BLOG

String Quartets in the Grand Canyon?

 

What’s the weirdest place you can think of to hear classical music? I’ve played in bars, jails, tents, churches and concert halls all over the world and thought I’d seen it all. Then, I got a message on Facebook inviting me to play string quartets in the Grand Canyon!

 

25F0D22D-7339-4FB5-A252-7A3D4B1ED5F3_1_1

My first thought was that I was being pranked. Is bringing string instruments to a natural place like that actually possible or advisable? It turns out, if someone loans a carbon fiber instrument to the trip and you have an intrepid spirit, you can!

 

So what was the trip like? Well, it consisted of being rowed or paddling oneself down the Colorado River, awed by the canyon walls surrounding you. The slow moving, beautiful scenery would be interrupted every few miles by a rapid that ranged from timid to an exhilarating water roller coaster. Each evening we would camp at a stunning site, were served a delicious meal and went to sleep while staring at the stars. In the morning we’d start the trip on the river again, stopping at a side canyon to perform a string quartet concert with acoustics provided by the canyon, an unimaginable experience prior to having it. This process was repeated each day with the natural contours of the canyon itself providing much variety.

B7754595-404B-4ADC-86D8-5F478BFD66F7_1_1

 

This commercial trip included 19 paying adventurers, 7 guides and 1 string quartet. We traveled the 225 mile trip down the Colorado River from Lees Ferry to Diamond Peak. I have to admit that the proposition scared me at first, mostly because we went at the end of June, the hottest time of year in that part of the world (can go up to 50 degrees C.). Apparently, this adventurous trip has been happily replayed every summer for over 40 years, so they’ve worked out the kinks.

The highlights for me were:

  • rafting a 20-foot wave

  • getting a massage from a waterfall

  • playing the Debussy quartet, third movement on the river, surrounded by rock

  • Meeting a rattle snake from a distance of 2 feet

Things I learned:

  • I’m no athlete but I can enjoy exercising

  • I’m tougher than I thought

  • Rapids are fun

  • Somehow you can fit food, shelter and belongings for 15 days in three boats only powered by humans

  • The desert is unbelievably dry

  • One’s ankles swell up when it is unbelievably dry

  • There is an unfathomable amount of varied geology in the world

  • Sand is hard on the skin and takes away your fingerprints

  • People uninterested in classical music can become interested in a unique setting

  • The finer points of artistic presentation aren’t always the most important

3E110DC0-85EF-4D36-A4FC-EC2283E2D36F_1_1

A big thank you to Mary Lee (French horn) for training with me leading up to the trip. I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much without her time and encouragement.