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PBS’s ‘National Park Symphony’ Takes Usual Pledge Drives into Beautiful New Territory. Literally.
November 24, 2016  | By Tom Brinkmoeller

[Editors note: PBS’s National Park Symphony will begin airing on individual PBS stations during pledge drives starting today, Thanksgiving, 11/23/16, running through mid-December. The special may not be available in some markets. Check local listings, broadcast times vary.]

There are many awful necessities in life; among them are: Cutting grass, raking leaves, shoveling snow and enduring PBS pledge drives. There rarely is a practical way around any of them. With the above-mentioned TV curse, the programs that arrive during these seasonal signup weeks make yard work look inviting, by comparison.

Most of the time.

But there’s an exception to that rule coming in the pledge drive that soon will envelope most of the PBS universe. And it’s a small irony that a program about the outdoors, National Park Symphony–The Mighty Five, is worth staying inside to watch — rake the leaves during the multitude of get-thin, get-smart, get-rich, get-over-it oldies specials that fill much of the Pledge schedules. This one’s worth watching.

This program is a wonderful pairing of video taken in Utah’s five national parks (Arches shown at top, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion) with music accompaniment by the Utah Symphony. It’s a beautiful hour of television — even if the host station interrupts it once or more to ask for money. It takes viewers to places in these parks where most tourists don’t/can’t venture — and sometimes in weather that’s beautiful to see but rarely part of a parks vacation. (Capitol Reef, right.) Not all of the video is time-lapse, but scenes that show the arrival of a huge thunderstorm from a distance and the accumulation of heavy snow are situations most of us would go out of our way to avoid. To watch, though, is mesmerizing.

Carol Dalrymple, who produced the program for Utah PBS affiliate KUED, said in a recent phone interview that she and the team of videographers spent more than a year shooting in all seasons and in all weather conditions. Months of editing (“I think I was buried for most of six months”) followed, she said.

“Our goal was to make it an immersive experience,” she said, one that included many “unique and special moments.” It’s difficult to think anyone who watches this hour-long program would conclude they didn’t meet their objective.

The program grew out of a 2014 tour of concerts to the parks by Utah Symphony. Music Director Thierry Fischer met with the KUED team and was given an idea of what the video was going to be and the moods the music might help create. The orchestra picked and recorded the selections (including works by Ravel, Debussy, Dvorak and Beethoven) and the finished work was delivered to Dalrymple and her team roughly halfway through the filming, she said. The pairing of sight and sound that made up some of that six months of editing is beautiful.

This, remarkably, concludes with a second nice thing to say about pledge drives. As many a long-suffering PBS viewer knows, pledge-season programs usually are accompanied by offers of a DVD of the program, should one donate to the station. Dalrymple said the DVD version includes footage and music that didn’t fit into the hour program.  Over the coming months, many who live in this country will experience pronounced cabin fever as the temperatures drop, the wind chill increases and snow cover the sidewalk and driveway.

Getting out into five remarkable national parks in the middle of winter might be perfect therapy.

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