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Embracing Everything with Colorado MahlerFest

A MahlerFest poster depicting Gustav Mahler standing next to Jimi Hendrix in front of the Flatirons.

Each May, music-lovers within the Denver metro area and from around the world flock to Boulder, Colorado in celebration of the late-Romantic composer, Gustav Mahler. The annual Colorado MahlerFest pilgrimage is something that classical music fans look forward to all year.

“We’re like a family that doesn’t spend enough time together to get sick of each other,” joked Artistic Director, Kenneth Woods. Started more than 30 years ago to remedy the lack of Mahler music being played by traditional symphonies, Colorado MahlerFest has grown into an annual staple, and a source of community.

Born in 1860, Gustav Mahler was a conductor and composer who completed nine symphonies and 40 songs during his lifetime. Mahler was known for bringing together both “high” and “low” art throughout his work, a revolutionary combination that was frowned upon by the musical establishment in Vienna during this time. He once famously said, “A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.”

He was inspired by the natural mountainous surroundings of his home base in Austria (much like those in Boulder, Colorado) and the various cultures he encountered there. His music includes snippets of the vernacular, such as folk tunes and military fanfares. According to Executive Director Ethan Hecht, Mahler’s music also encompassed a wide range of human experience and emotion.

“Mahler was the first emo musician,” Hecht shared with a smile, “his music encompasses lots of emotion, with a huge range of textures. Nobody does it like Mahler.”

Mahler’s more modern musical perspective provides Colorado MahlerFest a lens through which to expose modern audiences to his work and the work of his contemporaries. Whether you’re a Mahler aficionado or simply Mahler-curious, it’s sure to be a wonderful week of music, community, learning, and everything in between. This year’s festival “Mahler and the Mountains” will offer concerts, community dinners, symposiums, Mahler-themed hikes and cocktail classes, open rehearsals, and something brand new.

To continue Mahler’s legacy of blending seemingly disparate musical genres to capture the sounds of the world, this year MahlerFest will present “Electric Liederland: Hendrix Meets Mahler”. This show will bring together the music of Mahler and self-proclaimed Mahler fan, Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix often listed Mahler as one of his inspirations, and like the composer, he sought to create music unlike anything that had been heard before.

This novel musical experience will take place in a club-style concert venue at Roots Music Project. Artistic Director Kenneth Woods will be joined by a talented band of old friends as they bring Mahler into the rock world.

“This is the one chance to see this unique mixture of content and talent. We’re there to create a unique moment in time that will stay with us,” Woods said, “so come along, and prepare to be immersed in sound and passion and energy.”

The 37th annual Colorado MahlerFest will be held May 15-19, 2024. More information and tickets can be found at https://mahlerfest.org/mf37/.