The venerable Red Lodge Civic Center again proved that it can be home to thrilling music and entertainment. The Red Lodge Music Festival wrapped up its 50th anniversary season there with a pair of grand concerts, that would not have been out of place in a much larger city, or a more sumptuous performance center. After an intense week of teaching, rehearsals, and concerts, the Music Festival Faculty presented its final concert on Saturday evening, June 8, to a packed house, with an audience of over 200 plus nearly 150 student attendees. There was one group of very special visitors: several dozen alumni from previous years, who had been students at times between the founding in 1964 and the present.
The evening opened to several exquisitely performed small ensembles, including the traditional humorous skit. This time the skit revolved around a Bugs Bunny episode involving a barber shop and Rossini’s Overture to the Barber of Seville opera. The second half of the program featured several works for a small orchestra, including most of the Music Festival Faculty. They performed Wagner’s lovely Siegfried Idyll on the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and a sensational new piece composed especially for the 50th Anniversary by resident composer, John Harmon.
Never before had Red Lodge heard such stirring sounds; andthe audience was wildly enthusiastic. Which proves that there can still be life and excitement in the rather neglected Civic Center. On Sunday, the students performed in their own bands and orchestras. They seem to have been inspired by their mentors, and performed up to the highest standards ever witnessed in the student ensembles. Not to be outdone, the students tackled some difficult works, including pieces by such illustrious composers as Monteverdi, Shostakovich, de Falla, and Sibelius. The audience was nearly as large as the preceding evening, and even more enthusiastic.
The 50th Anniversary has been one of the most successful Red Lodge Music Festivals ever, and the extra effort put in by faculty, students, staff, and supporters truly paid off. As a measure of the growing respect the Red Lodge Music Festival commands, the students and faculty this year came from 17 states and provinces, from California to New Hampshire. Artistic Director, Leonard Garrison, says “I think [the Music Festival] was a resounding success. ...It was great to see some of the alumni come back and join us for the Saturday evening concert, and celebrate with us. All of the faculty concerts had wonderful performances this year, and the special things about this 50th anniversary were on the last Saturday night’s concert when
we featured for - I believe - the first time a chamber orchestra with all of the faculty playing.”