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Concert On The Summit Of Longs Peak

Concert-on-Longs-PeakBy: Gal Faganel

Rocky Ridge Music Center cello faculty and violin student staged a concert atop of Longs Peak.

At 9:00 a.m. Monday, July 22, University of Northern Colorado professor, cellist, Gal Faganel, and University of Colorado at Boulder graduate student, violinist, Jenny Shea, hiked with their musical instruments to the top of Longs Peak.

“We left in the light of a nearly full moon at 2:30 in the morning from Longs Peak Ranger Station at 9,400 ft. The six hour ascent covered 5,100 feet of elevation and about 7.5 miles. Challenges along the way included the size and weight of the instrument cases, especially the cello. At times the cello case behaved like a sail. This was especially challenging climbing through the windy Keyhole section of the trail. My cello case also tested the limits of the Narrows on the exposed side of the trail.”

The six-hour ascent culminated in a performance at the summit at 14,259 ft.

While the weather was unusually warm and calm at the summit, these were extreme conditions for a live performance with string instruments. A group of 14 hikers was eagerly awaiting the concert. The audience included hikers from many parts of the country and it grew during the course of the performance.

“We opened the concert with the Ashokan Farewell for solo violin. A number of movements from the Suites for Solo Cello by J.S. Bach followed. After an excerpt of the violin concerto by Sibelius it was time for a short intermission to warm up our hands. The second half included Dvorak’s Humoresque, the Largo theme from his “New World” symphony, as well as excerpts from his cello concerto. Also on the program were Handel-Halvorsen Pasacaglia and the Andante theme from the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello by Brahms. No record breaking concert should be without a finale of the Star-Spangled Banner, this time arranged for violin and cello.”

The descent was harder than the ascent not only because of fatigue, but also because of the bulkiness of the cello case. When asked whether I was worried about the highly valuable cello I replied, “If something happened to the cello my life would likely also be in danger!” It put things into perspective no matter how expensive my cello is.” This was my first attempt at Longs Peak as well as my personal altitude record. Preparation for this adventure included three shorter hikes during the two weeks prior. Jenny’s past Longs Peak hiking experience contributed to the success of this attempt.

We overheard hikers celebrating: “Perfect weather and a concert at the top, one in a million!” The rangers at Longs Peak trailhead did not remember any such event ever taking place at the Longs Peak summit. We are still investigating whether this feat constitutes a legitimate record.

Note: Gal Faganel is an acclaimed cello performer, teacher, coach, and recording artist. After growing up in Slovenia, he continued his studies at the University of Southern California. He now serves as the assistant professor of cello at the University of Northern Colorado and as cello faculty at Rocky Ridge Music Center.

Violinist Jenny Shea, a Colorado native, is a student and counselor at Rocky Ridge Music Center and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in music at the University of Colorado Boulder.Rocky Ridge Music Center

Rocky Ridge has been home to premier residential summer youth music programs since 1942. Under the guidance of artist faculty, students have opportunities to study and perform solo, chamber, choral, and orchestral repertoire in historic facilities nestled in a stunning natural setting. For more information, please visit


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