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Park City fest marks 17th year

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"The festival is like the town in 'Brigadoon,' except that we come out for four weeks of reality, instead of just one day, before we disappear again for another year." That's Leslie Harlow's tongue-in-cheek description of the Park City International Music Festival.

And it's apt, if misleading, because it doesn't say anything about the months of planning or the scores of phone calls or the countless details that have to be taken care of to get the festival off the ground each year.

But Harlow, the founder and co-director of the festival (together with her husband, Russell), isn't agonizing over it this year. "I'm not real stressed out about it because I finally realized — it doesn't help."

Harlow told the Deseret News that she let her husband do a large part of the preparations himself. "Russ did the programming. I just put my two cents in occasionally. He also made all the travel arrangements and made sure (the performers) got their parts."

The festival, which is now in its 17th season and is the oldest of its kind in Utah, kicks off its monthlong run this week. And, true to form, it promises to be an appealing mix of standard chamber-music fare peppered with some lesser-known pieces.

And, while many of the performers coming to the mountain resort this summer are veterans of the Park City festival, some new faces will also be introduced.

Some of the musicians making their debut at the festival this year include violinist Rebecca Johnson and pianist Steven Masi, both of whom are members of the Leonore Trio, and Utah Symphony harpist Louise Vickerman. They'll be playing alongside such perennial favorites as violinists Arturo Delmoni, Charles Castleman and Charles Libove; cellists Evan Drachman and Steven Ballantyne; flutist Laurel Ann Maurer; and pianists John Jensen, Nina Lugovoy, Robert Moeling and Doris Stevenson.

One newcomer the Harlows will be introducing to local audiences is 26-year-old cellist Mark Kosower, who was recently offered the position of assistant principal cellist with the Pittsburgh Symphony. He turned it down, however, in order to devote his time to concerts. "We performed with him last year," Harlow said. "We liked his playing, and I think he'll fit in really nicely with the festival."

She added that one of the most popular features each year is Russell's musical settings of Charlie Chaplin shorts. Three will be shown this month with live music, including "The Adventurer" and "The Vagabond." "These concerts take place at the Grand Summit Hotel, and for the first time, popcorn will be available for the audience."

For the second year, the Park City festival is in residence at the Canyons Resort. "Canyons wanted to build on our residency from last year," Harlow explained. She added that the resort has been very generous in offering practice space and lodging for the students in the festival's young artists program. "This is a major sponsorship for us. No one else has ever sponsored at this level.

"We bring in quite a few pianos in several of the suites for rehearsals, which is great, because it gives us a concentrated area for work. There's also room for 24 kids to stay at the Canyons, and we're at capacity — and we're just thrilled about it."

An added benefit to audiences during the festival are the free open rehearsals, held between 5 and 7 p.m. on the mezzanine level in the lobby of the Grand Summit Hotel. Wednesday through Sunday each week there are also open rehearsals and reading sessions by the students and artists, between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Red Pine Lodge above the Canyons Resort. These, too, are free. "Everyone is invited to come to these rehearsals," Harlow said. "They're a lot of fun, and people really enjoyed them last year."

Single tickets for the concerts are $20 for general admission and $15 for senior citizens and students and are always available at the door prior to the performances. Five-concert punch cards are also available for $75 general and $55 for seniors and students. Ten-concert punch cards cost $150 general and $110 for seniors and students. Both of these are available at the door prior to the concerts. They can also be ordered online at the festival's Web site www.pcmusicfestival.com.

Wednesday concerts take place at 8 p.m. in the Richard Thomas Gallery, 751 Main St., Park City. Thursday concerts start at 7 p.m. and are held in the Canyons Grand Summit Hotel Ballroom. On Fridays, the concerts begin at 8 p.m. and take place in St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, which is located at the intersection of Highway 224 and White Pine Canyon Road. Sunday concerts are at 8 p.m. in the Park City Community Church behind the Park City Nursery at the corner of Highway 224 and Bear Hollow Drive.

For more information, contact the festival office at 435-649-5309.

E-MAIL: ereichel@desnews.com