Debuts Big Sky Festival Orchestra

By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Big Sky Classical Music Festival is meant to bring world-class music to the people – to aficionados, and to ski bums.

Now in its third year, the free festival presented by the Arts Council of Big Sky takes place in Town Center Park, Aug. 9-11.

For 2013, it will debut the Big Sky Festival Orchestra on Sunday evening. Selected by Music Director Eric Funk, the members of this orchestra comprise some of the best in Montana, as well as high caliber players from around the country, according to ACBS Executive Director Brian Hurlbut.

The orchestra, conducted by Maestro Peter Bay, will play Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture,” “Symphony No. 7,” and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring (Suite for 13 Instruments).”

Bay is conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra in Texas and Music Director for the Hot Springs Music Festival in Arkansas. A graduate of the Peabody Institute of Music, he spent 20 years directing the Britt Festival Orchestra in Oregon and has appeared with 65 different orchestras around the country.

Angella Ahn, violinist with the Ahn Trio and a professor at Montana State University, will also play with the orchestra, Hurlbut said. The trio of sisters played at the 2011 Classical Music Festival, and is one of the most well-known contemporary trios in classical music.

Compared to many classical music festivals, the Big Sky event is less “sedate,” Hurlbut said.

“Most other festivals are inside. There aren’t kids running around or food vendors set up. Most of these performers command pretty high ticket prices, so the fact that you can see them for free in an outdoor setting is pretty special. We’re trying to get people who might not normally listen to classical music there, because for one, it’s free, and two, it’s outside.”

Other festival performers include the Cassatt String Quartet on Friday, and the Florestan Trio on Saturday, performing selections from Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Copland. The Cassatt Quartet played at the inaugural festival in 2011.

“[Many of] the performers have commented – and they’ve played in some of the best classical music festivals around the country – that they love the laid back vibe,” Hurlbut said. “And that this is one of the most beautiful places they’ve ever played.”

The Big Sky Classical Music Festival is Aug. 9-11, with music beginning at 6 p.m. each evening. For more information, visit bigskyarts.org, or call (406) 995-2742.