If eating outdoors elevates even the most mundane meal to something superlative, just imagine what a backdrop of Golden Peak and the Gore Range can do for a New York Philharmonic performance of Beethoven’s 5th. That promise is what’s kept the crowds coming—and growing—to one of the nation’s most bucket-listed classical music festivals for 31 summers. In addition to the main event—6 p.m. orchestral performances at Ford Amphitheater—a roster of ensembles staged in pavilions, brewpubs, private homes, and parks around the valley shouldn’t be missed, since they serve as the artistic inspiration of the festival itself. “Back when these pieces of music were written—Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart—they were generally premiered in smaller venues, and if the public liked the movement, they would scream ‘Bravo, bravo,’” explains Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott, a pianist who headlines many of the performances. “And then they’d play again, and people were drinking and hooting and hollering and getting into the music. Nothing makes me happier than honoring that tradition and turning people on to the music I’ve fallen in love with.”
When it is:
June 21–Aug 2
Where it is:
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail Village (and other venues)
What it costs:
$28–$144 (Ford Amphitheater orchestra performances)
Who goes there:
Anyone who can appreciate the experience of listening to orchestral music surrounded by nature and hale mountain folk, instead of a gussied-up audience in a stuffy concert hall
"I’ve had some very unique experiences on that stage. One time a couple of years ago, I was playing a Tchaikovsky concerto—it’s a very big piece of music and it’s dramatic and gorgeous—and it was raining a little bit. And through the course of the piece, the rain just kept getting heavier and heavier and it started to thunder and it was getting louder and louder, and the storm just kind of culminated when I finished the piece. So my hair was damp, my dress was damp, and that’s all part of what makes Bravo so unique! We’re out there in the middle of nature in the mountains, and stuff happens! Squirrels run across the stage, birds fly by, it’s fabulous—and it’s really magical.”– Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott
If you’re a classical music aficionado, or a first-timer ...
Orchestra performances by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (June 21–24), the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (June 27–July 4), the Philadelphia Orchestra (July 6–14), and the New York Philharmonic (July 20–27) at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, enjoyed with a flute of Champagne from the upscale concession stand (this is Vail, after all). Most locals forgo spendy ticketed seats under the canopy for the much cheaper—just $28—lawn seats. Arrive early to stake out your space, and bring a picnic, blanket, warm layer (to ward off post-sunset mountain chill), and a lawn chair (with legs no longer than four inches).
If you prefer classical paired with craft beer, rather than fine wine ...
Bravo! Vail’s After Dark Saturday night (at 8:30 p.m.) series brings serious classical talent (Asphalt Orchestra, July 7; accordionist Hanzhi Wang, July 14; Ensemble Connect, July 28) to a favorite local brewpub (West Vail’s Vail Ale House) for a free night of music.
If you prefer your classical paired with fine wine, rather than craft beer ...
At Bravo! Vail’s Classically Uncorked series, Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott plays with a string ensemble while chef Brian Farquharson of Red Canyon Catering plates multiple courses paired with selections from California’s Meiomi Wines at West Vail’s Donovan Pavilion (July 31–Aug 2, 7:30 p.m.; $50).
If you sing to the key of free ...
Visiting musicians from the Dallas Symphony and New York City’s Asphalt Orchestra—among others—treat all comers to free hour-long interludes of chamber music (July 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26, 1 p.m., Vail Interfaith Chapel, Vail Village; July 9, 6 p.m., Edwards Interfaith Chapel, Edwards; July 16, 6 p.m., Brush Creek Pavilion, Eagle; July 19, 11 a.m., Golden Eagle Senior Center, Eagle; July 24, 4 p.m., Castle Peak Senior Living, Eagle).
If you want to classically school a kid who won’t stand for [or sit through] listening to an entire symphony ...
Bravo! Vail’s free Little Listeners at the Library series introduces little ones to the likes of Mozart, and also includes an instrument petting zoo, where they can play with everything from an oboe to a French horn (July 2, 9, 1 p.m., Avon Public Library; July 3, 10, 2 p.m., Vail Public Library; July 18, 25, 2 p.m., Gypsum Public Library; July 19, 26, 2 p.m., Eagle Public Library).
This season’s hottest ticket for families?
A screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra providing the live score (July 11, 7:30 p.m., lawn seats: $5 kids, $28 adults). Insider Tip: Last year’s screening of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial sold out, so buy your tickets early