Kick off your summer symphony sandals and don your Chaco Barbary Boots. The Sun Valley Summer Symphony is taking music into winter this year.
The symphony, which is marking its 35th season in 2019, will debut its Winter Festival during the week of Feb. 19. The festival will include three concerts and a handful of educational and community events Feb. 19-24 at the new Argyros Performing Arts Center on Main Street in Ketchum.
The festival fulfills a long-held dream of Alasdair Neale, the symphony’s music director, to be able to make more music and expand the ways in which the symphony serves the community.
“The construction of the Argyros Performing Arts Center really accelerated our planning, especially once we learned that the Argyros would install a state-of-the-art Meyer Constellation Sound System,” said the symphony’s executive director Derek Dean. “This sound system will allow us to create a variable acoustic, which will be ideal for the range of music we might play.”
Tours of the performing arts center while under construction exceeded Dean and Neale’s expectations.
“It’s looking even better than we imagined!” said Dean. “While it may seem small from the outside, it feels spacious on the inside, while not losing a sense of intimacy,” said Dean.
The size of the theater won’t permit the entire Sun Valley Summer Symphony orchestra, which featured as many as 110 musicians during its 2018 summer season, to perform. Instead, the Winter Festival will feature a more intimate experience with small groups featuring symphony musicians, as well as guest artists.
The intimacy of the performing arts space will allow creative presentations of new and familiar music in new and innovative ways, said Neale, who will celebrate his silver anniversary with the symphony in 2019.
“We love our summer home in the Pavilion, and we believe this will be a terrific complement to that experience,” added Dean. “We’ll create a very up-close and intimate environment. And the audience will be able to experience classical music in a way they perhaps never have.”
The festival will feature concerts Thursday through Saturday, with each lasting about two hours including intermissions. The performances will be free, thanks to Michael and Carole Marks, who have underwritten the festival.
In addition, the musicians will work with students in the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s School of Music, which serves Wood River Valley students ages 9 through 18. There will be educational programs for adults, as well.
The symphony is not planning to release information in advance about performers and repertoire. “People have so many expectations about classical music, in general, and perhaps around specific composers and pieces. We are hoping to up-end those expectations,” said Dean. “So, in many ways, the less said the better.”
The symphony, which is the largest privately funded free-admission orchestra in the United States, hopes to engage residents and tourists who may have never seen the symphony perform in summer through its Winter Festival. It is expected to become an annual event.
“Our first priority is to serve our local community of residents, part-time residents and tourists,” said Dean. “If this garners some national attention, we’ll be excited by that. But, mostly, we want to make music for folks here in Sun Valley.”