The new Strings in the Mountains pavilion

Photo by John F. Russell

The new Strings in the Mountains pavilion

New Strings Pavilion will offer space, keep intimacy

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For more about Strings' summer concerts, visit www.stringsinthem... or call (970) 879-5056.

Some artists performing this season:

June 29: Folk icon and original Woodstock veteran Ritchie Havens

July 3: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

July 5: Todd Phillips, concertmaster of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, leads a program of "Mostly Mozart"

July 12: Resident artists at the University of Colorado and one of the world's great string quartets, the Takacs Quartet

July 18: Pavilion dedication with Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

July 19: 2005 Van Cliburn finalist Chu-Fang Huang performs in a pavilion dedication concert

Aug. 9: Beethoven is the sole composer in a season finale featuring a 44-piece orchestra a Strings first

Performances at Strings in the Mountains this summer are apt to make your heart soar like never before - thanks to the soaring ceiling in the new Strings Pavilion, set to open June 28.

The $3 million-plus pavilion was under construction throughout one of the snowiest winters in Steamboat Springs history. The new facility gives the 21-year-old music festival a stage large enough to seat a full orchestra - something not possible in Strings' first two decades. And all the more is that the pavilion is accomplishing that without sacrificing any of the intimacy for which the festival has become known.

If anything, the new performance space will create the perception that the musicians are closer than ever to their audience. Strings President and Executive Director Kay Clagett quickly points out that the concrete risers that form the foundation for the music festival seating have remained virtually unchanged through the construction process.

So why does the stage appear to be so much closer to the seating area? For one, there's a new proscenium that traces a graceful new boundary to the front of the performance area.

"The proscenium is perfect. The piano is going to be right there," Clagett said.

However, the true answer lies in human psychology, Clagett said. In short, it's an illusion.

"The taller roof changes your perception and makes the horizontal plane look closer," Clagett said. "And the roof seems to float."

And if you think the stage appears close from the middle of the seating area, try standing at center stage and imagine the seats filled. It's almost scary to realize how directly the artists will observe the individual members of the audience.

To be certain, the architectural design of the soaring ceiling, evoking the neck, bridge and even the strings of an instrument, will cause Strings patrons to gaze upward, but it's the music happening in front of them this summer that matters most.

Strings Operations and Non-Classical Music Programming Director Betse Grassby said her organization has taken a bold step this year and commissioned a new piece of music by renowned pianist Mike Garson. It is scheduled for its world premiere Aug. 2 with five-time Grammy-winning vocalist Nnenna Freelon and clarinetist Mark Nuccio.

Both artists have performed at Strings many times throughout the years, and that reassures Grassby and Clagett that they will produce a new piece of music that will resonate with the Strings audience.

"They're both familiar with Steamboat - they have a concept. The idea is that we choose the composer and players and let them take it away."

Grassby said she's confident Garson will produce a signature composition for Strings that is accessible to a diverse audience.

"I want this music to be both playable and approachable," she said.

The new Strings performance pavilion will offer many less glamorous advantages that will benefit artists, organizers and audiences. Start with the availability of air conditioning and heat and continue to a large backstage area with room for two rehearsal pianos and much-improved dressing rooms.

Many Strings regulars may worry that the new concert hall will sacrifice the open feeling the old tent offered. They need not fret. The huge glass doors ringing the seating area telescope to open wider than the tent flaps ever did. Even better, they were designed with acoustic glass.

Clagett and Grassby say the width and breadth of people donating to their capital campaign has been gratifying.

"We have more than 500 donors," Clagett said. "I can't tell you how many $25 gifts we've received. It's incredibly broad-based. There has been a lot of pride that has gone into this from start to finish."

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