By Jamie Leary

(CBS4) – World class musicians, conductors and soloists are returning to Vail’s Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre for the first time in more than a year, and if you ask the artists about the comeback the feeling is hard to describe.

(credit: CBS)

“There will never be another moment in my life like the moment that this Bravo season is,” said Anne-Marie McDermott, Artistic Director for Bravo!Vail. 

Bravo!Vail is the only music festival that brings together world-famous chamber and symphony orchestras on one stage. The festival, now in its 34th season, almost didn’t have a 33rd. 

“We couldn’t abandon it. We felt it was our responsibility to bring music in some way,” said McDermott. 

“There was no idea too crazy,” said Caitlin Murray, Executive Director of Bravo!Vail Music Festival.

McDermott, also a solo pianist in the series, worked with Murray on ways to keep the music alive, even entertaining playing her piano in the back of a pickup truck around the community. The final product was a bit more evolved. It was a “music box.”  

“We took a tiny home and mechanized it to turn into this mobile concert hall and we towed it from the back of a pickup truck, and we did 49 concerts last summer that way in parks, at the fire station, in people’s driveways, in cul-de-sacs sometimes for as few as four or 6 people,” said Murray. 

(credit: CBS)

While it helped the community heal, for musicians, not being able to play together left a hole.

“Musicians did a lot of streaming things, but there’s nothing like a live audience and summer venues like this, the Bravo Festival, they’re very special,” said violinist Joshua Bell. 

For Bell, Bravo!Vail is one of his favorite places to play. 

“Several years ago, I started a residency, each year coming with my orchestra where I’m music director for the Academy of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields in London , so we played here every year for several years,” Bell continued, “Now I’m back, the academy from London couldn’t come because of visa problems and the pandemic so we brought the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, which is also one of old my collaborating orchestras who I love, and so it’s just great to be here.” 

Even more special? It’s the first time the Saint Paul Chamber has had the opportunity to play a concert together since the pandemic. 

“This is a group that’s an intimate chamber orchestra. They’re like family. They’ve been apart for like a year and a half so I’m actually happy to be with them on their reunion,” said Bell. 

If you think concertgoers are excited, for the artists the feeling is hard to put into words.

“We’ve all been craving … I think the arts are going to come back with gusto after this tough year,” he said. 

For the local mountain community, music has always been part of life. 

“I think it’s a real sign of the resiliency of our organization, of our community, of these musicians to be back on stage and bringing people together to celebrate again,” said Muray. “Tonight, this is a sign of normalcy. This is a sign of coming back to normal. The pandemic is not over, and certainly we have other issues that we’re facing — we’re sitting here with a wildfire not far away — and I think it’s important that no matter what we’re battling in life, music will be there.”

While most aspects of 2020 Bravo!Vail would not like to repeat, they do plan to use the music box as a way to continue bringing free music to the Vail Valley. For more information, click here.

The first part of the Bravo!Vail Series kicked off Thursday night. For more on scheduling and tickets, click here.

Jamie Leary