BRYCE CANYON – “The Mighty 5 Tour,” Utah Symphony’s free concert tour of Utah’s national parks, came to an end this weekend after wowing crowds across the state with breathtaking classical music played and sung against backdrops of mesmerizing natural beauty. Beginning on Tuesday and ending on Saturday, the Symphony performed at four venues just outside Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.
The “sold-out” tour (tickets were free but had to be ordered in advance) featured music from Shostakovich, Dvořák, J. Strauss, Jr., Bizet, Gershwin, Puccini and more.
On Friday evening patrons at Bryce Canyon were shuttled to the outdoor property of Bryce Canyon Rim at Ruby’s Inn where they were met with a large stage, rows and rows of camping chairs and a sweeping view of Utah’s color country complete with magical hoodoos – the state’s famous rock spire formations.
The Bryce Canyon concert attracted several dignitaries from the state including Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson, Gov. Gary Herbert and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the first presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The powerful combination of the arts and nature had everyone, including park officials, singing the praises of this unique tour.
“This is so exciting to have everyone come out here and enjoy the symphony on the rim and being able to look out over this beautiful vista here in Southern Utah and Garfield County,” Bryce Canyon Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Information Kathleen Gonder said, “it’s just exciting to have everyone here.”
She hopes that the symphony’s interest in coming to Southern Utah will generate future performances, Gonder said, and a greater appreciation of the arts in the area.
VIP guest Shauna Anderson, grandaughter of Reuben C. Syrett (Ruby) – the rancher who first settled the property where Ruby’s Inn now sits in Bryce Canyon City – called the concert there unbelievable and said she kept wondering what her grandma and grandpa would think if they were alive to see it.
The concert opened with the national anthem and was followed by Russian composer Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” and, much as the title suggests, it was a lively and festive way to begin an evening of music under the stars.
One of the highlights offered was the “New World Symphony,” by Czech composer Antonin Dvořák, who wrote the piece while conducting and composing in America.
Utah Symphony Director Thierry Fischer said from the stand that the piece was written about America and that he couldn’t help but look out while he was conducting to see one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Fischer conducted the symphony with incredible vigor, bouncing on the stand and interacting with his musicians with an almost flirtatious vibrance that reflected in the music.
“I need to catch my breath,” Fischer said after one of the numbers.
For several of the pieces, the symphony was joined on stage by Celena Shafer, a soprano who frequently performs with the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera and will be featured as an artist-in-residence for the symphony’s 2014-15 season.
Shafer sang selections ranging from Strauss’s “Voices of Spring,” Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Puccini’s “Quando me’n vo” and stunned the audience with her piercing voice and charismatic stage presence.
Gov. Herbert made a special appearance on stage as the guest conductor of John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and attributed his appreciation of music to his mother for making him take piano lessons.
“This tour is an opportunity to showcase two of Utah’s greatest treasures,” Herbert said, “the Utah Symphony and our five national parks.”
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
- More tickets available for Utah Symphony’s free concert at Bryce Canyon
- Herbert to Utahns: Be ambassadors of ‘Utah’s Mighty 5′ national parks; incentives program – 2013
- Guardians of the musical arts, Southwest Symphony Orchestra, Chorale
- St. George Mozart Festival, a symphony of musical genius
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