In Durango, July is a wonderful explosion of color, laughter, and long, luxurious summer days. The river flows beneath the warm sun and the wildflowers raise their faces toward the skies. July is a time to embrace all that is beautiful in the world, and Music in the Mountains—southwest Colorado’s long-running classical music festival—embodies that perfectly. For three weeks in July, musicians of the highest caliber come from across the nation to celebrate their art and share their truly impressive talents with the Durango community. Music in the Mountains brings the richness and beauty of classical music to the Southwest. Not only does the festival entertain and delight its audiences, it also raises money for the organization’s year-round music education program, Music in the Mountains Goes to School. Festival Director Angie Beach sat down with me over coffee to discuss just what Music in the Mountains is all about and what we can expect to experience this year. At its core, she explained, “It’s about the music. It’s about the musicians that we bring here and the experience that people have when they go to the concerts.” Upholding that unwavering attention to the music and the experience requires constant commitment to the integrity of the festival and sometimes, as with all things in life, it requires change. As the festival embarks upon its thirty-third year this July, festival goers will notice a few significant and exciting differences, the most apparent being its move away from Purgatory Resort.
“We have a new primary home venue this year,” Angie explained. “We were at Purgatory for 32 years under the festival tent and while there was a magic with that venue that people are going to miss, we are also really excited about this new direction.” This year the festival is partnering with the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College to create a new experience for the orchestra audiences and musicians. Yes, this does mean that the iconic white tent will stay packed away this summer, but it also means a few other things.For one, the Community Concert Hall is a larger venue, able to seat 616 visitors rather than the 551 held under the tent. It has a larger stage, offering more flexibility for performances. Angie pointed out that the Ella, Louis & Friends event, featuring Byron Stripling and Carmen Bradford, would not have been possible at the festival tent. The concert hall will allow for a larger-than-life reimagining of the featured iconic jazz duets and solos. Additionally, Angie pointed out some of the other advantages that come with their move to the Community Concert Hall. “The acoustics will be much better, and we won’t be competing with rollercoasters and zip lines or with weather.” She also noted that “as it will be an in-town venue, we are so excited for the economic impact that it will bring to Downtown Durango, especially for lodging and for restaurants.”
Today, Durango Mountain Realty is a valuable part of the resort experience. Sitting down with the two women felt like sitting in a living room with friends. The conversation flowed smoothly, and it was clear that the brokers and staff at Durango Mountain Realty know the market, and they genuinely love their jobs and the people with whom they connect. “It’s a fun place to work because most of the people who walk in the door are owners, or they have rented here, or they have skied here, or they are mountain bike enthusiasts. I mean, what’s not to love about Purgatory? It’s a special place,” Jaime said. Cyrilla added, “You also meet people from all over the world. One of the first things we always ask people is, ‘Where are you from?’”
It probably helps that they also believe in what they are selling. Jaime pulled out a chart revealing the price differences among other resorts, and she pointed out that “this is really the best deal for a ski resort property in Colorado.” Purgatory is truly competitive both in lift ticket values and real estate prices. “It’s just really a very family-friendly, casual vacation resort environment overall.”
The proximity of the new home venue to downtown will also make the festival more accessible to visitors from neighboring towns. “We are hoping to attract a wider audience from our nearby drive markets,” Angie explained. “So, people from Pagosa Springs, Farmington, Cortez, and other surrounding communities will hopefully be more likely to make the drive to enjoy the concerts.” In the spirit of reaching the surrounding communities, the festival’s opening concert on July 6 will be held in Bayfield at the Bayfield Performing Arts Center. There will also be a night dedicated to the music of Charlie Chaplin held at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez on July 11. “FY5 is the featured performer at our first concert, and local Durango band Stillhouse Junkies will be opening for them. We are also going to have a beer garden,” Angie said, noting the impressive quality of the Bayfield venue. “It’s a fabulous performing arts center.”
Ultimately, the festival is dedicated to the music and the experience, and to creating something truly unforgettable for audiences. “We know that this is a pivotal year,” Angie acknowledged. “We know that this is a big change, so we want to make sure that every single thing we bring will be amazing. We have the best soloists and music programming and we want to make sure we are reaching everyone.” From the Chocolate Indulgence benefit event at Cascade Village Events to Paddington Bear’s First Concert at the Community Concert Hall, this festival really does strive to bring something for everyone. As the festival evolves, it aims to stay true to its classical orchestral roots but also to incorporate variety. This season’s closing night will see opera introduced into the lineup for the first time. Also, the past few years have seen the introduction of more pop music, a trend that continues this year.
“We are going to have more pops orchestra performances than we have had in the past,” Angie said. “I am excited about our lineup. I think it’s a great balance. We are a classical music festival, and that’s always going to be our core product offering, but our community really loves the pops genre too.” In fact, the Pops Night Benefit Dinner and Concert is the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year. Along with the other changes taking place this season, this event will be moving to a new venue.
“The Sky Ute Casino Events Center is the only nearby facility big enough to host an event of this level, and we’re excited to have the space to really showcase the talent that will be on display that evening,” Angie said. The performance is called “First Ladies of Song,” and the night will include a multi-course dinner, wine, live and silent auctions, and of course a concert celebrating the music of female icons such as Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Adele, and more.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Angie said, excitement in her voice. “I think people are going to feel like they are stepping into a Vegas event, and not because of the casino. Everything is so well done, from the lighting to the multicourse meal, the presentation of the food, and the screens behind the orchestra. The music is really going to sound great in there.” As Angie and I wrapped up our coffee date it was clear that there was so much more she wanted to share about this exciting new chapter in the life of this incredible organization. “Truly, the best way to experience the joy of Music in the Mountains is to join us during the festival,” Angie said. “We’re so excited to bring such a phenomenal event to the Durango community again this year and can’t wait to celebrate this new chapter in our story.” This will be a year to remember as the festival continues to evolve, grow, and complement the beauty of our magnificent Colorado summers.
“From the Chocolate Indulgence benefit event at Cascade Village Events to Paddington Bear’s First Concert at the Community Concert Hall, this festival really does strive to bring something for everyone."
Story written by: Sara Knight Photos Provided by: Music in the Mountains