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    Moab Music Festival unveils modified 28th season

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    This story has been amended to correct concert times that are scheduled to take place at Red Cliffs Lodge.

    Coronavirus will not stop the Moab Music Festival, but it has prompted organizers to slim it down.

    A violinist performs in a grotto
    Performances at the grotto — nature’s own music hall — are part of a scaled down Moab Music Festival planned for late this summer. Courtesy photo

    The Moab Music Festival board of directors, staff, and Co-Directors Leslie Tomkins and Michael Barrett are excited to be able to move ahead with the reimagined 2020 festival, according to a statement from organizers.

    The festival will be pared down to accommodate protocols and keep audiences as safe as possible. Only outdoor concerts will be presented, without intermissions, pre-concert talks, or post-concert receptions, and MMF will adhere to proper state and CDC health and safety guidelines and directives.

    This year, unlike past years, no concerts are planned at Star Hall, the Grand County High School auditorium, or at Sorrel River Ranch.

    “Our outdoor concerts in Moab’s canyon country allow us to social distance and preserve the pure acoustics of “music in concert with the landscape while still enjoying our trademark world-class live-music experiences,” said Board President Hank Rutter. “ We feel privileged to be one of the first festivals in the U.S. to be able to proceed, which we hope will send a vital and powerful signal that the arts will survive and resonate again.”

    Running the gamut from chamber music to Latin jazz, MMF Artistic Director Leslie Tomkins and pianist and MMF Music Director Michael Barrett have devised a singular tie-in to the worldwide celebrations of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Beloved by audiences, the German master was powerfully inspired by composers who came before him, and had a seismic influence on succeeding generations of musical creators in so many genres. Beethoven’s varied interests

    ­— including nature — and immense breadth of imagination will be featured in works both famous and rare, amidst one of the world’s most magnificent landscapes, according to organizers.

    Musical raft trip

    The season kicks off with a three-day, two-night Westwater Canyon Musical Raft Trip through the Colorado River’s Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater canyons, beginning at 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 31. Voyagers will spend part of the time drifting at the river’s pace, followed by a day that includes the whitewater rapids of Little Hummer, Funnel Falls, Last Chance and Skull Rapid. Patrons will enjoy daily concerts by two festival superstars — cellist Jay Campbell and violinist Francisco Fullana — in extraordinary settings, as well as swimming, walks and dining experiences. Participants will return to Moab on the last evening, Wednesday, Sept. 2. The trip will be outfitted by Sheri Griffith River Expeditions.

    Grotto concerts

    An jet boat ride down the Colorado River will bring listeners to “nature’s own concert hall” (The New York Times) — a pristine, acoustically-perfect wilderness grotto carved from the surrounding red rocks.

    The first of three signature Grotto Concerts, on Thursday, Sept. 3, features acclaimed pianist-composer Michael Brown performing Beethoven’s Fifth symphony in a transcription for solo piano, as arranged by the pianist Franz Liszt. This rarely heard rendition will be paired with some of Mozart’s music for two pianists playing together at one instrument.

    At the next grotto performance, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, Brown returns with Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, long considered unplayable, along with works by Robert Schumann for piano, four-hands.

    The final grotto adventure on Monday, Sept. 14 (the festival finale), is Music of Faith and Belief, devoted to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. One of Bach’s magnum opuses, The Well-Tempered Clavier, was a lifelong touchstone for Beethoven from the time he learned the work by memory by age 12. Paying homage to Beethoven’s admiration for his older German compatriot, this program intersperses several of Bach’s sacred chorales with American spirituals.

    Music hikes

    At each of four music hikes, explorers will discover Moab’s natural wonders as they meet at the Grand County Middle School at 8 a.m. and are transported to surprise locations for an hour-long concert. On Saturday, Sept. 5, hikers willjourney to a majestic spot in a secluded canyon, ideal for acoustic music, featuring solos, duos and trios by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tarrega and John Corigliano’s Red Violin Caprices.

    On the second hike on Sunday, Sept. 6, trekkers will venture to Moab’s own meditative inner landscape for Everything That Rises, when the JACK Quartet, “superheroes of the new music world” (The Boston Globe) offers a brand new work by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Luther Adams. Another wilderness hike will be on Saturday, Sept. 12, with the music of J.S. Bach and John Luther Adams. On the season’s final music hike on Sunday, Sept. 13, adventurers will travel to another spot for String Theory, where the virtuoso violinists Kristin Lee and Francisco Fullana and cellist Nicholas Canellakis lead an excursion through music from Bach and Prokofiev to Jakub Ciupinski and Daron Hagen.

    Know before you go: The hike requires a moderate level of stamina, agility, and comfort with uneven footing and potentially some exposure on slick rock. Hiking or trail shoes are required. Comfortable outdoor clothing for a desert environment is recommended. Hiking poles are welcome. Remember to hydrate and bring a water bottle.

    Red Cliffs Lodge will be the venue for a pair of evening concerts.

    At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, the Cuban master clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, a multi-Grammy-winner and festival favorite, will lead his virtuoso quintet — joined by the Festival Strings — to the banks of the Colorado River for My Heart is in Havana, reveling in Cuba’s melodic, rhythmic, and emotional imagination.

    Another concert at Red Clifs starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 6 for Chopin Polonaise, Beethoven Serenade, and Martinů Madrigals alongside new works by Derek Bermel and Sky Macklay.

    The festival’s free annual Labor Day concert will at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 7 at Red Cliffs Lodge. The entire family is welcome to catch the (heat) wave when Paquito D’Rivera Quintet again takes the stage alongside violinist Charles Yang, cellist Nicholas Canellakis, and pianists Michael Barrett and Michael Brown.

    The Ranch

    A private ranch concert on the banks of the Colorado River will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8 for Time for Three’s Charles Yang, who “plays classical violin with the charisma of a rock star” (The Boston Globe). He will joins the new host of NPR’s popular From the Top, pianist Peter Dugan, and his “feats of alarming dexterity” (San Francisco Chronicle) for a virtuosic romp, setting off musical fireworks that are likely to rival the pyrotechnics that will close out the evening, which is a benefit for the festival.

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