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Music and redrock meet for the Moab Music Festival’s 24th season

First Published      Last Updated Aug 29 2016 08:57 am

Music » Now in its 24th year, Moab Music Festival makes the landscape a key player.

Lynn Rogers remembers a night listening to the notes of famous musicians echo off the sandstone walls flanking the Colorado River during the Moab Music Festival.

As Béla Fleck and Chick Corea played after a wonderful meal, the Rio Rancho, N.M., music lover reveled in the moment, surrounded by beautiful music and spectacular scenery.

The night ended with fireworks.

Rogers and her husband, Kirk Benson, will be returning for the 24th season of the Moab festival, which runs Thursday through Sept. 12. It will be the fourth such visit for the couple.

"Once we discovered it, we have been trying to go every year," she said. "The first year, we eased into it. We did a grotto concert, a musical hike and attended a concert in Star Hall. It was fabulous."

The couple then saved for a raft trip that featured overnight camping and music, sometimes on the shore and at times while the rafts were floating down the Colorado.

The variety of experiences have made the Moab Music Festival a staple on the itineraries of many musical enthusiasts. Its popularity makes planning ahead important, since some of the more popular concerts sell out.

The festival features multinight Colorado River trips before and after the main event, concerts inside a beautiful redrock grotto where workers float a grand piano down the river and haul it into the location, and music hikes that require a trek to places divulged only to those who have signed up.

There are also free park concerts, benefits at local ranches and homes and less expensive performances at Moab's historic Star Hall.

This was the vision of New York-based musician Michael Barrett, who was looking for a place to stage a Western music festival with his wife, Leslie Tomkins.

They initially looked at Logan, where Barrett's parents were living. But a 1991 trip through Moab to Santa Fe changed all that.

"We had a big experience in a short time," he said. "We decided we had to come back. We went to Arches National Park, sat under an arch and saw a double rainbow. We said, 'Why don't we make the music festival here?' "

In those days, Moab was relatively quiet. You could buy a nice house for $40,000. Barrett and Tomkins were hooked.

"Once you come here, you come back," he said.

The couple purchased a home. Barrett became music director and set about starting the festival.

Every concert hall has a different sound.

"The acoustics are pure," said Barrett about playing in some of the outdoor venues. "The sound travels in some kind of unhampered, undisturbed ways."

He said that in traditional city concert halls, there is white noise such as air conditioners or city sounds. Those largely disappear in the wilderness. There is just silence.

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Moab Music Festival schedule

The festival presents concerts in many venues in and around Moab. For information, to buy tickets or to get on a waiting list, visit www.moabmusicfest.org or go to the festival office at 58 E. 300 South, Moab.

Grotto concerts » Thursday, Sept. 1, and Sept. 8 and 12; sold out

Schubert/Beatles » Thursday, Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Star Hall; $30; $5 for youth (6 to 18)

Spanish Gold » Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.; Star Hall; $25; $5 for youth

Music hikes » Saturday, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10-11, 9 a.m.; $65 (the Sept. 10 hike is sold out)

Paquito D’Rivera Quintet » Saturday, Sept. 3, 6 p.m.; Red Cliffs Lodge; $40 tent seating ($20 for youth), $30 lawn seating ($5 for youth)

Clarice Assad + OFF THE CLIFF » Sept. 4, 6 p.m.; Red Cliffs Lodge; $40 tent seating ($20 for youth), $30 lawn seating ($5 for youth); an open rehearsal conversation that morning at 11 in Star Hall is free, but tickets are required

Rocky Mountain Power Family Concert » Featuring Sonidos Latinos; Sept. 5, 2 p.m.; Old City Park; no tickets required

Ranch benefit concert » Sept. 6, 6 p.m.; sold out

House benefit concert » Sept. 7, 5:30 p.m.; private Moab home; $250 (includes meal)

American Masters: 20th and 21st Century Duos » Sept. 9, 7 p.m.; Star Hall; $25; $5 for youth

Renee Rosnes Quartet » Sept. 10, 6 p.m.; Sorrel River Ranch; $30; $5 for youth

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis » Sept. 11, 7 p.m.; Star Hall; $25; $5 for youth

Cataract musical raft trip » Sept. 12, 8 a.m.; sold out