Something incredible happened in Utah some 300 million years ago that can only be described as mighty. In the region of southern Utah’s magnificent canyon country, incredible geological forces were in motion. They eventually birthed the red rock country we know today, punctuated by slick rock domed cathedrals, massive arches, hoodoos, spires and pinnacles in a landscape that can be described with hushed awe as monumental.
Fast forward millions of years: the federal government created the national parks system and fortuitously safeguarded five magical parcels in this region each known for their unique brand of awe-inspiring beauty. More than 908,000 acres in total span the protected lands in Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion national parks. One would be hard pressed to find another state in the union with a more condensed collection of treasures within such easy proximity, collectively marketed to outside tourists as the Mighty 5.
For the leaders of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, being inspired by Utah’s stunning natural beauty is part of the cultural identity of the organization. Music is ethereal, as is nature, and that same incomparable beauty can be seen in Utah’s 84,916 square miles, where there exist a vast diversity of landscape – from canyons to slick rock, forest land, jutting mountain ranges, and high alpine lakes.
It made perfect sense to pair the universal message of music – which transcends all boundaries and languages – with the largest non-profit performing arts organization in the state and the tourism angle of presenting Utah’s unforgettable landscape to visitors outside of the state. Better yet – why not create the ultimate opportunity which presented live classical music experiences with the Mighty 5 national parks to showcase the best of both worlds?
The initial seed for a tour began to take root in the spring of 2013. Since then, the Mighty 5 Tour has blossomed and taken on a life of its own. David Green, senior vice president and COO for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, compared the concept with the joining of two of Utah’s greatest treasures – the landscape and the exceptional music. “Pairing some of the most stunning beauty in Utah with the flagship of our state’s music arts organizations will be one of the most unique and most important projects we have planned in the past 20 plus years I have been here,” explained Green. “We often get the opportunity to tour these special locations for our education outreach programs which reach the entire state. But the Mighty 5 Tour will be a chance to serve the communities that support the parks and the symphony in a different way. I see it bringing tourism together with our communities – the lucky ones that are able to see one of these events may have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
As cultural ambassadors for the state, the symphony, smaller chamber ensembles, and opera soloists will present a series of unforgettable free outdoor concerts under the baton of Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer near each of Utah’s iconic national parks to create one epic experience of a lifetime.
“Utah is an amazing place to live and to visit, and Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is able to attract some of the best musicians, artists, and staff because of the variety of outdoor activities possible and great natural beauty of our state,” explained Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Melia Tourangeau. The fact that the organization is approaching its 75th anniversary celebrations in the coming year makes a big, outside-the-box tour all the more exciting. “Collaborating with Utah’s National Parks and the state’s Mighty 5 tourism initiative through our Mighty 5 Tour allows us to jointly celebrate the natural and artistic treasures of Utah. We hope that hearing exceptional music in these outstanding landscapes will demonstrate why a thriving performing arts community is an integral part of what makes Utah great.”
Beginning in the sleepy town of Teasdale on the outskirts of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera will kick off the first of four free Mighty 5 Tour open air concerts that connect the orchestra with the small communities that weave together the southern part of the state. Capitol Reef is known for highly colored sedimentary rock formations in high, narrow gorges.
Next, the symphony heads to Red Cliffs Lodge which sits on the river bank opposite Arches National Park, where they play against a backdrop of brilliant fiery rock escarpments that jut into the heavens. Unusual stone arches, windows and pedestals caused by erosion characterize the unique landscape of Arches. Thirty miles away lies Canyonlands National Park, a colorful wilderness with impressive red-rock canyons and spires.
An open lot adjacent to the border of Bryce National Park will serve as the third concert location, just steps from the surrealistic, brilliantly colored eroded rocks for which the park is known. And the final concert is at the magnificent outdoor OC Tanner Amphitheater in Springdale outside Zion National Park’s enormous stone monoliths and multicolored gorges.
These open air evening concerts will be supplemented with opportunities to explore the parks and embark upon outdoor activities during the day with Utah Symphony musicians. Unique one-of-a-kind musical experiences will bring visitors face-to-face with chamber orchestra players in unexpected natural settings of southern Utah’s wilderness. Imagine the sublime wonder of listening to a string quartet weave together music in the shadow of a natural slick rock amphitheater. Or picture the sheer exhilaration of witnessing a soloist unfurl an ode to the wind atop a rocky clifftop under the blue expanse of open sky. It’s this type of experience Utah Symphony | Utah Opera endeavors to create with the Mighty 5 Tour.
Said Music Director Thierry Fischer: “The Mighty 5 Tour is a great opportunity to combine two kinds of beauty: nature and sound. Here in Utah we have the unique and wonderful fortune of being surrounded by five amazing national parks, and with this tour we plan to celebrate by mixing all the elements of nature with beautiful sounds.”