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Locals will get first tour of completed Music Tent

Stewart Oksenhorn

No structure has identified Aspen’s modern era as much as the tent where the Aspen Music Festival and School has staged its concerts.

The Saarinen Tent, the original tent in the meadow, was the place where Albert Schweitzer, Jos Ortega y Gasset, Thornton Wilder and Dmitri Mitropoulos gathered for the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial. That event, a celebration of the spirit, the body and the mind, gave birth to the Aspen Music Festival and School, as well as the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies – the embodiment of the Aspen Idea.

The Bayer-Benedict Music Tent, which served for 35 years, was where the Aspen Music Festival rose to prominence, and where the community has gathered for high school graduations and Aspen Design Conference speeches.

As the millennium opens, so opens a new chapter for Aspen. The new Benedict Music Tent is nearing completion, and the community is encouraged to have a first look at the unique structure this Friday.

Local residents are also being given the opportunity to attend the first public performance at the Benedict Tent, scheduled for June 24.

The open house and dedication ceremony, set for 4 p.m. Friday, will mark the end of years of planning and nine months of construction. Festivities will begin with refreshments in the lobby of the neighboring Harris Concert Hall, and speeches by Music Festival board chairman Matthew Bucksbaum, Music Festival president Robert Harth and former Aspen Mayor John Bennett.

At 4:30 p.m., visitors will be able to tour the new 2,050-seat tent, designed by Aspen’s Harry Teague Architects. The facility features a permanent fabric roof, a ceiling disk for improved acoustics, a 150-seat choral balcony, and 180 louvered panels that can be opened to improve ventilation and enhance the experience for the lawn audience.

For further information on the open house, call 925-3254.

The public is also welcome to participate in the Music Festival’s Gala Opening Weekend, with free tickets being offered for the June 24 performance at the tent.

The program includes a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the “Resurrection,” by the Aspen Festival Orchestra, conducted by music director David Zinman. Also featured will be the world premiere of George Tsontakis’ “Cathedral,” commissioned for the gala. Tsontakis has been a faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 1976 and was honored in 1995 by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with its highest award, for lifetime achievement, in composition.

Advance tickets will be offered by mail order only until June 1. To reserve complimentary seats, write to: Opening Concert Tickets, Aspen Music Festival and School, 2 Music School Road, Aspen, CO, 81611.

Tickets requested before June 1 will be held at will-call and may be picked up the day of the concert at the Harris Hall box office. After June 1, any remaining tickets will be held for distribution on a first-come, first-served basis the day of the concert, starting at 3:30 p.m.

For further information on tickets for the Gala Weekend, call 925-9042.


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