Celebrating our symphony

San Juan Symphony Music Director Arthur Post thanks the string quartet of Katherine Jetter, Sharon Nuefeld, Nathan Lambert and Elsa Nagy for providing wonderful music for guests gathered at the San Juan Symphony Gala at the Sow’s Ear Restaurant. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

San Juan Symphony Music Director Arthur Post thanks the string quartet of Katherine Jetter, Sharon Nuefeld, Nathan Lambert and Elsa Nagy for providing wonderful music for guests gathered at the San Juan Symphony Gala at the Sow’s Ear Restaurant.

Several symphonies across the country have not survived recent lean economic times, but the Four Corners’ own San Juan Symphony has found ways to cut back and rework its offerings to keep the music alive.

Its supporters have also stepped up to keep the coffers in good shape during all of this uncertainty. On Sunday, about 80 people gathered at the Sow’s Ear at Silverpick Lodge for music, food and camaraderie – and to learn what surprises Music Director Arthur Post is planning for the 2012-2013 season.

Joining in classical music’s ongoing quest to introduce new people to its wonders, Post is planning to pair some of the best known and most beloved classical works with some modern pieces that incorporate styles ranging from jazz and the blues to pop music. (He doesn’t quite have everything booked yet, so I had to promise in front of all assembled not to get too specific.)

Guy Drew Wines from McElmo Canyon, which is southwest of Cortez, donated bottles of its unoaked chardonnay, dry rosé and meritage wines. Sow’s Ear owner and chef George Mahaffie cooked up a storm, and Chris Wing opened the lobby of Silverpick Lodge for the preprandial hour.

Guests noshed on Thai chicken lettuce wraps, Rocky Mountain smoked trout-dill-mascarpone crostinis and elk carpaccio with beet tapenade on a sweet potato chip while listening to string quartet Elsa Nagy, Sharon Neufeld, Nathan Lambert and Katherine Jetter remind us what we all had in common – a love of music and the San Juan Symphony.

Volunteers Bette Serzen, Cheryl Folwell and Kathy Myrick once again did a lot with a little. Serzen poured all the candles herself and made molded chocolates and the little paper totes to hold them. She and Folwell broke out all their silver candlesticks, salt and pepper shakers and flower vases, filling the vases with pink tulips donated by Sheri Rochford Figgs, the president of the SJS board.

The show stopper was the chandeliers filled with freshly cut pussy willows, which brought spring indoors.

After a round of “Donus Nobe Pacem,” “Lord Give Us Peace” from the Latin Mass, on which we sounded pretty darn good, it was time for a toast to the symphony with champagne donated by Folwell and her husband, Paul.

The first course included red-speckled lettuce with green garlic dressing and an “Oreo” of roasted baby beets layered with chevre and pistachios. I don’t even like beets, and this was delightful.

The fish course included Colorado striped bass, cannellini beans, baby chard, pickled asparagus with a wonderful Meyer lemon-tarragon aioli. We were all pretty satisfied after that, but no one could turn down the top sirloin prepared with smoked sea salt, five peppercorns and a bone marrow sauce served with a delicious Gorgonzola bread pudding. The beef was tender enough to cut with a fork.

This was a fundraiser, and the hostesses limited the auction to one cool item. A private party for 20 at Serzen’s beautiful home on the Animas River in Hermosa, beginning with a wine reception accompanied by a jazz trio, then dinner on the deck with a string quartet made up of SJS musicians. Limos to and from, so no need for designated drivers, and a killer menu including entrées of elk and pheasant.

They did something a little different, auctioning the seats off, with some seats going for as much as $1,100 and some for as low as $300. I never quite got how it worked, but it worked, and everyone was smiling after helping to raise $13,000. As far as I know, that’s the most ever raised here for an auctioned meal.

Of course, a meal like this calls for a spring dessert, and Mahaffie delivered with a strawberry-rhubarb tart in puff pastry with Honeyville honey, mascarpone and candied thyme.

Local and organic ingredients were provided by Chimney Rock Farms, James Ranch, El Dorado Cattle Co., and Mountain Valley Fish. (It’s interesting how frequently events like these are now telling us where the food came from – it’s nice to know friends and neighbors had a hand in our nutrition.)

The meal was also underwritten by the Durango Performance Center and Dr. Bruce Andrea and his wife, Andrea Mull. Meredith Mapel and Coca-Cola Bottling of Durango donated the nonalcoholic beverages.

Ticket sales only pay for about a third of what it costs to mount a symphony concert. If you would like to help the symphony keep our gem of a symphony on stage, tax-free donations may be sent to San Juan Symphony, P.O. Box 1073, Durango, CO 81302-1073.

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(Beware, this is either an aside or a rant.)

I’m not being facetious about the wonders of classical music. Not only is it beautiful, when it’s performed live, it’s one of the greatest shows on stage. All the different sections brought together by some black notes on a white page and the vision of the conductor with the baton seems like magic to me.

There’s humor, too, and, as Jim DiSanto noted at the San Juan Symphony Spring Gala on Sunday, there’s a bit of bated breath waiting for the percussionist to hit the kettle drum or triangle just once to punctuate the piece.

Dr. Bruce Andrea and I spent some time Sunday night trying to figure out why more young people don’t attend the concerts, and why more parents don’t bring their children as a family outing.

My personal opinion is that there are three main obstacles.

The first is that many of the rock ’n’ roll generation – my generation and younger – don’t know much about classical music and the “etiquette,” which makes them feel uncomfortable at a symphony performance. And most of us don’t like to go out of our comfort zones.

I get that, so I think it’s time all the classical music lovers get over the “oh, my God, that person just clapped between movements” moment of judgment, and start clapping with them. It’s time to make classical music neophytes comfortable in the concert hall.

When much of this music was first performed, people clapped between movements, often got up to get a glass of wine or even had an intermission. We can just say we’re historically accurate. (And Maestro Arthur Post, a glance over the shoulder and a grin to say it’s OK would help.)

I was once at a recital at Roshong Hall behind a group of girls from Escalante Middle School who were there to see some professors who worked with them perform. It was clearly their first classical music concert, and they were equal parts excited and unsure what to expect.

So, after a movement that was quite lovely, they started applauding. The rest of the audience was ostentatiously silent, either looking at them or ostentatiously not looking at them.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I was in middle school, that would have been excruciating. So I started clapping, too. It felt pretty good, actually, letting the musicians know immediately that something had moved me in the moment.

The second obstacle, at least locally, is the dress code. People “dress” for the symphony, even in Durango. Nonsymphony goers typically aren’t inclined to get dressed to the nines and don’t much feel like going somewhere to listen to some music they’re not too sure about while they squirm in clothes they’re not too comfortable wearing.

(By the way, for you word lovers out there, etymologists are stymied by the origins of both “dressed to the nines” and “the whole nine yards.” I try to educate and illuminate, but sometimes the answer is just “Nobody knows.”)

And finally, we need to find a way for a family of four to go to a concert without breaking the bank, maybe family packs or something of that nature.

Just some food for thought.

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May is abloom for the birthdays of Shelby Sisco, Adeline Becay, Avery Clair, Jeane Furr, Lilly Lacey, Kate Simonsen, Connie Bishop, Elise Christiansen, Marah Edwards, Paul Root, Bob Tyner, Rebekah Eggleston, John Krispin, Eric Strength, Gary Trotter, Calla Mae Tyner, Paulette Simmons, Lacy Black, Chris Chambers, Alison Hayduke, Barbara Bruning, Paul Staby, Jeff Nelson, Merlwyn Clausen, Lucille Olbert, Jeanne Park, Sherrill Dickinson, Barbara Colbert, Rose Chilcoat, Stephanie Drover, Marilyn Garst, Paul Root, Carol Johnson, Kaden Ollier, Vern Swanson, Lucille Ball and Sari Ross.

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Once in a while, I get an email that goes something like this: “Ann, I would love to support x, y or z, but I can’t afford a $100 ticket.” I’m a firm believer in giving what we can, and while Terry Hutchison is giving big on this one, we all can give by doing something we do anyway – buying a book (or two or 20).

Hutchison, who owns Y.E.S.S. The Book Hutch, is holding a book sale to benefit the Scholarship Fund of the Fort Lewis College Foundation.

More than a thousand books will be offered at discounts ranging from 15 to 30 percent, and net proceeds will be donated. All books are new and include children’s pop-ups, picture and chapter books; young adult literature (maybe stock up for some summer vacation reading?); adult literature with many signed first editions; and all kinds of genres ranging form fantasy and adventure to history, gardening, health and best sellers.

The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge 507 Ballroom, 901 East Second Ave. (Enter on the 9th Street side.)

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Bouquets of tulips will greet these folks who are celebrating their anniversaries this week – Chris and Rap Dunker, Roger and Cora Lundgren, Mike and Sandy Dalenberg, Ron and Mary Knowles, Ernie and Ruth Shock, John Waters and Marjorie Cornwell, Ken and Danette Jenkins and Dan and Lillian Tucker.