Bravo! Vail Music Festival enters into 35th season

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra welcomes crowd to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

The Bravo! Vail Music Festival opened its 35th season on Thursday with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.
Tom Cohen Photography/Courtesy photo

Bravo! Vail Music Festival opened its 35th season on Thursday night under cloudy skies and thunder making a little music of its own as people walked to the outdoor venue.  

“It would not be opening night of Bravo! Vail without a little rain and thunder, but we know what to do, right? We bundle up and come out and see incredible music,” said Bravo! Vail Music Festival executive director, Caitlin Murray as she addressed the crowd at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, which has covered seating under the pavilion and lawn seating and can seat about 2,800 guests.

The weather didn’t stop the fans from coming to hear the music, even if their tickets were for lawn seats. Longtime Vail local Rick Sackbauer was dressed for the elements, wearing rain pants, a rain coat, waterproof shoes and he even left a pickleball game early to get a good lawn seat.

“I’ve been coming to Bravo! for 35 years. We need rain, and we’re getting it. We have umbrellas, and there’s more umbrellas at the house,” Sackbauer stated.

Rain or shine, it was a celebration of being back together and enjoying classical music.

Support Local Journalism

“We’re back and we’re thrilled,” Anne-Marie McDermott said as she addressed the audience during her 12th season as Bravo! Vail’s artistic director as she introduced the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

“To get a chamber orchestra was a dream of Bravo’s for many years. It offers a different aural experience and a different visual experience seeing an orchestra without a conductor,” McDermott said.

“These are two iconic works of Beethoven that will really make this feel like a celebration,” McDermott said of the evening’s works including Violin Sonata No. 9 Symphony No. 4 and Stephan Jackiw on violin.

Between the umbrellas and brightly colored raincoats were smiles and handshakes during intermission.

“I’m ecstatic, it’s my favorite thing to do in the summer ever since it began all those years ago and I’ve been here every year,” said Neal Groff of Denver and Edwards.

“I’ve been coming to Bravo! Vail for 22 years. Whether I’m bringing my own picnic spread on the lawn or dressing up and sitting in pavilion seating I’m excited to be social again and enjoy the symphony,” said Sue Franciose of Vail.

The audience will be treated to two more nights of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performing at the Ford Amphitheater. On Saturday, there will be an evening of piano with Bach and then a commissioned work done by Chris Rogerson that McDermott will play, which is part of Bravo’s Symphonic Commissioning Project.

“We have taken on the commitment of commissioning a short work for each of our symphony orchestras every summer, and it’s not only a thrill to do this but also a great honor and a responsibility. We’ll have many of the composers out here this summer and you’ll have an opportunity to get to hear new works this season,” McDermott said.

On Sunday, the listeners will be treated to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra featuring violinist Eunice Kim and Xavier Foley on double bass performing his own composition, “For Justice and Peace.” Concertgoers will also hear works by Bottesini, Britten, and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

To gain more knowledge of what you will hear at Sunday’s show, go to the pre-concert talk featuring Abigail Shupe from Colorado State University at 5 p.m. For more information and to get tickets visit

Support Local Journalism