New mu­sic venue aims big by go­ing small in vast west

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE -

Wind­ing through the arid green hills, the high­way gives way to a rugged gravel road end­ing at a lone­some gate like so many in this land of ranches. In­side lies an ex­per­i­ment in mu­sic, sculp­ture and how to present art in the 21st cen­tury.

In­au­gu­rated this sum­mer, the 4,700-hectare es­tate called Tip­pet Rise is the brain­child of a wealthy cou­ple of free spir­its who are ful­fill­ing a life­long goal of cre­at­ing their own clas­si­cal mu­sic venue.

The Tip­pet Rise Art Cen­ter, hid­den some 105 kilo­me­ters from Mon­tana’s largest city Billings, aims to marry art to the Amer­i­can West’s over­pow­er­ing nat­u­ral open­ness, with mu­si­cians at times per­form­ing outdoors amid sculp­tures in view of the Beartooth Moun­tains.

While the am­bi­tions and set­ting are big, the founders, Peter and Cathy Hal­stead, have de­lib­er­ately gone small in au­di­ence size. With Mon­tana fa­mous for fast-gath­er­ing storms, most con­certs take place in­side an acous­ti­cally state-of-the-art barn with just 150 seats.

The in­ti­macy is in­te­gral to Tip­pet Rise, with the au­di­ence in­vited to join be­fore­hand in a gourmet buf­fet din­ner fea­tur­ing lo­cal pro­duce and to linger around after­ward to dis­cuss the mu­sic with the artists over wine un­der a star-filled sky.

“Who wants to build Carnegie Hall? It’s al­ready there,” says Peter Hal­stead.

“Think of all th­ese things that were built in the ’40s and ’50s to show that you had a proud civic or­ga­ni­za­tion that could af­ford to have a big au­di­ence,” Peter says of the era of big clas­si­cal venues.

“Sud­denly we started notic­ing that no­body is in the big halls any­more. They’re half empty,” he says.

The Hal­steads are more than just pa­trons of Tip­pet Rise, which is named after Cathy’s mother. In­side the barn, the Hal­steads take un­re­served seats for each per­for­mance, the bearded Peter sport­ing san­dals and a faded bucket hat.

For a per­for­mance of Mes­si­aen’s Vi­sions of the Omen, Peter in­ter­spersed the dark work by recit­ing his po­ems about the Sept 11 at­tacks and sat be­side pi­anist Svet­lana Smolina, turn­ing her notes for her.

An­other con­cert in the barn cel­e­brated Mark di Su­vero, one of the lead­ing con­tem­po­rary sculp­tors, who sat in jeans in the au­di­ence.

Di Su­vero is among the sig­na­ture artists on dis­play at Tip­pet Rise, where elec­tric­vans shut­tle vis­i­tors to works across the es­tate. Di Su­vero’s Beethoven’s Quar­tet imag­ines mu­si­cal in­stru­ments in an ab­stract steel meld, with guests hit­ting it with mal­lets and hear­ing the sound re­ver­ber­ate through the hills.

With Mon­tana’s harsh win­ters, the cen­ter does not an­tic­i­pate con­certs year-round.

When shows are off, the Hal­steads en­vi­sion Tip­pet Rise as a re­treat, where mu­si­cians can stay with their fam­i­lies and prac­tice on the cen­ter’s dozen Stein­way pianos.


Cathy and Peter Hal­stead, founders of Tip­pet Rise Art Cen­ter that in­cludes a con­cert venue and con­tem­po­rary sculp­tures.

In­vert­edPor­tal, by Span­ish En­sam­ble Stu­dio.

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