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Grand Junction Symphony Celebrates Park Centennial

Colorado National Monument

National Park News

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Colorado National Monument, the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, led by music director Kirk Gustafson, dedicated its September 24th performance, “A Monumental Celebration,” the opening concert of the 2011-12 season, to the scenic splendor that dominates this section of western Colorado, Colorado National Monument.

The highlight of the evening’s performance was a piece specially commissioned by the symphony, “Monument to Color and Light.” The composer, Eric Ewazen, a professor at Julliard School since 1980, has composed music for orchestras, soloists, and wind and chamber ensembles all over the world. Ewazen traveled to Colorado National Monument and “became enamored with the sheer grandeur and beauty of the dramatic scenery of in this part of the country.”

“To celebrate this 100th anniversary, I wanted to capture the feelings I had experiencing the scenic splendor with music that was colorful, joyful, and majestic,” he said. “I had the impression of a kaleidoscope of images – rugged cliffs and canyons, beautiful, ever-changing colors, delicate wildflowers, vistas that suddenly open up, and surprises at every turn during the drive through the monument. The music reflects this variety of colors and sensations.”

Accompanying the musical performance was a stunning piece of photo-choreography, created by James Westwater. Photo-choreography, which means “dance of light,” is an art form created by Westwater.  It integrates live symphonic music with multi-image photography that is projected onto giant panoramic screens suspended above the orchestra. For over thirty years, Westwater has produced his symphonic photo-choreography for orchestras all across North America. He is also a renowned photographer who has photographed in Alaska with the Byrd Polar Research Center and in Antarctica as the National Science Foundation’s Artist-in-the-Antarctic.

For this production, monument staff, local and national photographers submitted hundreds of images of Colorado National Monument.  Westwater selected the best contemporary and historic photographs to accompany Ewazen’s musical composition, and timed the movement of the photographs to coincide with the music so that the photographs seemed to “dance” with the music.  The synthesis of classical music and scenic images of Colorado National Monument produced a work of grandeur and brilliance, worthy of its subject, which wowed the sold-out audience of 1200 local community members. 

As one of the highlights of the monument’s year-long centennial celebration, many months of preparation went into the production of “Monument to Color and Light.” All that hard work paid off on Saturday evening with the premier of the long-awaited concert.

Before the concert, Michelle Wheatley, the park’s interim superintendent, said: “We are incredibly thankful to the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, Eric Ewazen, and James Westwater for creating this masterpiece in honor of Colorado National Monument's 100th anniversary. This is truly going to be a world class performance that will go straight to your heart and soul.”


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