Ben Folds will be one of the pop-orchestra highlights of the Utah Symphony’s 11th Deer Valley Music Festival performances at the Snow Park
Ben Folds will be one of the pop-orchestra highlights of the Utah Symphony's 11th Deer Valley Music Festival performances at the Snow Park Amphitheater this summer. (Photo courtesy of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera)
The 11th season of the Utah Symphony's Deer Valley Music Festival will start differently than in the past.

Instead of the traditional opening cannon fire of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," the summer concerts will commence on July 4 with the Texas Tenors, the classical crossover trio that racked up the highest votes for any vocal group when they appeared on "America's Got Talent" in 2009.

The trio — comprised of pop singer Marcus Collins, country vocalist J.C. Fisher and opera singer John Hagen — will present "Let Freedom Ring," a night of patriotic, operatic and classical-pop standards at the Snow Park Amphitheater, said Carey Cusimano, vice president of development for the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival.

"They will sing everything from 'The Star-Spangled Banner' to 'My Way' to 'Deep In the Heart of Texas,'" Cusimano said during an interview with The Park Record. "It will be really fun."

The Utah Symphony officially announced this year's Deer Valley Music Festival lineup on Tuesday, and added that ticket packages are currently available for subscribers. (See story titled "Deer Valley Music Festival ticket information")

The day after the Texas Tenors, the festival will continue the country-music inspired flair, with Kenny Rogers the following night at the Snow Park Amphitheater on July 5.

The Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, known for his story songs, "The Gambler," "Coward of the County," "Lucille" and "Reuben James," is finally coming to Deer Valley, Cusimano said.


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"There is a nostalgia there from my childhood, but I do think all generations like Kenny Rogers," she said. "He will wrap up our opening country weekend."

The following weekend, the Utah Symphony will take audiences to a "galaxy far, far away" when it performs the music of John Williams on July 11.

The Academy, Grammy and Golden Globe awards winning composer is known for the music of "Star Wars," "Jaws," the "Hook" and "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial," to name a few.

"His music appeals to all generations — from the kids who watch 'Harry Potter' to those of us growing with 'Star Wars' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,'" Cusimano said. "His music is so powerful, but it also brings up memories for us seeing these films."

On July 12, the Symphony will perform the music of U2, and on July 18, the Cannoneers of the Wasatch will blow their tops when Vladimir Kulenovic conducts the "1812 Overture."

"We're doing this performance a little later this year," Cusimano said.

One of the other pop-vocal concerts Cusimano is looking forward to is Super Diamond: Neil Diamond Tribute Concert on Aug. 2.

"I saw this show in San Francisco probably 12 years ago and it was a blast," she said. "I've been talking about bringing Super Diamond to Park City for the last few years and we're finally making it happen."

Super Diamond is a group lead by Randy Cordero, who sounds and moves just like the famed singer and songwriter whose works like "Sweet Caroline," "Song Sung Blue" and "Shilo" have touched generations of music lovers in the past 40 years.

"He's young. He's cool. And, just like Neil Diamond, he croons to the women in the front row," Cusimano said. "They call him Surreal Neil. Everything is just like the real thing. I remember being on the third row and thought to myself, 'Oh my gosh. He is playing the part.' People are going to like him."

A week after Super Diamond rocks the Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony will perform a more traditional concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Aug. 8. The concert will feature hits from the Broadway songbook.

"This has been a tradition for both organizations," Cusimano said. "We have a fantastic relationship with the choir and its director Mack Wilberg. They perform with us every other summer on the closing Friday of the festival."

Having a high-caliber choir on stage with the orchestra at Deer Valley is an amazing experience, she said.

"It's great for the musicians to perform with the choir and vice versa," Cusimano said. "It's a wonderful partnership and I know the choir enjoys performing with the orchestra and we with them."

The Deer Valley Music Festival will close with the Ben Fold Orchestral Experience on Aug. 9.

Singer-songwriter and producer Ben Folds, who is also a judge on NBC's "The Sing-Off," is a musician's musician who has not only fronted his own band, the Ben Folds Five, but has worked with singers Regina Spektor and "Weird Al" Yankovic, and embarked on experimental projects with "Star Trek" star William Shatner and authors Nick Hornby and Neil Gaiman.

"Ben Folds has fabulous orchestrations," Cusimano said. "He has these beautiful melodies and when you put them with the orchestra, it's amazing."

Folds is a creative artist and one of Cusimano's favorite singers and songwriters, she said.

"He can be a little colorful, so you should go to the concert knowing that and go in with an open mind," she said. "We're thrilled to bring him back. Having him coming this season also helps us bring in younger audiences to the festival."

The last time Folds performed at the Deer Valley Music Festival was in 2010.

"The hill couldn't have been more packed," Cusimano said. "When he sits up there and plays the piano and the violin plays softly behind him, it's like 'Oh!'"

In addition to the pops and full-orchestra shows at the Snow Park Amphitheater, the Deer Valley Music Festival schedules intimate chamber concerts at St. Mary's Catholic Church.

"These concerts are such a favorite for the classical enthusiasts who enjoy our festival," Cusimano said.

One of the highlights of these performances is the Deer Valley Music Festival debut of Maestro Thierry Fischer, the Utah Symphony's music director, who will conduct on Aug. 6.

"We are thrilled to bring him this year," Cusimano said. "He finally was able to attend the festival last year, and he told us he wanted to conduct the next time.

"Thierry has embraced the community and knows how important the festival is to the Utah Symphony," she said. "So we're thrilled to make him a physical part of it, too."

In connection with these intimate concerts, the Deer Valley Music Festival features a program called Emerging Quartets and Composers that has been a part of the festival since the beginning.

"The Muir Quartet has been our resident quartet since then and every year they have brought in two quartets and two composers to the festival during the summer," Cusimano said.

This year's quartets are the Friction Quartet and the Rosco String Quartet, and the two composers this year will be University of Utah student Nicolas Chaqui and Anthony Suter whose new works will have world premieres during the chamber performances.

"These quartets helps us build a full festival because they come in and work with our local school students and perform during the chamber concerts," Cusimano explained. "It's nice to have that element."

(For the full schedule, see accompanying story titled "The 11th Deer Valley Music Festival schedule")

For more information about the 11th annual Deer Valley Music Festival, visit deervalleymusicfestival.org or www.utahsymphony.org.