KEEPIN IT CLASSICAL: Sounds of rapture

By on June 30, 2015

Get hip to Grand Teton Music Festival’s 54th season


Jackson Hole, Wyoming – On July 1, the Grand Teton Music Festival opens its 54th season of musical virtuosity in the heart of the Tetons, and this year the GTMF is coming out of the gates swinging. With almost the entire first week of programming sold out, the season is off to great start. In January GTMF launched a new website featuring a hip aesthetic and a fresh logo in the hopes of attracting younger and more varied audiences to Walk Festival Hall. This effort is backed by the festival’s stellar programming, which holds up to any major city’s festival lineup, boasting guest artists from the likes of burgeoning cello prodigy Alisa Weilerstein to global vocal superstar Renee Flemming. Be sure to visit to see the complete summer lineup and mark your calendars now, as tickets are disappearing fast.

If you’re not familiar with GTMF, here’s the rundown: from July through August the festival hosts musicians from around the world. Concerts are held in Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village with some free admission shows and other concerts upwards of $80. Maestro Donald Runnicles runs the show, but guest conductors specializing in different genres and periods of music frequently take the helm. You also can purchase discounted $15 day-of rush tickets (based on availability) to any of the festival’s shows.

Anyone (ages 4 and older) is welcome inside Festival Hall, as is booze, ball caps and informal, straight-off-the-trail clothing (although you’re certainly welcome to dress to the nines). Honestly, GTMF is the least pretentious classical music environment that I’ve ever experienced, and the GTMF players are some of the best you could hear anywhere in the world. I’m a lover of all kinds of music, from Bach to Beyonce, but I’ve got to say, there’s nothing that can replicate the experience of enjoying an orchestral performance performed in an acoustically engineered hall like Walk Festival. The unamplified music of 40-plus musicians playing in sync literally vibrates through your body in a way that music coming from amplified speakers never could. It may be classical, but it’s sexy, exhilarating, and moving, and it just feels good to hear it.

Here’s a breakdown of the general programming and admission prices:

TUESDAYS: “Inside the Music,” 8 p.m., free

Tuesdays are themed, informative and family-friendly. Often run in an educational-style, they feature guest artists and concert emcees who share information about the background of pieces performed. The performance ensemble is generally smaller and set up in a chamber music style. Next Tuesday, July 7, is “Schumann and His Circle,” hosted by pianist Andrew Palmer Todd. Featured compositions are by Brahms, Mendelsohn, and the piano powerhouse Robert Schumann.

WEDNESDAYS: Featured guest artists, 6 p.m., $25

Wednesday concerts feature a guest artist or conductor and range from solo to ensemble performances.

This week’s July 1 concert is “On Stage with Charlie Albright,” a pianist virtuoso who will begin his program with Beethoven’s famous “Moonlight Sonata” followed by improvisations from stage (a la Keith Jarrett, although Alrbight’s style is decidedly more Schumann). Albright often asks his audience for musical ideas and then takes off to play endless improvisations from a simple 2-note cue. It’s an incredible feat of musical fluency and makes one wonder what it would have been like to hear a great like Beethoven, Bach or Schumann doing the same. This week’s concert is limited to 100-person stage seating only and ticket price includes a glass of wine from Landmark Vineyards. This week is sold out.

THURSDAYS: Chamber Music, 8 p.m., $25

Thursday evening concerts feature chamber music works, a genre that hails from commissions made by royal and wealthy families of European history who often boasted “in house” composers (think: Haydn, Mozart) whom they commissioned to write custom music meant to be enjoyed in aristocratic parlor or “chamber” settings. The music of this genre is generally written for smaller ensembles and tends to be more intimate than its full orchestra counterpoint. This week’s July 2 concert is the “Great American Songbook with Broadway Star Doug Labrecque.” Labrecque is the kind of singer whose charisma, charm and voice takes one back to the era of stage Cabaret and makes you want to sip a martini and smoke a long-filter cigarette. Works from Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and Cole Porter are on the program. This week’s concert is limited to 100-person stage seating and the ticket price includes a glass of wine from Landmark Vineyards. This week is sold out.

FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS: Festival Orchestra Concerts

Open rehearsals at 10 a.m., Fridays, $10

Evening concerts are 8 p.m., Fridays and 6 p.m., Saturdays, $55

Fridays and Saturdays are the full orchestra concerts and are the must-see shows of the seasons. Led by Maestro Runnicles and often featuring guest conductors, they deliver performances of breathtaking beauty and drama. If you’re worried about stretching the budget for an evening show or bringing the kids to sit through a concert, you can attend a Friday morning open rehearsal for insight into the inner workings of the orchestra’s music and/or a sneak-performance of the weekend programming. This weekend GTMF holds up its “Music In The Hole” tradition with a weekend of patriotic favorites from around the world. Friday’s concert is “Freedom,” featuring works of patriotic and political significance from Sibelius, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. Saturday is “Music In The Hole,” and features great American classics from Sousa’s Marching Band hits to Copland’s famed “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Saturday’s concert will be broadcast onto the Teton Village commons. Saturday’s concert is sold out. 

Madelaine German is a Jackson Hole musician. She grew up studying classical voice and piano and studied the same in college. She now plays in more modern style, but remains a lover of all music genres with a special place in her heart for the work of the classical masters.

About Madelaine German

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