Suggest to people from New York or Philadelphia that one of the country’s finest symphony orchestras is in Wyoming and they’ll likely laugh at you … unless they happen to be members of the New York Philharmonic or the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then they’ll probably already know about the Grand Teton Music Festival, and maybe even have played at it.
Musicians from New York, Philly, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, and dozens of other cities across the country gather in Jackson Hole every summer for a 7-week symphony season. This year is the Festival’s 57th season. Donald Runnicles, who is the general music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, and principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, returns as GTMF’s music director. He typically conducts more than half of the Festival Orchestra’s concerts.
Past guests have included violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Yefim Bronfman, soprano Christine Brewer, conductor Zubin Mehta, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Josh Bell, and soprano Renée Fleming…
This summer’s season runs from July 2nd to August 18th, 2018. Every week, there are two orchestra concerts— Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. Catch an open rehearsal Fridays at 10 a.m. Chamber music and themed concerts are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. This season, “The Festival is joining the rest of the music world in celebrating the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth,” says GTMF President/CEO Andrew Todd. “This year’s season concludes with a fully cast concert adaptation version of his 1957 hit West Side Story,which is already proving to be one of our most popular summer concerts.”
Fans of more traditional symphony concerts shouldn’t miss Maestro Donald Runnicles and the Festival Orchestra performing Mahler’s Third Symphony on August 10 and 11. “It’s the composer’s most expansive work, which is saying something,” Todd says. “It features a women’s chorus and a children’s chorus (both from Salt Lake) in addition to the 90-plus piece orchestra. There is nothing like hearing this music in the friendly confines of our hall.”
Also this summer the GTMF celebrates jazz. “How can you have a Star-Spangled Season without celebrating America’s most important contribution to western music?” Todd asks. Opening the season is legendary jazz artist Diane Schuur. The next week, Aaron Diehl, an up-and-comer in the world of jazz performs a solo concert.
Attending a Festival concert today, it’s hard to believe its humble beginnings. It was founded in 1962 and its earliest performances were held in the old Jackson Hole High School gym, at Jackson Lake Lodge, and on the lawn of St. John’s Church. In 1967 the orchestra began performing in Teton Village: orchestra concerts were outside, under a carnival tent; chamber music concerts were in the Mangy Moose Saloon. It wasn’t until 1974 that Walk Festival Hall opened at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Most of the Festival Orchestra musicians return year after year—there are some who have been coming for almost forty years—but every year the GTMF brings in new guest soloists and conductors. Past guests have included violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Yefim Bronfman, soprano Christine Brewer, conductor Zubin Mehta, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Josh Bell, and soprano Renée Fleming, to name just a few.
“The festival made a conscious decision several years ago to bring the best of the best to Jackson Hole,” Todd says. This summer’s biggest name is Audra McDonald. She “continues that tradition, but as the reigning queen of Broadway, she represents the growing diversity of musical genres the festival presents. It opens up the festival to new audience members and potential supporters,” Todd says.
Tickets start at $25 (Friday open rehearsals are $10), 307/733-1128, gtmf.org