The sun beamed down on Breckenridge Sunday afternoon, but trees sheltered those who wandered into its wooded canopy perhaps for some exercise, but also to take in the singular chance to experience an artistic marvel.
The Breckenridge International Festival of the Arts (BIFA) continued into day three and those out for either a stroll at altitude or mountain bike ride were treated to diverse musical performances at Moonstone and Illinois Creek trails on the east end of town. The free pop-up-style trail mix attraction happening throughout the 11-day festival provides observers the opportunity to witness the merging of art and music, while outdoors in the tranquility of the mountains.
“One of the unexpected twists of trail mix is that you can have local musicians playing or one of the world’s finest percussionists,” said Tamara Nuzzaci Park, executive director of the Breckenridge Music Festival. “To encounter that kind of talent just out on the trail is really amazing.”
Sunday’s early presentation was a distinctive event, with University of California–San Diego department of music conductor Steve Schick helping those in attendance near Boreas Pass Road connect with nature. Hikers and cyclists watched their step for wildlife scat and traipsed over bike berms to settle near rows of wooden red chairs in the middle of an open forest area.
There, Schick played maracas and four terra cotta flowerpots as electronic background sound emitted in the background from a laptop. The show also included a 4:33 section of presumed silence, so the audience could take in their surroundings exclusively, becoming active in the performance by listening to the natural environment rather than sitting back and being entertained.
Part-time Summit County residents Mark and Mary Goodman of Houston caught the tail end of the event, as well as other trail mix performances over the weekend. After coming upon the unique activity at last year’s inaugural festival, they specifically made plans to attend this year’s event.
“It’s just unusual and not something you’re going to see every day,” said Mark, “right in the middle of nowhere.”
If Schick’s interpretation was improvisational and avant-garde, those present at the Illinois Creek trailhead just east of Stephen C. West Ice Arena a couple hours later saw a less experimental session. Couples, kids, families and even a few four-legged friends sat cross-legged and on tree stumps to take in the sounds of classical pieces of music on violin, cello and flute. Chandler Teague and Rajesh Prasad also offered a performance of only clapping to throw in a creative wrinkle to the show surrounded by the colorful woven art installations of artist Dina Sanchez.
“It’s nice to connect with people in an enjoyable setting,” said cellist David Rosen, who has played with the Breckenridge Music Festival for 25 years, but never in this sort of outdoor backdrop. “I hike myself, but it’s nice to kind of integrate what I do for my job and living and also what I do for recreation.
“And actually,” he continued, “the acoustic, it goes up in the air … but it’s kind of nice. Maybe the trees kept the sound in the vicinity. It really affects the tuning when you’re out in the elements like this and it’s windy, but the weather was great.”
As a nearby stream flowed behind, birds chirped and the trees rustled gently overhead, the 40-minute act came to a close. And just like that, if you blinked or showed up a little behind, you might have missed these mere moments in time making up one of the 24 one-off performances during the festival.
“Some people will seek it out, and others will just stumble upon it,” said Park, “and those experiences can be equally inviting and exciting. It’s so much unlike when you experience art in a museum. The music and the art kind of take on the qualities and the aesthetics and the beauty of the place where we are.”
It’s that personal tie to the environment that the trail mix tries to illuminate for participants, so people — the spectators as well as both the artists and musicians — can be exposed to something special, something one-of-a-kind.
“The trail mix is such a casual way to experience great music and art, and it really speaks to the kind person who is in Breckenridge and around Summit County,” Park added. “They also kind of draw on the human experience in nature. It allows the music to take on the majesty or the splendor of the place where it is being performed.”
Trail mix performances continue through Aug. 21 and the schedule is available at:www.breckcreate.org. Although the musical performances are one-offs, the art installations will be kept on the trails after the festival is over during the fall months, so guests can stumble across these exhibits even after the festival is over.