Santa Fe music: the sounds of summer

Summer in Santa Fe means music — a lot of it. It’s amazing that a city as small as this (about 70,000 people) has such a big music (and diverse) music scene. In the summer, a lot of it takes place in the great outdoors.

The City Different is home of two world-class summer music events; The Santa Fe Opera and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Both attract musicians from both the USA and around the world. Some love it and stay. Because of these two groups and the pull of this high-desert city, there is a great talent-pool of world-class musicians in

The Santa Fe music scene is all year round, but summer is golden. A range of genres from opera and chamber music to country and jazz and just about everything you can think of in between. Here are the annual music events, in order of appearance, that take place from June through August each year.

Music on the Hill
This popular local music series, Music on the Hill, starting in early June and running until mid-July, takes place Wednesday evenings on the St. John’s College campus on Wednesday evenings. While concerts are from 6pm. to 8pm, many people arrive early (even in mid-afternoon) to claim prime spots on the grass. Many bring elaborate picnics, and rumor has it that battery-operated margarita makers have even been spotted. This is a great family event. Frisbees and other things fly through the air. Kids are having a ball while parents relax and enjoy their picnic, chatting with friends while sipping their drink of choice. If you don’t have the time or inclination to prepare a meal, buy it from the on-site caterer. Parking is tough; shuttle buses running every 15 minutes from Museum Hill for your convenience. Come early; bring your own seating and anything else you need and prepare to have a ball. It’s a great way to spend a summer evening in Santa Fe.

Austin’s Derailers are back this year at Santa Fe Bandstand

Santa Fe Bandstand
If you like great music, check out Santa Fe Bandstand. The City of Santa Fe and Outside In Productions team up to present this series of free concerts running from late June to mid-August. Concerts are held in the historic Santa Fe Plaza Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 8:30pm and on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from noon to 1:30pm. Check the schedule; sometimes there are special concerts on other evenings. The line-up covers a wide spectrum of genres including blues, Latin, Native, northern New Mexican, county, rock, reggae, R & B, jazz, bluegrass and folk performed by both national and local musicians. Bring your lawn chair and a picnic or buy food from the vendors on the Plaza. Want to get above it all? Grab a seat on one of the restaurant balconies overlooking the plaza and enjoy food and drink while you listen.

Santa Fe music

The magnificent Santa Fe Opera House, photo/Robert Godwin, courtesy of Santa Fe Opera

The Santa Fe Opera:
Since 1957, the Santa Fe Opera has been a force on the international opera scene. In addition to performing the classics, the Santa Fe Opera is known for presenting new, innovative works. They have staged over forty American and five international premieres and commissioned new operas. Opera aficionados come to Santa Fe from all over the country and even the world. A popular time to visit is during August when the season’s entire repertoire is offered consecutively during the first two weeks. Check the Opera’s website for a current schedule.

The season runs from late June to the end of August. If you plan on attending a performance while visiting Santa Fe, get your tickets early; the more popular operas can sell out quickly. If you are in town, but can’t make it to a performance, take a backstage tour. The one-hour tours depart from the box office at 9a.m. Monday through Saturday. There is a charge for adults, children 17 and under are free.

Dress at the opera, especially on opening nights, runs the gamut from black-tie to jeans. Remember to bring something warm. After the glorious sunset it can get chilly. The acclaimed theater (you may have seen it in the last scene in the movie Crazy Heart) is covered, but the sides in the front orchestra are open and Santa Fe evenings can be cool.

Juan Siddi Flamenco Theatre Company
Though the word, “flamenco” probably brings visions of dancers moving quickly, heels clicking, the Juan Siddi Flamenco Theatre Company belongs with the summer music listings. The essence of Flamenco is the cante or song, making the music is an integral part of the experience an evening with Siddi and his company offers. Flamenco traces its roots to the Middle Ages and the musical traditions in Andalucía in southern Spain brought from Africa, the Middle East and India. The musical traditions merged here. At the heart of the genre is “duende”, the deep emotion inherent in the mystery of life translated to art, song, music and dance. Simply put, duende is soul. Siddi and his troupe, at the Maria Benetiz Cabaret Theater at The Lodge of Santa Fe, each July and August bring this tradition to life. Tickets are available at the Lensic Performing Arts Center or at Tickets Santa Fe.

Brahms G Minor Piano Quartet played live at the 2009 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival has been presenting chamber music concerts in Santa Fe during July and August since 1973. The festival always features a diverse schedule; pieces range from baroque masterworks to little-known gems to contemporary works. Both new and commissioned works generally appear each season; the group has one of the highest rates for new works of any festival in the US. In addition to chamber music concerts the festival offers recitals, master classes, youth concerts, and open rehearsals.

Like me, you may have discovered the festival through one of their wonderful Georgia O’Keeffe posters that advertised the annual Festival. Every year, from 1973 to 1992, one of her works was used for their poster and program cover. The renowned artist, who made her home in Abiquiu, north of Santa Fe, gave the fledgling group a substantial financial contribution, but more importantly, the right to use her artwork. This gave them instant cachet; people who may never have heard of the SFCMF discovered it through these colorful posters. Another thing that gave them instant credibility; cello legend, Pablo Casals served as honorary president the first season. They continue to thrive after over forty years. You can purchase tickets on the phone at 505-982-1890 or buy them online.

Sonny Rollins at the 2007 New Mexico Jazz Festival

New Mexico Jazz Festival
Since 2006, the last two weeks in July has brought the New Mexico Jazz Festival  to town. The 17-day jazz extravaganza, a collaboration of Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space, Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center and the Santa Fe Jazz Foundation, held in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, brings both national and local names to the stage.  A highlight of each season is the free concert held on the Santa Fe Plaza as part of Santa Fe Bandstand (see above). A full concert schedule is available on their website.

Sandia Hots performing at the Southwest Pickers annual festival, August 2008

Santa Fe Blue Grass and Old Time Festival
While not on-going, the annual Santa Fe Bluegrass and Old Time Festival, always held the weekend before Labor Day Weekend, is worthy of note. Begun in 1973, this festival attracting blue grass and old timey music lovers from around the area and afar offers performances, workshops, jam sessions and more. There’s literally music 24 hours a day. You’ll hear both local and national acts. What is “old timey” music, you may ask? According to festival promoters, it’s  traditional music, encompassing eastern/Appalachian, and Celtic music and anything “folk”. Saturday nights usually bring contra dancing. This year there’s a Friday night dance featuring local favorite Bill Hearne. Good news in the hot desert, the main concert hall is air-conditioned. Grab your banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, spoons or just your ears and come on over to the Rodeo Grounds for this rousing festival.

In summer, Santa Fe is alive with the sounds of music. All you have to do is listen.

What’s your favorite Santa Fe summer music event?
Besides all the annual events, there are one-of concerts all summer, in concert venues and bars.


2 Responses to “Santa Fe music: the sounds of summer”

  1. Patti
    July 30, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

    I have yet to see Flamenco dancing, but I would love to. I enjoyed the video clip, thanks for sharing!

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