If there is one thing synonymous with summer in Sun Valley it’s the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. It is a Sun Valley original. There is no other place in the world where you can lie on a lawn surrounded by the peaks of the Pioneer, Smoky and Boulder mountains and soak up the sounds of a world class orchestra serenading you.
The symphony has been running for 28 seasons and is the largest privately funded free-admission symphony in America. It gathers together some of the best classical musicians in the country for two weeks every summer. There’ll be oboists from the Omaha Symphony, bassoonists from Baltimore, violinists from Des Moines, cellists from Fort Worth, as well as a slew of guest artists and soloists.
For me, the symphony is an annual must-do. Years ago, before Little Sun and Baby Sun were in the picture, I used to head to the lawn behind Sun Valley Lodge most every night for two glorious weeks in July and August. After a long day in the office, relaxing on the cool grass with a simple picnic garnished from Bald Mountain Pizza moments before, was simply heaven.
Mr. Sun, who in our early days in the valley was a wildland firefighter, was always off protecting our forests during the summer months, so it wasn’t until last year that he finally got to share in my favorite summertime activity. We took the whole family along to the Pops evening on the first Saturday of the season. As with many musical events in Sun Valley, the symphony is very child friendly (if they get too rambunctious, an impromptu playgroup tends to form just out of earshot on the lawn). But on this evening my 3 year-old and 9 month-old were transfixed (probably all that classical music I played to them in the womb). Baby Sun was clapping and squealing along with the audience and Little Sun sat blessedly still for almost 15 whole minutes.
This year, I vow to try at least one night inside the Pavilion itself, I’ve always been reluctant to give up my much coveted spot on the lawn, but after my experience at the San Francisco Ballet’s performance earlier this month, I’m beginning to see the light.
Of course the lawn experience has been enhanced in recent years, with a large LED screen displaying the action inside for all the concerts, apart from the Edgar M. Bronfman In Focus series (which begins this Sunday). The season officially begins however, on Monday July 30 – and I’ll be there to cover it. See the full schedule here, but some highlights include Saturday, August 4th for Pops Night and the family concert the following Saturday that features the world premier of a Sun Valley Summer Symphony Commission, Cowboy Bill by Alex Orfaly. The performance also includes narration by writer Ridley Pearson. For the one night I may squeeze in up there without the children, my pick is Thursday, August 9, Musicians Choice Chamber Music, featuring Mozart and Brahms
Orchestra concerts begin at 6:30pm, unless otherwise noted, and last 60-75 minutes. The Pavilion opens for concerts at 5:30pm. Pavilion seating is available from the East Entrance (West Lake Road) for each of the nine evening orchestra concerts. Ushers will direct the line for seating inside the Pavilion. Reserved seats will be released for general seating at 6:15pm.