part of what we do and what we love to do is not just playing the music but connecting to that live audience and feeling the energy coming back from the audience, so we are all really excited about experiencing that in the next couple of weeks.”
Bringing a variety of live pieces to the community that will appeal to a large audience is part of the excitement of his role. In anticipation of being able to perform live again, and for the 40th anniversary, Murray worked to put together both familiar and new pieces.
For Murray, it’s important that new voices in classical music get a chance to be heard.
“It’s classical music, but trying to find a balance of diversity of classical styles and a diversity of composers. Creating a program that I think will have pieces the audiences will be familiar with and maybe some new pieces to the audience as well, so finding a balance between those and as well thinking about how the pieces fit together.” Murray added sometimes there is a theme such as romance or opera or tragedy while other times it’s more loosely based around how the musical pieces fit together.
On Friday, June 18, at the Center for the Arts, “Serenaded by Strings” will feature the five principal strings in the orchestra: violin I, violin II, viola, cello and bass; and opens with Concerto for 2 violins by J.S. Bach.
“This is a really famous piece,” said Murray. “Lots of people are familiar with this piece and it’s often done by full orchestra, but this version is for string quintet. It works really well this way, and you get to see the virtuosity of our two violinists and it’s Bach so for the real classical fan. It’s a wonderful chestnut of the repertoire.”
Next will be La Oración del Torero by Joaquín Turina who was a Spanish composer who lived in the late 1800s. Murray said Turina studied in Paris and his compositions have French influence with Spanish flair.
“It kind of tells this story of the bullfighter getting ready to go into the ring and it has a reverential quality prayer to it with these occasional dramatic outbursts as he gets ready to face the bull,” explained Murray. “It’s a really, really unique and fun piece that probably a lot of people haven’t heard.”
The program concludes with a piece by American composer William Grant Still who Murray said is often called the Dean of African American Composers.
“He was the first American composer to have an American Opera produced by New York City Opera, and the first African American to conduct a major U.S. orchestra — so a composer of many firsts – and really an important part of the classical repertoire.”
Next is “Danzas de Panama,” which features folk songs from Panama, Cuba and African American.
“It’s really a tour de force with some extended techniques on the instruments with violinists hitting the side of the instrument to make percussion effects,” said Murray. “It’s a really, really cool piece.”
Performing with the highly touted sound system in the newly remodeled Center for the Arts will only enhance the experience. Murray said the venue sounds incredible.
“You can hear perfectly, whether in the front row or the back row. The seating is well set up so it’s easy to see the stage and feels intimate, but at the same time, can seat almost 500 people. They did a fantastic job rebuilding that hall and I can’t wait for people to get in there and hear it.”
On June 25, Music in the Mountains will again be at the Center with “Moonlight and Melodies” which will feature woodwind players (and a French horn) and offer cabaret seating. Murray says it’s a fun program with a lot of variety.
On July 1, the full string orchestra will perform “Strings in the Summertime” which will include works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and George Walker with Murray conducting.
“It will be the first indoor public concert I’ve done since March of 2020,” said Murray. Details can be found on the Music in the Mountains website at http://www.musicinthemountains.org.
A “talk back” will take place after each indoor performance. For those who still may be uncomfortable gathering inside, an encore of several of the performances will be offered online
The organization moves outside on July 3 for their traditional “Happy Birthday USA” patriotic program, but is moving to Western Gateway Park. Murray said the program is full of traditional Americana music.
“The music is fun, and everybody loves lots of Sousa marches and that sort of thing but it’s also a great event that is fun to sit with your friends and have a picnic, that sort of thing. It’s a great way to cap off the season.”
Ticket sales are going very quickly. Most are close to sold out, though the group hopes to open more seats as regulations loosen.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@ gmail.com
For more information on upcoming events offered by Music in the Mountains, visit their website at http://www.musicinthemountains.org.
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