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There’s no rest for the weary! After the Great American Road Trip, we wasted no time getting back into Abravanel Hall to start off our season. We kicked things off with Raiders of the Lost Ark from our Films in Concert series, helped celebrate the Utah Opera’s 40th Anniversary Gala, and started our Masterworks series on a high note with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Here are the best moments from these performances:


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The Great American Road Trip: Best of Bluff

If you’re stopping by Bluff on your way to the Utah Symphony’s Great American Road Trip performance here are some great places the locals recommend visiting.

Enjoy a meal at the Comb Ridge Bistro

This American style cafĂ© has a long-standing tradition in the Bluff area. Established in 2005, Comb Ridge used to be a Navajo Twins Trading Post in the early 1970s. With excellent service and ambiance, the Bistro’s menu offers delicious food for every meal and includes a wide selection of alcoholic beverages for your enjoyment. The Comb Ridge Bistro supports the work of talented local artists displaying various landscape paintings, Navajo inspired artwork, and traditional stone jewelry.

Visit the restored Bluff Fort Historical Site

The Bluff Fort visitors center offers free guided tours daily with engaging staff ready to show you around and answer your questions Learn the history of the Mormon pioneers, who settled in Bluff, through audio-visual displays, a fully loaded covered wagon, and photography of the early residents and more. Take the chance to dress in pioneer attire and take a picture pulling an authentic pioneer handcart.

Walk the Hole In the Rock Trail

Through some of the most rugged and unforgiving terrain in North America, the Hole in the Rock Trail was built by the pioneers in 1879-80. The trail received its name from a crevice the colonizers utilized to gain access to the Colorado River gorge. Make unforgettable memories with a visit the trail! Marvel at its beauty and remember the challenges overcome by the original Bluff settlers.

Are you still not convinced this will be the best musical road trip of your life? Just take a look at this:


See you on the road!

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Get the Most out of the Great American Road Trip

It’s just not summer without an unforgettable road trip – and this summer, we’re embarking on an adventure to southern Utah. Pack a bag and plan for our concerts in Springdale, Bluff, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, and Vernal Brewing Company.

To make your trip even more memorable, here are our recommendations:

First Things First

Forget about the concert hall because we’ll be performing in the great outdoors! Since we’re outside, you won’t want to forget about the necessities. Bring something to sit on (a camping chair or blanket), a sweater for when it gets cold, bug repellant, sunscreen, and an umbrella (just in case!)

Pack a Picnic

The best part of being in an outdoor venue is that you can bring snacks. You could always bring sandwiches and celery sticks, or you could always make your picnic special by trying a new recipe or picking something up from a favorite local spot like Swig in St. George.

Make Memories

You’ll want to remember this extraordinary experience! Don’t forget to pack your camera and (dare we say it?) a selfie stick so you can capture incredible memories at the concert. We love connecting with people at our concerts, so follow and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and tag your photos with #utahsymphonyroadtrip.

Tune into a Playlist

What’s a road trip without the perfect playlist? Whether you’re traveling from Salt Lake to Springdale or from Blanding to Bluff, we have the ideal music to set the mood for your journey. Get a preview of our repertoire for the concert or listen to a list of music inspired by the majestic night sky of southern Utah.

Stay for a Star Party

The best part about being in southern Utah is being under the stars. Take your concert experience to a new level by staying after the concert for a star party. This collaboration between us, the University of Utah’s Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, and the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative will allow you to explore the night sky through lectures provided by park rangers and local astronomers, as well as have viewing opportunities on high-powered telescopes.

Register for a star party here.

You won’t want to miss these free concerts and star parties, so get your tickets here. Bon voyage!

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TRIO series: the Timpanist

It was during a dress rehearsal of Brahms Violin Concerto—something came over me in the middle of the third movement that consumed my entire being. It said yes, this is exactly what I want to do. —George Brown

Utah Symphony timpanist George Brown grew up experimenting with different instruments. The son of a professional woodwind player, George knew as a little boy that he wanted to play the drums, but it was not until ninth grade—after taking a break from music to practice his jump shot—that he began playing them. Once he started, he never looked back.

George Brown

It was while pursuing an education at University of Louisville that George decided to audition for the United States Armed Forces Bi-Centennial Band.

“The story of the Bicentennial Band was a story of a particular celebration that ended up having an impact on my life then and afterwards,” says George, who swore into the United States Coast Guard upon landing a spot in the band.

He recalls a time in US history where the nation was not celebrating much of anything. Tremendous political upheaval, riots, high gas prices, the Watergate scandal, and the beginning of terrorism between the 1960s and 1970s consumed the country. From 1975–1976, the Bicentennial Band provided a way for people to come together and celebrate the historical events that led to the creation of the United States. George’s participation in the band meant twenty months of constant touring—and self-exploration.

“I saw the beginning of a healing process in which Americans finally had something to feel good about ourselves as Americans. The entire country participated in this. That provided an opportunity for me to participate in a celebration that was some of the best memories of my early career,” George says.

The tour also gave George the chance to travel—and ultimately come to Utah for the first time. He immediately fell in love with the mountainous landscape, and vowed to return. A series of remarkable musical experiences have given George many reasons to bask in life’s moments. From the East to the West to Mexico City and around the world, George carries with him beautiful memories of celebrating life through music.

By Autumn Thatcher

Stay tuned for our last TRIO series’ article on the well-known composer, Nico Muhly.

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Community Collaboration Spotlight: The Madeleine Choir School


Q: Over the history of the school, how has The Madeleine Choir School used music to celebrate?

The Choir School was established in 1996 very much in the tradition of the European Cathedral Choir Schools, and so a very strong relationship exists between the Choir School and the Cathedral of the Madeleine. The choristers sing daily and Sunday services in the Cathedral during which their music heightens the joy of festivals and happy occasions, laments and expresses grief at personal and community loss and tragedy, and through its beauty seeks to inspire all people to more noble lives. We perform and celebrate with the great treasury of sacred music, including musical settings for the Mass of G. P. da Palestrina, W. A. Mozart, Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Francis Poulenc, Benjamin Britten and many more.

Q: Can you explain how the curriculum or day to day function of the school brings music into the students’ everyday lives and what your goals are in shaping the way the choristers relate to music?

Madeleine Choir School

Music permeates the day at the Choir School, from the very active early music education opportunities in the lower school, the beginning violin instruction in second and third grades, the initial chorister formation in fourth grade, the work of the various choirs in grades five through eight, music theory and music history coursework through to singing for Cathedral services and community events. By discipline, practice and study, we hope to empower students to make musical expression a natural part of their lives as future composers, performers, audience members and advocates for the arts.

Q:  From a young age, the Madeleine Choir School students are exposed to a lot of monumental works and performance opportunities filled with pomp and circumstance. How does one go about imparting the historical, cultural and overall significance to the students? Discuss if music provides the context by which they can understand, relate to and appreciate the situations they are afforded (ie. Performing with Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

The Annual Cathedral Concert Series and the collaboration with local musical institutions such as the Utah Symphony, Utah Opera and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are clear highlights in the musical experience of our young people. The thrill and excitement of participation in these professional productions is highly valued by the children as they look back on their work at the Choir School. We work to be sure they understand the significance of the musical works they participate in, connecting studies in history, philosophy, literature and more with the cultural milieu from which the musical work emerged and to which it was addressed. The Symphony’s Mahler Cycle has been a great source of study and inspiration at the school.

Q:  Describe the personality type of a student that is drawn to attend the Madeleine Choir School, and how music generally figures in their life.

Bright, engaged young people with a variety of interests who are open to commitment and hard work thrive in the fast-paced environment of the Choir School. Parents often report with amusement that the students are often caught singing while at play with their classmates
in Latin! Our graduates regularly applaud the discipline and work-habits they acquired during their years at the Choir School. Daily instruction, rehearsals and regular performances are a part of the experience of a student. These experiences lay the foundation for future musical and artistic engagement throughout their lives.

By Gregory A. Glenn, Pastoral Administrator, The Madeleine Choir School.

To see the Madeleine Choir School in action, check out their upcoming performances with the Utah Symphony: The Child and the Enchantments. Friday November 13, and Saturday 14 at 7:30pm, at Abravanel Hall. For more information and tickets, visit the Utah Symphony website.

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TRIO series: the Percussionist

Music describes perfectly the indescribable. All those emotions and feelings, the magical and extremely personal relationship we all have with the music of our choice and tastes, these are things of defining beauty and wonder for the human race, and are without penalty nor discrimination. —Colin Currie

Colin Currie

Visiting percussionist Colin Currie grew up in Edinburgh and continued studies in London, where he currently lives. The internationally renowned percussionist says that he has always loved the drums, but it was around the age of 13—upon first encountering the symphony orchestra—that he decided to devote his life to classical music, percussion, and contemporary composers.

“It was my goal from that time to contribute to the solo repertoire for my instruments, especially in the area of significant works of adventure, dignity, and longevity,” says Colin.

Colin admits to recognizing that a life of music might entail sacrifices to achieve the things he believed in, but the experience has been an enriching one that has allowed his musical life to be sustained by his career, and vice versa. He sees every premier he gives as potentially a cause to celebrate the wealth of percussion music.

“I have been very lucky to meet and work with the truly outstanding writers of our time, and I delight in introducing the thoughts and insight these composers bring to percussion. There have been too many highlights to pick and choose names, but this latest addition by Andrew Norman will be no exception. We will certainly be in a celebratory place on the occasion of this premiere!” Colin says.

Colin Currie

A life devoted to music is certain to have many memories of moments influenced by it. For Colin, he recalls hearing Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” for the first time, as well as string quartets by Bela Bartok and Benjamin Britten. Another moment that stands out to him happened when he was 15.

“The first time I ever performed a concerto was a very affecting experience. I performed the Panufnik “Concertino” with the London Symphony Orchestra. It was early days for both me and the repertoire but I caught ‘the bug’ immediately,” says Colin.

Since those early days, Colin has appreciated the way in which life can be celebrated and enriched through music.

“Existing in real time, music also traces one of the greatest mystery of existence: the transition from one moment to the next. The closer we get to music, the more beautiful and magical it becomes.”

By Autumn Thatcher

Stay tuned for our next TRIO series’ article on the Utah Symphony timpanist, George Brown.

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Mahler Factoids

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler

  1. Great minds often meet throughout history; that was the case in 1910 when Mahler’s marriage was in a crisis and he had a session with the great Sigmund Freud.
  2. Great artists are never satisfied, and the same can be said for their audiences. The original version of “Titan” titled “A Symphonic Poem in Two Sections” was poorly received at first. It took 3 years for it to be performed again and numerous revisions until audiences appreciated it.
  3. Perfection is often the key to destruction, and Mahler was no exception. Known for being such a perfectionist even to the most microscopic detail, he achieved amazing professional results, but also made numerous enemies because of this trait.
  4. During the happiest time of Mahler’s life he composed Symphony No. 6, referred to as Tragische (Tragic) whose nihilistic, abrupt, ending was a shock to audiences.
  5. There is this great fascination with working with some of the greats throughout history. However, working with Mahler is better left to the imagination; his bursts of anger and authoritarian attitude made him unbelievably difficult to work with.
  6. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 has been described as a hero’s epic journey; its unhinged, almost overwhelming orchestra on the piece holds all the key elements to a classical hero’s journey. Picture Odysseus: his beginning, his journey, and his destination. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 would be the soundtrack to such a journey.

By Seeth McGavien

In November, the Utah Symphony will be performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and his “Tragic” Symphony. For more information and tickets, please go here and here.
And did you know that the solo percussionist, Colin Currie, will be joining the Utah Symphony for Mahler’s Symphony No. 5? Check out our TRIO series to learn more about him!

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Mysterioso: Music, Magic, and Mayhem – Artists’ Profiles

Joseph Gabriel

Joseph Gabriel

Joseph Gabriel

Johnny Carson introduced Joseph Gabriel, and what transpired on the Tonight Show stage for the next several minutes was sufficient to amaze millions of viewers and leave Carson himself visibly and vocally enthused. “One of the classiest magic acts you’re going to see in a long time! The best I’ve seen!” This was Carson’s reaction after witnessing Joseph Gabriel’s first appearance on the Tonight Show in 1983. Over the next several years, Joseph would appear a total of seven times with Carson. In 1996, Joseph made a leap from Las Vegas act to Broadway star, when he created and opened his own full-evening show, “Magic On Broadway” in New York City. The show opened to rave reviews and ran for an unprecedented 18 months. Within the first three months, Joseph’s show broke all box office records at the Lamb’s theatre. After returning to Las Vegas, Joseph performed at Caesar’s Magical Empire in Caesar’s Palace, a 60-million dollar facility that rivaled any Hollywood special effects sound stage. The Magical Empire was an amazing two-hour theatrical dining experience that ended with a spectacular stage show. His originality in style and presentation is a sight to behold, making a marvelous mixture of kinetic energy on stage. It is his creativity and power of performance that has brought him to the forefront as one of the leaders in shaping the future of magic. After seeing Joseph perform, there are only two words you’ll think of when you think of magic

Les Arnold and Dazzle

Les Arnold and Dazzle

Les Arnold and Dazzle

The Les Arnold and Dazzle act is a satirical look at every “Stuffed Shirt” magician you have ever seen and his assistant that you wished you hadn’t. Dazzle’s costumes, hairstyle and makeup are over the top, while Les, with his pencil-thin mustache, grandiose floor-length cape, and top hat attempts to be the ultimate in understated elegance. Les Arnold and his daughter Alex have showbiz running through their veins. They come by it naturally. The Arnold magic bloodline originates with Les’ grandfather, The Great Leon, a Vaudeville headliner famous for creating the act “Fire and Water.” Les’ mother was a dancer in Vaudeville and performed in a 1930s bicycle act, and his uncle Leon Leon was a magician and sound engineer. Les started performing magic when he was only 10 years old. While still in his teens, Les developed a love for building magic props and soon had enough illusions to perform a 30-minute show. When Les and his daughter, Alex (aka Dazzle), discussed how they were going to structure the act, they both agreed that they wanted to do strong magic with a comedic flair. They decided to take the magic back to the timeless era of the 1930s and 40s and play it for laughs with quality magic. Les Arnold and Dazzle have been featured performers with world-renown symphonies; regular performers in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle, and have recently been featured on the CW Network’s hit television show Masters of Illusion.

David & Dania

David & Dania

David & Dania

David Maas and Dania Kaseeva met in 1995 on a circus tour, where Dania was performing her hula-hoop act and David was working as a ringmaster. Born in Russia, Kaseeva is the daughter of circus legend Rustan Kaseev. She began training at age 6 in gymnastics and later in acrobatics and dance. She combined these techniques to create a unique hula-hoop act and made her professional debut at 14 in a production of the Moscow Circus. Her technique coupled with dynamic choreography earned her an international reputation as the world’s greatest hula-hoop act—a fact sanctioned by the Gold Medal she won at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. David Maas was raised in show business; his father, Jerry Maas, was a concert pianist. At age 8, Maas put together his first circus act, juggling on a low-wire. He trained in acrobatics, dance, and theatre, and he showed a talent for singing, which led him, at 19, to a career as a singing ringmaster for various shows around the world. In 1994, he was awarded the Bronze Medal at the International American Performing Arts Festival. Maas also studied magic, a discipline he has practiced with great success for the past 10 years. Together, Maas and Kaseeva present one of the most original magic acts ever seen. During a dynamic dance exhibition, they puzzle audiences with staggering costume transformations in fractions of a second. Their act is one of the most sought-after performances in the world.

Christina Bianco

Christina Bianco

Christina Bianco

Two time Drama Desk Award nominated actress, singer and impressionist, Christina Bianco has become a worldwide YouTube sensation. Her diva impression videos have gained over 21 million views, leading to apperances performing on The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Queen Latifah Show and The Today Show. Christina made her West End debut starring in The Menier Chocolate Factory’s hailed production of Forbidden Broadway at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. In New York, Christina recently starred Off-Broadway in the one-woman, multi character comedy Application Pending (Drama Desk Award nomination). Other New York credits include Newsical the Musical and Forbidden Broadway Goes To Rehab (Drama Desk Award nomination). She can be heard on both original cast recordings. Christina also originated the role of Dora in the long-running National Tour of Dora The Explorer Live, including a sold-out run at Radio City Music Hall. As a cabaret artist, Christina has performed her critically acclaimed solo shows, Diva Moments and Party Of One, to sold out crowds across the U.S. Abroad, Christina has sold out extended runs headlining at London’s famed Hippodrome and Royal Albert Hall’s prestigious Elgar Room. Christina also performs her shows on various international cruise liners. Christina frequently performs as a soloist with symphony orchestras throughout the US and Canada. She recently played the recurring role of Bianca on the POP TV sitcom Impress Me, produced by SoulPancake. This fall, she’ll appear as Mindy in the Hallmark original movie series, Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

 For more information about the concert, including the program, program notes, and artist biographies, please visit this page.

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Mahler Memories: Claudia Norton

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

CLAUDIA NORTON: Utah Symphony bass, 1967-present (47 years)


The Great Man Abravanel

His greatness was so encompassing. I think because of his expectations and because of his greatness as a musician and his completeness. It was contagious. We really became great from just being around this incredibly unusual person. I remember that he was very involved in every single musician in the orchestra. He knew us personally, knew our personal lives, was very hands-on and insisted that we have the same vision that he did, and that was that music was the greatest gift to mankind; it was the overall greatest achievement of humanity and he insisted that everybody agree with that, and we all did. I think that was a lot of the reason we were able to have such success in so many of our recordings.

Music Isn’t English

And you know, watching Abravanel conduct was so inspiring. I can’t put it into words because he conducted music, and music isn’t English.

On Following Abravanel

You know, people who would watch him conduct said, “How did you follow that?” because you didn’t necessarily get a specific downbeat. But his idea was so contagious. And I was just saying that he made you great; it was contagious to be around him. He made you great by just his ability to communicate the idea of the music, and I think everybody understood what he wanted.

Intense Rehearsals

Yeah, it was intense. One year he re-auditioned the entire string section of the orchestra, and he had us all play for our instrument all of the excerpts from all of those symphonies, which was a huge list for basses—we have lots of difficult excerpts in the Mahler symphonies—and he listened to every string player—not with the idea of finding fault, just to make sure that everybody was giving their all 24/7 and living Mahler. That’s what he expected, and that’s what we did. And he made sure we were doing it.

Esprit de Corps

I think even if they’re not the best Mahler recordings available, there is a certain esprit de corps, there is a certain phenomenon that I don’t think you can help but be affected by when you hear it. And if you’re hearing Mahler, especially in the earlier days, if you were hearing Mahler, it probably was the Utah Symphony you were hearing.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories

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Mahler Memories: Ardean Watts

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.



The Religion of Mahler

I think of Maurice as a kind of high priest. And Mahler’s the Bible. You know he knew how Mahler’s genius was the genius of transforming the angst, the misery of national, international and personal into a kind of redemptive sound. The sounds can growl and suggest horror and cataclysm and everything, which is all there, but when it comes out, it doesn’t come out that way. It comes out. You want to be there. You want to experience it because there is some redemption in it, and maybe that’s what the musical experience is about.

Music and the Geist

The players were really expected to do their homework (which they sometimes did and sometimes didn’t), but the experience of the symphony was a holistic experience; it wasn’t about your part. It was about a kind of mysterious, mystical Geist that the piece embodied, and Abravanel knew the Geist. He was the one who saw that clearly and nobody questioned that.

On Being Abravanel’s Second

Maurice is the greatest man I ever met personally. And a person is lucky to meet one like that in life, where you can almost whole-heartedly just follow. I was very happy to do that. I never wanted to be number one. Being a number two to Maurice was such an extraordinary privilege that that was a career by itself.

The Dark Side of Music

There is a syndrome that exists amongst professionals, that it has a dark side. The beautiful side is what we hear when we go to the concerts. The dark side is when you’re twenty seconds from the end of the symphony and the clock reaches the end of the rehearsal and
And that’s it. They put their instruments away. You know, that’s black to me. And it’s like an infectious disease. Not everybody is affected that way, thank heaven, but it also isn’t cool to talk about how moved you might be by something like that.

Abravanel’s Sense of Timing

He (Abravanel) came back after the fourth movement—after the conclusion of the symphony—and he said “Forty minutes. Forty-two minutes, sixty or something seconds.” And of course I hadn’t looked, but it did indicate that he really cared about timing, and I don’t think it was ever timing for timing’s sake. I think that it helps to understand Maurice if you think of him as an autodidact. That is because he considered himself self-taught. He assumed that everybody who was successful in the business world was self-taught. They had it or they didn’t have it, and his sense of timing was part of that.


RadioWest’s Doug Fabrizio talks to Ardean Watts and Paul Banks about Mahler 5 and Maurice Abravanel’s relationship with the composer.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories.

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