What do The Beatles and Austrian composer Franz Schubert have in common? Listen and learn during the Moab Music Festival’s opening night Schubert-Beatles concert, on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Star Hall.
The New York Festival of Song program highlights two musical careers that “captured the ethos of their era,” according to the Moab Music Festival’s website. The Schubert-Beatles concert musicians are among many small ensembles who will perform throughout the 12-day festival.
“This program looks at what makes a good song,” comparing Schubert’s music with the Beatles, festival executive director Laura Brown said. “This will be a very interesting concert. (Festival co-founder) Michael Barrett wanted to show it off in Moab,” after performing in New York.
Barrett and his wife Leslie Tomkins, both New York-based musicians, founded the Moab Music Festival in 1992, after falling in love with the area’s red-rock landscapes.
Every year, Barrett gathers individual world-renowned musicians and brings them to Moab to perform together in a variety of settings. Many of the venues are outdoors, with Moab’s stunning landscape as a backdrop.
“Sometimes, we hire a pre-formed group, but for the most part, Barrett hires talented musicians and puts them together,” Brown said.
This year’s festival, which runs from Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 12, features lots of jazz and Latin music, Brown said.
Three-time Latin Grammy nominee Berta Rojas of Paraguay, known for her classical guitar playing, will perform at various concerts throughout the week. Another notable act is pianist Renee Rosnes, who will bring her quartet consisting of vibraphonist Steve Nelson, saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Bill Stewart.
Composer, pianist and vocalist Clarice Assad, who sings in Portuguese, French, Italian and English, is also returning to the festival this year.
“Clarice is absolutely fabulous,” Brown said. “She impressed us so much we invited her back again. Last year she played with our string players and it was so popular we’re doing more this year.”
The mostly chamber music concerts take place at Red Cliffs Lodge, Star Hall, Sorrel River Ranch, and during two Colorado River raft trips, as well as other outdoor locations. Two musical raft trips – one through Cataract Canyon, and the newly added Ruby-Horsethief Canyon – were set to depart on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Other festival events are not for the average concertgoer.
Festival attendees embark on “rigorous hikes” to get to some of the outdoor concerts – two of which are sold out.
Music Hike 3 is still available, however. The music hikes are always held at surprise locations – ticketholders meet at a school and shuttle to the trailhead for a short hike to the place where the musicians have already set up. After a 35- to 45-minute concert, everyone walks back to the shuttle.
A free concert, “Sonidos Latinos,” will be held on Monday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m. at Old City Park in Spanish Valley. The concert features Rojas, Assad, Paquito D. Rivera on clarinet and saxophone, Alex Brown on piano, João Luiz Rezende playing guitar, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and Keita Ogawa on percussion. The concert is billed as “a fusion of Cuban, Paraguayan and Brazilian music.”
Moab residents Terry Galen and her husband Tom Edwards have attended the Moab Music Festival for the past 20 years. Galen said her sister from Boston also comes out every year for the music.
“We love the music, the diversity and the venues,” Galen said.
She also appreciates the festival’s commitment to Moab’s school district, in the form of financial assistance and hosting assemblies with visiting musicians.
“They bring incredible culture and quality to this little town in southeastern Utah,” she said.
Moab Music Festival features chamber music, Latin-flavored jazz and much more
What: 24th annual Moab Music Festival
When: Thursday, Sept. 1, through Monday, Sept. 12
Where: Various venues
Cost: Tickets vary for individual concerts
Info: www.moabmusicfest.org; 435-259-7003435.25
For more information about tickets and dates and times of individual concerts, visit www.moabmusicfest.org. Several of the concerts are sold out, although tickets are still available for the larger-venue concerts taking place during the evenings and weekend.