Tomkins explains further: “We have a variety of musical genres, which all, in my mind, fall under the heading of chamber music because it’s small ensembles, but it’s different musical styles. At the heart of it is classical, but we also have Latin, jazz, and traditional music.”
Including a variety of genres is not what makes this festival unique, though. Its venues are remote scenic spots and rock formations located in the landscape around Moab. For example, this year there will be four musical hikes, where the audience treks in through fairly rough terrain to find a small group of musicians ready to perform in the outdoors, far removed from city sounds.
Grotto concerts, performed in a spectacular acoustically perfect grotto, are another Moab Music Festival tradition. The audience takes a 45-minute jet boat ride down the Colorado River to nature’s most spectacular “concert hall.” The festival’s three grotto events typically sell out months ahead of time.
Care is taken to select the outdoor natural venues, explains Tomkins. “There are great opportunities in terms of acoustics. You can find little outcroppings that will reflect sound out in certain places. We think about what kind of view people will have while listening, and if the sun will be beating down on them. There’s a lot to think about,” she says. “The same thing goes into choosing the musicians. They have to be comfortable with being out of their normal circumstances.”
The result of all of that planning is a festival that presents the highest level of performance in a uniquely beautiful and intimate setting. “The idea is having a concert, and then going out during intermission and seeing these rocks that look like they are on fire,” says Tomkins. “The artists are in contact with the audience members and visiting and mingling after and before the concerts. Returning artists make friends in the community and look forward to seeing them every year.”
There are also a couple concerts held indoors at Moab’s Star Hall and a free family picnic. Barrett and Tomkins say that the community of Moab, which was cautiously wary in 1992 when they began, has embraced the festival. The festival organizers give back to the community by performing free assemblies for all of the kids in the Grand County school districts each year.