According to a festival press release, “Patrons will experience musical hikes, rafting adventures, intimate gatherings, and virtuoso performances, all surrounded by the sky, the Colorado River, and the ruggedly stunning red rock desert of southeast Utah — a backdrop for the musical ride of a lifetime.” The festival begins with a raft trip in Westwater Canyon on Monday, Aug. 27 at 7 a.m. This two-night/three-day raft trip through Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater canyons “is the perfect combination of exciting whitewater, terrific campsites, swimming, paddle boarding, even piloting your own inflatable kayak, all while enjoying festival artists performing personal concerts amidst nature’s bounty,” says the press release. The trip culminates in a float trip through a narrow black-granite gorge that forms the infamous rapids Little Hummer, Funnel Falls, Last Chance and Skull Rapid. Musical rafters return to Moab on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
The first Grotto concert will be on Thursday, Aug. 30 at 12 p.m., which begins with a 45-minute jet boat ride down the Colorado River to “nature’s concert hall,” so called by The New York Times. The music chosen for the Grotto concerts is, according to music director Michael Barrett, “the most beautiful, most interesting, most authentic works we know, which create a deeply personal and memorable musical experience.” This program includes composer-in-residence Bright Sheng’s bold “Four Movements for Piano Trio,” which, according to festival organizers, “fascinates with its rhythmic intensity, along with works by Debussy, Bach and Mozart.” Called a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” by the tourism guide Fodors, audiences and guests will mingle after the performance over light hors d’oeuvres and local wines before boarding the boat and heading back to town.
The festival’s opening night concert at Star Hall, titled “New Americans,” is on Friday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. It is a program dedicated to composers who have become American citizens during their lifetime and have made U.S. musical culture and legacy all the richer as a result, say organizers. The evening will feature the Chinese-American composer--the festival’s composer-in-residence--Bright Sheng. The concert will also include the music of Puerto Rican-born Americans Dan Román and Roberto Sierra, as well as Czech composer Bohuslav Martin ů , who fled the Nazis in order to become an American citizen, and whose music “is a powerful influence in contemporary classical music to this day,” says the press release. Composer Daniel Sabzghabaei is of Persian heritage and his work is inspired by traditional Persian melodic and rhythmic forms, folk music, art and poetry. Rounding out the cultural mélange will be the Chinese-Canadian virtuoso percussionist and composer, Pius Cheung, who will perform one of his own works and another by Sheng. Opening night will kick off with a pre-concert talk by Sheng.