Creating our own
A look back at the local classical music scene in 2006


by Judith Reynolds

By all measures except one, classical music has had a good year locally. The exception has been audience numbers. Maybe that’s a problem with publicity. Or chalk it up to a popular culture numbed by MTV and “American Idol.” Maybe people think culture comes from outside, not inside, a small community.

Well, I’m a believer that culture ultimately comes from within. And we have a conservatory on the hill. Fort Lewis College has a stellar music department that offers a full complement of recitals and concerts each semester. Last summer a new chamber music series was added. That level of energy and commitment spills over into our town and our region. Every ensemble, every old and new series benefits.

Among the musical highlights from 2006:

• Feb. 12: The Red Shoe Piano Trio: violinist Mikylah Myers McTeer, cellist Katherine Tischhauser, and pianist Lisa Campi. The trio’s 2006 recital consisted of works by Mozart, Smetana and American composer Gwyneth Walker. Commissioned by Fort Lewis College for the Mesa Verde Centennial, “Ladders to the Sky” was performed with a photographic collage by Dean John Ninnemann.

• March 24: The FLC Mesa Verde Celebration Concert featured the Symphonic Band, Concert and Chamber Choirs. Another FLC-commissioned work took the spotlight: Michael Mauldin’s “The Proud Light Shines on the Mountains.” The New Mexico composer attended the concert and promises an ongoing collaboration.

• April 17 and Dec. 4: The Durango Youth Symphony, an offshoot of the FLC Music Department, is only a year old. McTeer started the ensemble modestly in 2005, and now it has performed three full concerts. April’s “Opera Extravaganza” featured soprano Rachael Taulbee. Earlier this month the orchestra performed “Danzas Fantasticas” with a full woodwind, brass, and percussion section added to its impressive strings.

• April 22: The San Juan Symphony offered another interesting thematic concert when it presented Russian pianist Ilya Itin playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. The concert also featured works by Liszt, Wagner and the lone American romantic composer, Samuel Barber, which showed off the orchestra’s string section. The latter half of 2006 continued to display the symphony’s charms with music of the north featuring Icelandic violinist Judith Ingolfsson. November’s opera concert with soprano Gemma Kavanagh and Spanish tenor Israel Lozano stirred the audience to two standing ovations – and that was well before the concert was even over.

• May 21: The Animas Music Festival staged the most unusual concert of the year when it presented Lou Harrison’s “La Koro Sutro.” Composed for choir and American Gamelan, the work featured harp, organ, and an array of homemade instruments from bells to gongs. Sung in Esperanto, the eight-movement piece blended Eastern and Western music. FLC professors John Pennington and Linda Mack made it happen, another musical gift to the community via the college.

• July 1&2: The Clock Tower Chamber Music Series took place indoors one evening and outdoors on the FLC campus the next. Organized by violinist McTeer, the ensemble featured works by Mozart and Shostakovich to honor the 250th and 100th birthday anniversaries of each composer.

• June 29, July 16 and 22: “Mesa Verde Suite,” composed by Sterling Procter and performed by the Music in the Mountains Festival Brass Quintet. Procter’s new work had an odd, split performance at the big centennial ceremony in June at Mesa Verde’s campground. What it lost in that unfortunate bit of programming, it made up when performed as a whole finally at Durango Mountain Resort.

• Sept. 16: The FLC Artist in Residence Program presented classical guitarist Brad Richter. In a recital rich with invention, Richter offered works from the standard repertoire and compositions of his own with what’s called in the business, extended techniques.

• Sept. 24, Oct. 15: FLC Faculty Recital Series. The Fort’s music faculty continued a tradition by beginning with a September collage of individual performances then featuring one or two in concert. In October flutist Rochelle Mann and percussionist John Pennington offered transcriptions and other unusual works for this surprising combination.

• Oct. 13, Durango Women’s Choir and FLC Men’s Choir presented separate and combined works in the now traditional “He and She” concert at St. Mark’s Church. The central gem was Gemma Kavanagh’s solo turn singing Puccini. If you haven’t attended one of these concerts, don’t miss it next fall.

• Oct. 27, St. Mark’s Recital Series with soprano Gemma Kavanagh—again. This new series started off on a proverbial high note with the most professional singer in our midst. Kavanagh sang a full program of sacred and secular music accompanied by C. Scott Hagler, St. Mark’s music director, and organizer of the series.

The next recital in the St. Mark’s series features organist Kevin Calloway on Sun., Jan. 21. The FLC winter concert season begins with cellist Katherine Tischhauser’s faculty recital Sun., Jan. 14. •