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Quartets in the Canyon

Photo by Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz
The Grand Canyon at Sunset

Classical music in the Grand Canyon? Why not?

Yes, classical music can be heard anywhere. But in some venues, it's just inconceivable, right?  For instance:  In the subway - now that would be hard to imagine…   Okay, maybe not so hard...

Or how about hauling a piano up to the top of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the U.K.  Nobody has done that, have they?  Yes, in fact they have!

Okay, so what about a whitewater rafting trip in the Grand Canyon?

Well, yup, it’s kind of a regular thing actually:  Violinist Stephen Bryant of the Seattle Symphony takes a string quartet into the Grand Canyon on a rafting trip every summer. He’s been doing it for years! He and his quartet play amazing harmonies in some of the greatest natural acoustics in the world! Not only are the surroundings visually stunning, but they have acoustic properties that bring out the best in certain types of music. For instance, Stephen says Shostakovich works well in one place where all the birds stop chirping just to listen. And whenever they play Mozart, the canyon wrens all want to join in.

Here he is with his colleague Benjamin Kreith, playing Bartok:

It seems crazy, but I think it's pretty great.  If you're interested, book a trip!  Or at least, check out this interview with Stephen Bryant, an energetic violinist, and outdoorsman!

Alan McLellan is a host and producer for CRB.