Bravo! The Vail Music Festival opened its 35th season Thursday with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.
Tom Cohen Photography/courtesy photo

Cheer! The Vail Music Festival kicked off its 35th season Thursday night under cloudy skies and thunder playing its own little music as people made their way to the outdoor venue.

“It wouldn’t be Bravo’s opening night! Vail without a little rain and thunder, but we know what to do, don’t we? We bundle up and go out and see amazing music,” Bravo! Caitlin Murray, executive director of the Vail Music Festival, addressed the crowd at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, which has covered pavilion seating and lawn seating and seats approximately 2,800 guests.

The weather didn’t stop fans from coming to listen to the music, even though their tickets were for garden seats. Longtime Vail resident Rick Sackbauer was dressed for the elements, wearing rain pants, a raincoat, waterproof shoes, and he even left a pickleball game early to get a good lawn seat.

“I come to Bravo! for 35 years. We need rain, and we get it. We have umbrellas, and there are more umbrellas at home,” Sackbauer said.

Rain or shine, it was a celebration of getting together and enjoying classical music.

“We’re back and we’re thrilled,” Anne-Marie McDermott said as she addressed the audience in her 12th season as Bravo! Artistic Director of Vail when she introduced the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

“Obtaining a chamber orchestra was a dream of Bravo for many years. It provides a different auditory experience and a different visual experience seeing an orchestra without a conductor,” McDermott said.

“These are two iconic works by Beethoven that will really make it feel like a celebration,” McDermott said of the evening’s works, including Violin Sonata No. 9 Symphony No. 4 and Stephan Jackiw on violin. .

Between umbrellas and brightly colored raincoats, there were smiles and handshakes during intermission.

“I’m thrilled, it’s been my favorite thing to do in the summer since it started all those years ago and I’ve been here every year,” said Neal Groff of Denver and Edwards.

“I come to Bravo! Vail for 22 years. Whether I bring my own picnic spread out on the lawn or dress up and sit in the pavilion seats, I’m excited to be social again and enjoying the symphony,” said Sue Franciose of Vail.

Audiences will be treated to two more evenings of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performing at the Ford Amphitheatre. On Saturday there will be an evening of piano with Bach, followed by a work commissioned by Chris Rogerson that McDermott will perform, which is part of Bravo’s Symphonic Commissioning Project.

“We have made a commitment to commission a short work for each of our symphony orchestras each summer and it is not only a pleasure to do so, but also a great honor and responsibility. We will have many composers here this summer and you will have the opportunity to hear new works this season,” said McDermott.

On Sunday, listeners will be treated to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra with violinist Eunice Kim and Xavier Foley on double bass performing his own composition, “Pour la justice et la paix”. Audiences will also hear works by Bootsini, Britten, and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

For more on what you’ll hear on Sunday’s show, catch the pre-concert talk featuring Abigail Shupe from Colorado State University at 5 p.m. For more information and to obtain tickets, visit