Cheer! Vail Artistic Director: New Program Gives Voice to Living Composers

Anne-Marie McDermott, artistic director, Bravo! Vail Music Festival

Cheer! Vail/Courtesy Photo

Congratulations next week! Vail starts his 35e festival season, and I’m thrilled with what we have in store.

After two seasons of creatively adapting our programming using a smaller number of musicians on stage, we are delighted to welcome back our four resident orchestras in full force with symphonies by Mahler (New York Philharmonic); a Beethoven Ninth (Dallas Symphony Orchestra); Strauss’s epic symphonic poem “The Life of a Hero” (Philadelphia Orchestra); and of course, family favorite “Warner Bros. Presents Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.” In addition, this summer sees the return of our lovely “Classically Uncorked” series at the Donovan Pavilion.

Perhaps most exciting for me is the inauguration of our project to commission new works from the symphony. Since 1990, well done! Vail has commissioned and premiered dozens of works by living composers, mostly chamber music. This new initiative makes a bold commitment to commission three new symphonic works each season for the next five years.

There is nothing more exciting for a musician than to work directly with a living composer. Can you imagine what it would have been like to ask Beethoven or Mozart what they were thinking while composing one of their masterpieces? This summer we will have that opportunity when composers Chris Rogerson, Katherine Balch and Carlos Simon will join me on stage for a post-concert interview following the world premiere of their Bravo! Vail Commission.

This project means a lot on so many levels. Like all art, creating music is a reflection of life, and given the dynamic and changing times in which we live, providing a forum for new works provides us all with an unparalleled opportunity to hear a multiplicity of voices and composition experiments. I’m so proud of our continued commitment to new music. I can’t imagine anything happier than hearing a piece of music by a living composer for the very first time.

Please join me for:

Chris Rogerson
Cheer! Vail/Courtesy Photo

June 25 at 6 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater): The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and I will perform the world premiere of Chris Rogerson’s one-movement piano concerto, “Samaa,” for solo piano, gongs and strings. I love this composer’s work, so you can imagine how incredibly touched I was when Bravo! Vail offered me this commission in honor of my 10e anniversary as artistic director. Chris is a faculty member at the Curtis Institute of Music and an incredibly gifted composer. For “Samaa”, he was inspired by Bach’s “Goldberg” variations, also on the program, and above all by the link of this work with the idea of ​​sleep, a theme that Chris has used in several of his pieces.

Catherine Balch
Cheer! Vail/Courtesy Photo

June 30 at 6 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater): The Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fabio Luisi will perform the world premiere of Katherine Balch’s “Music for Young Waters That Danced Beneath My Feet”. A recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize, this amazing composer drew inspiration for her work from a summer she spent in Keystone, Colorado. She noticed that there was always melting ice along the trails at a certain elevation and was mesmerized by the sound of water flowing under the ice. Katherine associated these sounds with Ann Carson’s translation of poems by the Greek poet Sappho and instrumentation reflecting Bartók’s music for strings, percussion and celesta. I’m excited to hear how all of these thematic elements come together.

carlos simon
Cheer! Vail/Courtesy Photo

July 22 at 6 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater): The New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden will give the world premiere of “Profiles” by Carlos Simon. Carlos has received numerous accolades for his work inspired by African-American history and culture. For “Profiles”, he was inspired by three works by Romare Bearden (1911-1988), who lived most of his life in New York. The first movement is based on “Block” by Bearden, depicting a block in Harlem in the 70s. The second is inspired by “Empress of the Blues”, a work based on blues singer Bessie Smith. His latest movement mirrors Bearden’s “City of Light,” a stained glass window he created for a subway station in the Bronx. It will be fascinating to hear Carlos’ musical portrayals of the work of such an important American visual artist.

To purchase tickets or to learn more about any of these concerts, please visit I hope to see you there.

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