Summer and Song
July 15, 2019
By : Marci Narum

By Jan Schulz

Photo credit: Bravo Vail!

Twilight, soft mountain breezes and the majestic Rocky Mountains: these elements offer a stunning setting for Bravo Vail! held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado.

Bravo Vail! is a summer concert series offered at this venue each June, July, and August when Vail Valley welcomes several world-class orchestras from across America and Europe.

I first experienced Bravo Vail! three summers ago and since I was most interested in the music, I knew little of the beauty and grandeur of the setting until we arrived for the first concert. Not only were we greeted by a rousing celebration of American music — the likes of Souza, Copeland, Gershwin, and Bernstein — but nature had painted a breath-taking backdrop of wild flowers, blooming trees, and shrubs. And a bit later, the Colorado sunset washed the entire valley. The covered amphitheater seats 1,260 and about 1,300 more can sit on the adjoining hillside.

My second summer visit to Vail was no doubt my favorite in terms of music. Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved “Four Seasons” was presented by the Academy of St. Martin’s of the Fields from England. Did I mention that Joshua Bell was featured violinist and director? The group first played the traditional “Four Seasons,” but following intermission, a new cadre of musicians took the stage and filled the night with the “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by Piazzolla. I later learned that  many versions of Vivaldi’s masterpiece have been created such as a Japanese Kito ensemble, traditional Chinese instruments, Celtic Woman Irish Band, and it was even featured in the Disney hit movie “Frozen” as well as countless movie and commercial soundtracks. Never in Vivaldi’s wildest dreams could he have imagined all of this!

More than Music

I travel to Vail for the music but experience so much more. Vail has great shopping venues, art galleries where artists come to exhibit during the summer season, and world-class restaurants. More music is also out there; one evening we found a live jazz concert. It seems that musicians playing all genres of music hang out in Vail during the summer. 

Of course Vail is also a great place for outdoor activities. A word of caution while hiking: stick to the trails! One morning, my host Hayden took me and his dog Daisy out on the trail behind his condo for a nature hike. After a few minutes of breathing in the fresh mountain air and exclaiming about the scenery, we decided to leave the trail to explore some wild flowers in the meadow. All of a sudden Hayden stopped abruptly and commanded: “Stop talking and stand perfectly still!”

I froze in my tracks as he motioned to a large black bear about 20 feet from us. 

“Now,” he whispered, “walk backwards very slowly and hope he doesn’t see us.” 

I worried that the dog would bark at the bear, revealing our presence. She didn’t. We continued walking backward for what seemed like a lifetime but was, in reality, only minutes. 

“Oh no, he saw us,” said Hayden. And there was the big black bear coming toward us.

At just that moment a noisy hiker came jogging down the path. She saw us and blew a shrill whistle, which dew the bear’s attention away from us. She was, however, not in any danger since bears rarely go on humans’ walking trails.

Later, I asked Hayden what he would have done if the bear had attacked us.

“Sacrifice Daisy.”

So, consider enriching your life with world-class music and nature, if you dare.

Summer Outdoor Concerts in North Dakota

One doesn’t have to travel to far away venues to experience the joy of outdoor music. It’s available close to home all summer long. Consider checking out:

  • Concert series every Monday through Thursday until August 19 in Mandan Dykshoorn Park from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre & Arts Park, celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer. Tickets and show schedule:
  • The Medora Musical nightly at 7:30 p.m. (MDT) in the Burning Hills Amphitheatre in Medora
  • Minot State Summer Theatre presents “Big Fish” July 10-15 and “Beauty & the Beast July 24-28 and July 30-Aug. 3
  • Fargo Blues Festival July 26 & 27 at Newman outdoor field
  • North Dakota State Fair July 19-27

Jan Schultz is a retired teacher from both Century High School and Bismarck State College. In her retirement, she has written for several magazines, practices the piano, attempts to paint, and reads for pleasure and for her book club. She regularly visits her three children and five grandchildren who live all over the country.

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