Conductor Steichen keyed up for his Deer Valley Music Festival return
Patriotic concert kicks off summer season
Utah Symphony Guest Conductor Jerry Steichen loves leading the orchestra during the Deer Valley Music Festival.
“My fondest memories of being with the Utah Symphony is conducting at Deer Valley,” Steichen told The Park Record during a phone call from Chicago. “To turn around from leading the symphony to seeing the audience on the bunny slope on the mountain every night is amazing.”
Deer Valley Music Festival will open this year at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, with “Patriotic Celebration” to usher in the Fourth of July weekend at the Snow Park Amphitheater.
The program, featuring vocalist Lisa Vroman, will include an array of American pop and classical selections as well as a couple of medleys and ballads, Steichen said.
One of his favorite pieces is a song called “A Letter from Sullivan Ballou.”
The letter was in the Ken Burns’ ‘Civil War’ documentary and John Kander, who composed music for the Tony Award-winning “Chicago,” composed music to its words for soprano Renee Fleming.
“I can’t even talk about this without crying,” Steichen said.
The letter was written by volunteer Union Major in the Second Rhode Island Infantry
Regiment to his wife on the eve of the first battle of the Civil War.
“It begins with how he is committed to the ideals of freedom and democracy that our forefathers fought for and that he is in the right fighting for equality for all men,” Steichen said. “Then he goes on to say that the love of his wife, Sarah, are like cables that hold him to this Earth.”
Ballou closes the letter by telling his wife not to mourn for him when he’s gone.
“He wants her to know that he’s waiting for her,” Steichen said. “He also said when she feels a breath of wind on her temple, it’s not the wind, but him.”
Sullivan Ballou died in battle one week after writing the letter.
Vroman introduced Steichen to “The Letter from Sullivan Ballou.”
“I hadn’t heard it, so I went home and looked it up and cried the rest of the night,” he said. “This is definitely one of the highlights of the evening.”
Steichen said he is looking forward to working with Vroman, who is portrayed Christine in the touring production of “Phantom of the Opera” during the 1990s.
“We started work in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ together in 1992, so, we’ve known each other forever,” Steichen said. “She’s one of those people who I would pay to hear her sing the phone book or the alphabet, because she has a voice that can absolutely do anything: full, rock-out belts, jazz, classic love songs.”
Steichen said this Saturday’s concert is a great way to celebrate the weekend, but also show off Vroman’s vocal prowess.
“She doesn’t know how to separate singing, acting and creating magical theater,” he said. “She’s just the right person to bring a patriotic program to Deer Valley.”
Steichen said each piece on the program was selected after much thought and deliberation.
“During this time in history, we so need to be aware and mindful of what we stand for as Americans,” he said. “So, this is what we looked for in each song.”
There are fun works such as “When Did I Fall In Love” from the musical “Fiorello” and “Anthem” from the musical “Chess.”
“I have never seen ‘Fiorello,’ but I have been conducting ‘When I Did I Fall in Love’ for years,” Steichen said.
He first heard the song during his “Phantom of the Opera” days with Vroman.
“We did AIDs benefits and one of the singers, Martha Arnold, sang it and introduced me to the song,” he said. “We all fell in love with it on that tour.”
Also on the bill is Robert Wendell’s “Old Fashioned Summer” medley that includes renditions of “School Days,” “In the Good Old Summertime,” “Sidewalks of New York,” “Bicycle Built for Two,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “By the Sea.”
“It starts out as waltzes and then goes into a presto version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ with bats being banged in the background,” Steichen said. “It’s going to be really fun.”
Steichen enjoys performing the Armed Forces Salute, which includes the songs “The
Cassion Song” from the Army, “Semper Paratus” from the Coast Guard, “Marine’s Hymn” from the Marines, “Wild Blue Yonder” from the U.S. Air Force and “Anchors Aweigh” from the Navy.
“It always make me cry when we ask those wonderful, sweet men and ladies stand up, because they are so proud to have served our country,” he said.
Steichen remembers meeting a member of the Coast Guard during a flight a few weeks ago.
“I started singing the Coast Guard song and he said, ‘How do you know the song?’” Steichen said. “I said, ‘Because I’m a conductor who is lucky enough to direct the Armed Forces medley every year.’”
Saturday can’t arrive soon enough for the conductor.
“It will be so great to get back to Utah, because I feel like I’ve been gone forever,” he said. “It’s like seeing all of my friends. I feel like everyone in the audience is my friend, because I wander around during the other concerts to meet everybody.
“I’m actually flying in a day early so I can hang out and see people.”
The Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s Deer Valley Music Festival will kick off with “Patriotic Celebration” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1, at the Snow Park Amphitheater with singer Lisa Vroman and conductor Jerry Steichen. Tickets range from $36-$93 for adults and are $15 for youths. For information, visit http://www.deervalleymusicfestival.org.
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