Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder ready to make noise with the Utah Symphony
The Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival will present Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater. Tickets range from $37-$67, with youth tickets are $15. For information and tickets, visit www.deervalleymusicfestival.org.
Since one of the elements of bluegrass music is improvisation, playing with a symphony orchestra does pose some challenges, said bluegrass and country pioneer Ricky Skaggs.
“One of the key things we do is make sure the orchestra knows that bluegrass music is played a little more in front of the beat than it is on the beat,” Skaggs said. “If they know that and anticipate the beat, it will all work out.”
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder will perform with the Utah Symphony, conducted by Jim Gray, during the Deer Valley Music Festival at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at the Snow Park Amphitheater.
One of the ways Skaggs, a winner of multiple Grammy Awards, makes sure the orchestras he and his band performs with plays in front of the beat, is through music charts.
“I think if the musicians play the charts we have written for them and if we can hear each other and know where our downbeats are rhythmically, we’ll be alright,” he said. “It’s like pulling, not pushing, an elephant.”
Skaggs has made additional provisions on the charts for the Utah Ssymphony’s horn section.
“They are located in the back of the stage, and that 20 feet can mean a half a second delay in what they hear from us,” he said. “So we have to take special care of them.”
Skaggs remembers the first time he heard his music backed by a symphony,
“It was incredible and it almost made me cry, because I love classical music,” he said. “To hear orchestration with bluegrass and our country stuff is beautiful, wonderful and so, so exciting.”
The multi-instrumentalist loves performing symphony shows.
“We do one or two a year, and they are always great fun and looked forward to,” he said.
The song selection for Saturday’s concert will include Skagg’s bluegrass and country hits, he said.
Those songs include “Somebody’s Praying,” “Highway 40 Blues,” “Uncle Pen” and “Crying My Heart Out for You,” which, in 1981, became his first No. 1 country hit on the Billboard U.S. Country chart.
“I’ve also written some brand new charts for some unheard songs that the Utah Symphony will be the first to play,” Skaggs said.”We’re pretty excited about that.”
The artist is also looking forward to showing off his band that includes Salt Lake’s own Jake Workman.
Workman and his wife Rebekah have played locally at the Silver Star Cafe’s Park City Limits concerts.
“I’m sure Jake will have a bunch of family and friends at the show,” Skaggs said.
Music has always been an essential part of Skaggs’ life. He started playing mandolin when he was 5, and at 6, he had already played on stage with country music pioneer Bill Monroe.
“I’ve always known I had a gift and I totally believe in my heart of hearts that the gift is from God,” he said. “I do this music because I know God touches people who hear me play. I do think that’s what keeps me pushing and going.”
Throughout his career, the 63-year-old has earned 15 Grammy awards as well as a string of Country Music Association and many other Academy of Country Music Awards.
Adding to Skaggs’ list of accolades, he will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October.
“All of these awards have been special to me, and the Hall of Fame induction in October is already a big deal,” he said. “I don’t think many people come to Nashville with the intention of working to getting into the Hall of Fame, because there are so many others who are more deserving.”
Skaggs can’t believe that he is being inducted in the Hall of Fame before some of his idols.
“There are artists and bands, like the Stanley Brothers, who I’ve listened to and learned from who are not in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “For me to be go in before someone like them is unbelievable, and I hope to see that change sometime soon. I can say with all honesty that they are going in with me because of how they have influenced me.”
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