An annual event in the Moab area since 1992, the Moab Music Festival returns this summer on Friday, Aug. 31, with special performances scheduled through Sunday, Sept. 9.
Some of the performers return to play at the festival year after year, while many of the musicians have never been to Moab. New this year is Grammy-award winning TAKE 6, known to be the most-awarded a cappella group in history, performing on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Red Cliffs Lodge.
The performance is held in a festival tent on the lawn beside the Colorado River.
Tickets for the tent seating are $40 for adults. The tent seating is not suitable for children, and lawn seating is available for $30 per adult and $5 for children ages 6-18. Concertgoers may bring blankets and chairs for seating on the lawn.
Founded by professional musicians Leslie Tomkins and Michael Barrett, the festival has changed throughout the years to become a 10-day event featuring a variety of handpicked musicians.
The performances are staged at various settings throughout the area and will have something to offer to everyone in attendance.
“The whole idea behind this (festival) was to have this experience of chamber music in this spectacular setting,” said Tomkins, the festival’s co-founder and artistic director. “I didn’t realize until later, but those are both non-verbal forms of experiencing beauty and being moved. Being in nature or hearing music … so my thought was to put those together and have yet another non-verbal way of experiencing joy and beauty.”
Bright Sheng is this year’s composer in residence, and this will be his first performance the Moab Music Festival. His music will be played at several performances, and the composer is interested to see how his work will interact with the surroundings.
“My music goes well with the festival because there are some atmospheric aspects in my pieces in general. The pieces span over a few decades; some of them are from the 90s, some of them are from the last few years,” Sheng said. “I look forward to it. The festival looks like it has these venues that have very different kinds of surroundings for the concerts. That is a terrific thing for me to hear how my music is played in a different environment.”
Playing the music of both living and antiquated composers is something the festival has always valued when choosing music for the performances.
“We have had an emphasis since we started on living composers,” Tomkins said. “And the fact that there wasn’t another series in town where someone might hear string quartets while they’re here allowed us to offer lots of different kinds of music.”
While the festival features primarily chamber music in its lineup, there are exceptions to this pattern as well.
For the Labor Day concert on Monday, Sept. 3, at Old City Park, the indie band Sky Pony will perform a set. Members of the band include Lauren Worsham — an accomplished opera singer — and her husband, Kyle Jarrow, the writer for SpongeBob SquarePants on Broadway.
Another group to perform is fiddle player Brittany Haas, her sister Natalie, guitarist Yann Falquet, fiddle player Alasdair Fraser and percussive dancer Nic Gareiss. While all members of the group have deep histories with each other, the group was formed especially for this festival.
“We’ve all played individually with smaller groups, but this will be a one-time event. There are lot of musical bonds that exist,” Haas said. “I think it will be a really special night that the audience will get to participate in. It’ll be kind of off-the-cuff and we’ll be playing music from all over: southern Appalachia, French Canada and Scotland. It’ll be kind of a world tour of music.”
The Haas sisters also play for one of the raft trips during the festival.
“Every time I’m there it’s a different experience and completely mind-blowing. The desert landscape is totally different than anything I’ve experienced,” Haas said. “Last year we played at the ranch concert, it was really awesome to be outside at night playing music. The raft trip is something totally different in it’s own, to be playing music to nature and to play in a concert space that wouldn’t normally be a concert space is really special and I think it is for the audience as well.”
Much of the profit from some of the higher-priced festival events goes toward giving back to the community in the form of supporting musical education in Moab.
“Having an educational connection to the community has been an integral part of what we do all along. We bring these resources (musicians) into town that don’t live here, or are difficult to get to see if you live in Moab, especially if you’re a kid in Moab,” Tomkins said. “We give assemblies for the Grand County School District kids for free, and we have helped to support various other musical endeavors outside of the school. We give scholarships for kids taking music lessons, supporting teachers that don’t have the budget for certain things, and helping fund and utilize the resources of the people that come to support music education for all ages, but primarily students.”
While some festival events have a higher price, there is a spectrum of ticket prices for different events, including the free open rehearsal and Labor Day concert.
“The Labor Day concert and open rehearsal are free for anyone and is for all ages, and there are volunteer opportunities where people can work for tickets,” Tomkins said. “We don’t want to exclude people, and we try to offer varying price points that work for many people and that will still allow the music festival to continue.”
Tomkins encourages community members to attend, emphasizing the variety of events and pricing options that are available.
To learn more about the available volunteer opportunities and to see the festival’s full schedule, visit moabmusicfest.org.
10-day music festival includes free Labor Day show
“Every time I’m there it’s a different experience and completely mind-blowing. The desert landscape is totally different than anything I’ve experienced. Last year we played at the ranch concert, it was really awesome to be outside at night playing music. The raft trip is something totally different in it’s own, to be playing music to nature and to play in a concert space that wouldn’t normally be a concert space is really special and I think it is for the audience as well.”
Cost: Varies. Purchase tickets online at moabmusicfest.org or call 435-259-7003.
Friday, Aug. 31: Opening night: New Americans, Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1: TAKE 6, Red Cliffs Lodge, mile post 14, State Route 128, 6 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 2: Time for Three, Red Cliffs Lodge, mile post 14, State Route 128, 6 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 3: Rocky Mountain Power Free Family Concert with Sky Pony, Old
City Park, 2231 Elk Circle, 2 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 7: We Are Women: A Bernstein Cabaret, Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: New World Assembly: Scotland Meets Quebec & Appalachia, Sorrel River Ranch, mile post 17, State Route 128, 6 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: Closing night: Coming to America at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., 7 p.m.