Bear Valley Music Festival
Cool mountain air and two weeks of concerts are the big draws at the Bear Valley Music Festival, which begins Saturday, July 30th. Jeff Hudson met conductor Carter Nice to discuss the series.
You’ve probably noticed that when people organize a summer music festival, they don’t put it in a hot spot like California’s Central Valley. No, summer music festivals are held in places like Bear Valley, up in the Sierra, where the wildflowers are still blooming in late July, and the weather’s refreshingly cool. Just ask Carter Nice. “If you look at the Valley, where it’s 105 degrees, in Bear Valley, we’re probably 70, 75 degrees," says Nice. "The concerts take place in a parking lot, and we put up a large, almost like a circus tent. It’s pretty amazing that inside a tent, you can get the kind of acoustics that we seem to be able to get there.”
I’ll admit it, I was skeptical. So I walked into the middle of the tent, turned on my microphone, and raised my voice, fully expecting dead sound. Was I wrong. There’s quite a bit of reverb inside the tent.
Perhaps it’s the elevation. It’s a fact that singers try to arrive a few days early, so they can acclimate.
“Naturally, at 7,000 feet, there’s less air than there is at sea level. So it takes everyone a few days to get used to the altitude, including the conductor. You’re up there waving your arms around, it’s like jogging ten miles at the altitude,” says Nice.
This summer, the Bear Valley concerts feature a Rossini opera, symphonies by Haydn, Brahms and Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherezade.”
And the festival is once again hosting pianist Olga Kern, gold medalist in the 2001 Van Cliburn Competition.
“Actually, this will be her fifth season returning to Bear Valley, and five seasons for a guest artists is really unheard of in the music business. But she’s been so popular, and she’s so talented, that we wanted to bring her back for one last time. And this will be, probably, her last summer for a few years, as there was another Cliburn competition this year, and very outstanding young pianist is engaged to come to Bear Valley next year,” says Nice.
The Bear Valley Music Festival begins Saturday night, with a pop concert by Mary Wilson and The Supremes, and continues through August 14th