Picnics, Pavilion And Soulful Peace



JoEllen Collins—a longtime resident of the Wood River Valley—is a teacher, writer, fabric artist, choir member and unabashedly proud grandma known as “Bibi Jo.”

The concluding atmosphere at even one of the presentations in the Sun Valley Music Festival was almost beyond description for the tug of joy and appreciation I felt at being able to hear and see this — free — in my beautiful Idaho.

It is hard to choose which of the symphonic nights to cover, and I could not attend all of them, since I had lots of family in town. I varied my location from the grass to the high level of our magnificent Pavilion at Sun Valley, and I cannot diminish the intense emotions that I experienced, no matter where I was. Shouts of pleasure for performances such as those by pianist Daniil Trifonov, festival favorites like Time for Three and the new work, Contact, by Kevin Puts, loud applause and standing accolades for Pops night and, yes, the patriotic stirs reminding us of sacrifices made so we could keep the best in our country, despite the frightening world all around us.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the great talent, attracted not only by the funds raised from so many donors but also by the excellent reputation this orchestra is getting… from the inspiring beginnings in Elkhorn and then more than twenty-five years of symphonic magic in tents and now the Pavilion and the rich lawn. I am amazed at the variety of music choices from Stravinsky to Gershwin.

This season I also felt an overall sense from those around me of a wish that everywhere in the world, people could gather like this and experience the beauty of music, the sharing of joy, and the blessings of mutual peace, serenity, and the closeness of community together. We are blessed.

During Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, amidst friends and family, a random and perhaps superficial thought came to me as I observed the calm and comfortable audience and skilled musicians. Maybe this could be a way to remind all of us of we what we love, not what we hate, about our country and our fellow citizens.

Soon after the end of China’s Cultural Revolution, I visited there one summer with a few high school students, teachers, and parents. One quiet evening in Xi’an, I happened on a Beethoven concert. Afterwards, the first violinist asked me how we Americans liked the symphonies. Among our praise and admiration for this resurgence of Western music there, I asked why there were so few large instruments in this orchestra. The answer: “Because they were too big to hide from the Red Guard.” I ached for those people who lost their instruments and ceased thriving as musicians able to choose what to play.

Well, we have instruments galore and live where we are encouraged to share our music and arts with others. Maybe we can honor the best of our natures in some ways by finding even more times to unify our differences by sitting together in mutual joy.

O.K. My cockeyed optimist is taking over, but it doesn’t hurt to hope.

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