I was living and working in Park City when the music festival was launched back in 1992, but I remember how excited my folks were to have the energy and enrichment of the new event come to town. Classical music has been a mainstay in my family. At the newspaper office where my brothers and I worked while growing up, my parents always had public radio on. They got some news from it, but mostly they got Brahms, Beethoven and Bach. Same for long road trips in the car. We didn’t have satellite music or iPods, but my folks could always find the classics on AM and FM radio.
We kids didn’t have any other choice but to listen to it, too.
Mom and Dad were huge supporters of the Utah Symphony Orchestra, and would host house parties and offer publicity back in the 1970s, when the symphony came to town once a year. We kids would be expected to attend the concerts, held in the auditorium of what is now the middle school. I can remember being so bored during those concerts, but I listened quietly and was impressed that my parents loved it so much.
For some of us, the enjoyment of classical music is an acquired taste, and after years of exposure to it, I find it to be a balm amidst the clamor of this world. Public radio now plays in my kitchen, 25 miles from town. I’m thankful that the signal is strong enough to reach my ears. As someone who rarely turns on the television, I appreciate the music and hourly global news updates.
That gives me pause to note that many of us take for granted the value of a free press. I’m tired of the clamor over “fake news” and dramatized news, as I suspect all of you are. But thank goodness we have news, and in so many forms and (cough, cough) slants.
When my daughter went to Cambodia more than a year ago to join the Peace Corps, I signed up for daily news briefings out of that country so that I could learn more about what was happening there. I now stay somewhat informed via automatic emails and Facebook posts that are sent right to my phone and laptop. Little did I know a year ago that my favorite newspaper over there — The Cambodia Daily — would be forced out of business by the prime minister, who is getting increasingly worried about the election he is facing next summer. In the past few months the Cambodian government has silenced 15 radio stations, and in an effort to silence The Cambodia Daily, slapped it with a multi-million tax bill the newspaper couldn’t afford.
So, the Daily’s creed for the last 24 years — “All the news without fear or favor” — is a thing of the past. I’m concerned that matters could get a lot worse as the Cambodian election, and the country’s peace, hang in the balance. Also last week, the opposition candidate in the upcoming election was arrested for treason and charged with colluding with the United States to topple the current administration. That’s not good news.
But sitting on the river bank last weekend for a peaceful and entertaining evening provided by famous musicians took my mind away from those worries, at least for a while. In its 25 years, the music festival has morphed and settled into a predictable model, and one that many people in our community look forward to each year. When the festival first began, Red Cliffs Lodge and Sorrel River Ranch were a decade away from being built. A variety of concert venues were tested those many years ago, including sites at Sand Flats and Onion Creek. Mother Nature sometimes proved to be inhospitable, but most of the events were spectacles of art and nature in those good old days. The Grotto concerts continue to be the unique highlight of the Moab Music Festival and should be on the bucket list of all classical music lovers.
An offshoot of this 10-day music spree is the Moab Artists Studio Tour, wherein more than a dozen artists open their workspaces to the public. If you missed it last weekend, you can enjoy it this Saturday, taking in the visual arts alongside the listening arts as the festival season comes to a close.
The final outdoor concert will be held at Sorrel River Ranch this Saturday evening, and the closing night concert featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein will be held on Sunday at the high school auditorium.
Congratulations to the Moab Music Festival for making it to their silver anniversary. Arts provide solace in this crazy world, and our community is enriched by it.