Conner Gray Covington named as Deer Valley Music Festival’s principal conductor
Deer Valley Music Festival: Chris Botti
7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 28
Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater
$15 to $102
Conner Gray Covington has been given a new title for this year’s Deer Valley Music Festival.
The Utah Symphony Associate Director is now also the festival’s principal conductor, a role he will jump into when he leads the orchestra and Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti Friday night at the Snow Park Amphitheater.
“It’s really a great honor, and it will be nice to have a little more say in the types of programming we do with the festival,” Covington said. “I have a great relationship with the musicians, staff and management and music director Thierry Fischer. And I’m looking forward to an expanded role up there in the summer.”
Covington is also looking forward to collaborating with a slate of guest artists that includes Botti on Friday and the Indigo Girls on Aug. 10.
“When we work with the artists, we first ask them to submit a list and orchestration of numbers they want to perform,” he said. “I then go through the list and scores, and watch videos to get an idea of what these pieces are.”
The day of the concert, Covington will meet with the artists for about 30 minutes before going into rehearsals.
“We usually only have time for one rehearsal,” he said. “So, if we are playing a Friday night show, we’ll rehearse Friday morning. Then we’ll drive up late Friday afternoon, and do the show.”
While the symphony musicians are used to this quick turnaround, some of the artists aren’t, according to Covington.
“There have been times when an artist will be taken aback and become a little tentative before a show,” he said. “So they sometimes drive up to Deer Valley earlier in the afternoon to do sound checks.”
Covington credits the symphony’s production crew with being able to tackle technical difficulties before they even start.
“They can pretty much do this all on the fly,” he said.
Performing at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater is one of the perks of Covington’s job, he said.
“I’ve conducted at most of the big summer venues across the country, and for me Deer Valley is right at the very top of the list to hear live orchestral music,” he said.
In addition to the amphitheater concerts, Covington will conduct three of the five intimate chamber orchestra concerts at St. Mary’s Catholic Church this season.
“St. Mary’s is also an amazing venue,” he said. “It is obviously different than the hill, but there is an intimacy that lends to the music.”
Covington said the lighting at St. Mary’s adds to the intimacy.
“It feels so open because there are so many windows,” he said. “So when the sun goes down, it creates a special atmosphere.”
Working with guest artists of the chamber concerts is a little different than the amphitheater shows, according to Covington.
“The concertos I’m doing at St. Mary’s are pretty much standard repertoire, which means they are played a lot,” he said. “So when the artist and I go over the pieces, we look at the different parts and get a feeling of how they want to play.”
Sometimes things will change during the performance, Covington said.
“There are a lot of nonverbal communication that takes place when that happens, and I enjoy that,” he said. “I enjoy making things work without talking.”
Sometimes Covington knows the guest artists. The first chamber orchestra performance this season will be Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, featuring Covington’s friend, Maria Ioudenitch, on violin on July 10.
The two met at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
“She was the concertmaster during my second year there, and she is such a beautiful player,” Covington said. “It’s interesting, because we’ve never performed a concerto before. I’m really excited to work with her in this capacity.”
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