Over the past decade, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival has transformed from a series of "one-off" concerts to a destination music event one that CNN Travel recently listed among the country's "Eight Amazing Outdoor Music Venues."
Back in 2003, the orchestra was looking to do something different to fill its summer schedule, something more cohesive than a mishmash of concerts at Abravanel Hall and other venues around the city, then-music director Keith Lockhart remembered.
Then someone asked: "What if we got some critical mass behind one thing that would start to draw people as a festival?" he recalled.
The idea took off, and now the festival is set to begin its 10th-anniversary season with a performance of the ever-popular "1812 Overture" on Saturday, June 29. (See box for full schedule.)
There have been changes since the festival's inception, said Utah Symphony principal pops conductor Jerry Steichen, who has participated every year. "When I first started, we were actually doing fully staged Gilbert and Sullivan," he said. "Now we're doing an evening of opera favorites and excerpts."
Other elements have remained constant, such as bringing in guest artists to perform with the full orchestra as well as offering smaller-scale chamber concerts in more intimate venues.
Steichen believes one of the best indicators of the festival's growth is the variety of this year's concerts. They touch on just about every musical genre and include well-known guests such as Steve Martin, Indigo Girls, Arturo Sandoval and Mandy Patinkin. The mainstage concerts also will feature music from the Rolling Stones, John Denver, Broadway, James Bond movies and operas such as "La bohÃ¨me."
"To me, this is really where we are as a festival," Steichen said.
Amphitheater highlights • An evening with Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, joined by vocalist Edie Brickell, is the biggest concert of the season and will likely sell out, even though Martin and his band played last year at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City.
"People are really excited about him," said Jon Miles, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Utah Symphony. "They just received the Grammy Award this past February for best bluegrass album."
Lockhart, who conducted one of Martin's first orchestra shows last year, said the comedian "is not only very funny, he's a very talented musician."
While most people associate Patinkin with his roles in the TV show "Homeland" and the movie "The Princess Bride," Steichen says he's a legitimate Broadway star. "I have been a fan of Mandy Patinkin since I saw him in 'Evita' and then in 'Sunday in the Park with George,' " he said.
Trumpeter Sandoval will bring a jazz element to the festival. "He studied with Dizzy Gillespie and is really his heir in so many ways to Latin influences in American jazz and he's also an incredible classical artist," Steichen said.
Jim Curry will channel John Denver in a tribute concert. Curry doesn't look or act like Denver in fact, he doesn't consider himself a tribute artist but PBS asked him to sing the late star's music for a TV movie and things took off from there.
Chamber concerts • Part of the original vision for the festival was to include chamber-music performances in smaller venues, Lockhart said. The concerts started in St. Mary's church and have expanded to include Temple Har Shalom.
This year, the chamber concerts will have local flavor.
Take, for example, the "French Favorites" concert. "We thought it would be fun to feature our own musicians in this ensemble setting," Miles said. "Usually when you see a symphony concert, you've got 85 people on the stage, and no one really stands out. But all of the musicians in the orchestra are really talented on their own, and so we wanted to include a program that would allow these musicians to kind of shine."
In addition to chamber-music performances by Utah Symphony concertmaster Ralph Matson, principal flutist Mercedes Smith and associate principal cellist Matt Johnson, Steichen will join principal pianist Jason Hardink for a one-piano, four-hands piece on this concert.
"This is the first time I'll actually be performing on a concert as a classical pianist rather than a conductor," said Steichen.
Two local composers Haruhito Miyagi and Devin Maxwell will be featured in a concert by the Skyros and Battery string quartets. It's part of the Emerging Quartets & Composers program, in which two composers are coached by composer Joan Tower who has long been affiliated with the Deer Valley Music Festival. Their music will be performed by two up-and-coming string quartets, who in turn will be mentored by the Muir String Quartet, the festival's resident string quartet. The festival also will welcome back Lockhart, who will conduct a concert of Haydn, Schubert and a Mozart violin concerto. The guest artist will be violinist Simone Porter. "She's actually only 15 years old, but she's already performed across the world," Miles said.
Lockhart will also conduct several concerts on the main stage.
"It's going to be great to come back," he said. "It's nice to see the festival has thrived for a decade and it's nice to be part of it."
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with a mix of concerts. This year the orchestra will perform 10 shows with well-known guest artists at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, plus six chamber concerts in Park City churches.
Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater
June 29 • "1812 Overture" and patriotic selections
July 6 • Music of John Denver with guitarist/vocalist Jim Curry
July 12 • Bravo Broadway: "The Wicked Divas"
July 13 • Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval
July 19 • Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell
July 20 • Indigo Girls
Aug. 2 • "Bond and Beyond"
Aug. 3 • Mandy Patinkin
Aug. 9 • Utah Opera
Aug. 10 • Music of the Rolling Stones
July 17 • Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, St. Mary's Church
July 23 • Muir String Quartet, St. Mary's Church
July 25 • French Favorites, Temple Har Shalom
July 31 • Mozart's "Prague" Symphony, St. Mary's Church
Aug. 1• Skyros & Battery string quartets, St. Mary's Church
Aug. 7 • Beethoven Symphony No. 1, St. Mary's Church
Tickets • arttix.come or 801-355-ARTS (2797). Packages and group tickets available at the Abravanel Hall ticket office or 801-533-NOTE (6683). More information at deervalleymusicfestival.org.