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Classical music for all: Music in the Mountains offers variety of summer events

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

For forty years, Music in the Mountains has brought world class entertainment to Nevada County with an emphasis on classical music and choir. This July, the organization brings something new to the area, providing a live soundtrack to a Disney film.

As it turns out, Music in the Mountains’s Artistic Director and Conductor Ryan Murray is one of an elite number of conductors (one of approximately 100 worldwide) approved by the Disney Corporation to conduct the music of their films live, which makes this weekend’s presentation of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” possible.

The orchestra was meant to assemble in front of a giant screen at the Nevada County Fairgrounds on Friday, but do to evacuations from the Rice’s Fire, the concert is now being held at The Center for the Arts in downtown Grass Valley.



Murray explained, “Disney sends a special version of the film that has no music in it. So, all the dialogue and all the sound effects happen in real time, just as if you were watching the movie in a theater, but there is no music. Every single sound of music, note of music and all the singing is done in real time with our orchestra and chorus.”

Players from many great orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony and Opera, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, LA Opera, Washington National Symphony, and the Symphony San Jose come in to make the festival orchestra. Murray has conducted soundtracks with other orchestras and said it works well, and audiences love the experience.



“It’s a really great opportunity to experience the sound of a large orchestra that is really fun, that we can all relate to,” said Murray.

“For a lot of people, movie music or film music is their first step into the world of symphonic orchestral music. And it is a wonderful way to experience the thrill of a live orchestra in a setting that is slightly more familiar than coming to a Brahms symphony.”

Doors open at 7 p.m.

Murray added, “Whenever I meet with audiences after one of these film concerts, they always tell me this is one of the greatest things they have ever been to. Audiences are just blown away by what the live music adds to the film.”

Happy Birthday USA

On the heels of Friday’s unique movie experience, Music in the Mountains is gearing up for their traditional 3rd of July, “Happy Birthday USA,” featuring both orchestra and choir with a lot of great patriotic music.

“We’ve jazzed it up a bit this year, adding Soprano Carrie Hennessey who is a MIM favorite,” said Murray. “She is performing several numbers out of the great American songbook. (Think ‘I Could Have Danced All Night,’ ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ a Westside Story medley, ‘Shenandoah,’ and many others.) So, we’ll have a bit of musical theater. We’ll have patriotic music, and we’ll have our Armed Forces Salute and all the great things that make up this Happy Birthday USA concert.”

A flyover sponsored by Cirino’s at Main Street is also planned as part of the evening.

Happy Birthday USA was also scheduled for the Nevada County Fairgrounds, but has been relocated to Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley.

Brass, Brats and Brews

Finally, Music in the Mountains concludes Summerfest this year on Saturday, July 9, also at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, but on the Pinetree Stage, with Brass, Brats and Brews featuring The Joe Mazzaferro Big Band. This is a chance for the jazz aficionados to come out and hear something a bit different. Coincidentally, Mazzaferro and Murray attended high school together. Murray said he is a wonderful musician who has played all over the country. “I think it’s just going to be really wonderful to have this up-tempo exciting concert to cap things off.”

“Sometimes the definition of classical music can be pretty narrow and sometimes it can be quite wide,” Murray said. “I think that great music is great music. Yes, we are a classical music organization but that doesn’t mean we can’t be open to exciting new ventures in this field.”

Be it film music, American musical theater or the jazz art form, Music in the Mountains has your ticket for summer entertainment. Murray concluded, “We have tried to find a way to make sure that that every concert has an entry point for someone who may be apprehensive about trying classical music because I really believe that classical music is something that can be enjoyed by everyone if they are given the right way in.”

More information and details are at musicinthemountains.org.

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 http://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com

Music in the Mountains' Pete Nowlen conducts the orchestra during the Patriotic Pops concert in 2019.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com
Music in the Mountains Summerfest violinist Claire Tatman warms up with her fellow performers during a previous year’s Patriotic Pops - Happy Birthday USA! Concert held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com
Grass Valley’s Caryl Barnes sings the Star Spangled Banner along with the Music in the Mountains performance during a crowd participation portion of a previous event.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com
Music in the Mountains brass instrument players filled the Pine Tree Stage at the Nevada County Fairgrounds for a previous Brass Brats and Brews event.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

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