Back in the good ol’ days in Jackson Hole a winter evening’s entertainment might have involved gathering the family around the spinet or having a friend break out his fiddle.
In the good new days in the valley, it’s not too different, especially now that the Grand Teton Music Festival’s Community Concert Series has become a monthly event to mark on the calendar from October through April.
The 2019-20 season of free Community Concerts commences this Friday — as usual, the second Friday of the month — with three faculty from the Idaho State University in Pocatello’s music school known as the Monarch trio: Hyeri Choi on violin, Eleanor Christman Cox on cello and Kori Bond on piano.
In addition to having some of our regional neighbors stop by to perform, one of Jackson’s own, festival President and CEO Andrew Palmer Todd, will take to the piano for part of the program.
“I’m joining [Choi] and [Cox] for Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 4,” said Todd, “and then the three of them will do the Ravel [Piano] Trio — two stalwarts of the chamber music repertoire.”
These days, thanks in part to the festival tapping the northern Rocky Mountain region for Community Concert performers, fewer people will be surprised to know that Southern Idaho has a vibrant classical music scene. In addition to a long frontier and Mormon heritage, where music-making was a valued family and community skill, ISU, Brigham Young University-Idaho and Boise State University (not to mention ISU and University of Idaho satellites in the state’s capital) all have highly regarded music schools led by accomplished faculty members from throughout the country and beyond.
Bond said the Monarch Trio formed about six years ago.
“We really wanted to form a continuing group,” she said, “not only for the camaraderie and to perform concerts, and also as outreach to high school visits. We have done a lot of those types of performances as well,” to both recruit students and to let the wider world know what ISU’s music program has to offer. In fact, she said, Choi and Cox visited Teton County schools just last week, and they plan to visit again in the spring.
And last week’s visit wasn’t their first trip to the Tetons.
“Andrew contacted me first,” Bond said. “He invited me for lunch on his way to Salt Lake City and we became acquainted, exchanged some of our recordings.”
Then, a couple of years ago, she stepped up to perform when pianist Jason Hardink was unable to make one of the Grand Teton Music Festival’s Brahms programs. Choi and Cox have worked with Todd on past Community Concerts, too. They’re two of the top-notch performers the festival taps from Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to populate off-season programs and extend the festival’s reach to include the region in its summer activities.
Friday’s event features two oft-paired gems of the trio repertoire.
Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor was composed in 1914, just as World War I was starting in Europe. The composer wrote it quickly, Bond said, because he was eager to join the effort himself.
“He had this fantasy that he could be in the air force,” she said. “But he had health problems, so he did not make it into the armed services — he ended up driving a truck — but he finished the trio before he became involved.”
Perhaps the speed with which he worked was somehow responsible for some of the experimental blending of ideas the piece is known for: elements of impressionism with some of the neo-classical and neo-baroque ideas he had been working with.
“It’s been popular since he composed it,” Bond said, “even though it’s excruciatingly difficult — it’s one of the most difficult trios for these instruments.”
Dvorak’s trio, completed in 1891 and subtitled “Dumky,” which roughly translates to “little epics,” consists of six short movements that alternate between masterful late-romantic miniatures and sprightly Czech folk dances.
“It’s all very appealing,” Bond said, “an evening of greatest hits.”
The night of trios launches a season of intimate gatherings in St. John’s.
November will bring a new faculty member from Colorado State University performing works for solo piano by Franke, Barber, Liszt and Brahms. In December the festival’s own Mike Richards, of “Saxophone Cowboys” fame, will lead a program of jazz versions of holiday music. Much of the rest of the series in still in the works, including the lineup for this year’s Winter Festival, but the series will once again end with a recital by three young up-and-coming musicians, the winners of the 2019 Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship Competition.
Visit GTMF.org or call 733-1128 to secure free tickets for Thursday’s concert and for details about upcoming Community Concerts. ￼