Pops Night goes Sinatra

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Dene Kay Thomas has fun guest conducting John Philip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell March” during the Music in the Mountains Pops Night at Durango Mountain Resort. Applauding her efforts are members of the orchestra, from left, Jonathan Latta, Chris Oliver, Jeff Solon and Don Fabian.

What do strings, dreams, skin, flying, trying and Lady Luck have in common? The great Francis Albert Sinatra, of course, and the man who paid homage to “Ol’ Blue Eyes” Wednesday night at Pops Night at Music in the Mountains, Steve Lippia.

“I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I Have Dreamed,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Come Fly With Me,” “Let Me Try Again” and “Luck Be a Lady” were just a few Sinatra classics Lippia performed with the Music in the Mountains Festival Orchestra. I didn’t realize Sinatra had been quite so prolific, recording 1,500 songs over more than five decades, so Lippia can choose from a lot of material.

For the first time, Music Director and Conductor Guillermo Figueroa conducted at Pops Night – Carl Topilow has conducted in recent years. (Never fear, Topilow fans, he will be conducting at this year’s festival at the Americana Celebration at 7 p.m. Wednesday in honor of Walter Dear’s 80th birthday. )

Figueroa got into the spirit, wearing a bright red shirt and tie. Although he had expressed some nervousness at conducting in the pop genre, he, and the orchestra, were in fine form. Special kudos go to the brass section, which really brought the big band sound alive. Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Eddy, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller would have been thrilled to hear their sound alive and well in the 21st century.

While Lippia was born with a voice similar to Sinatra’s, he has spent a lot of time studying the native son of Hoboken, N.J., who won an Academy Award for “From Here to Eternity,” and 11 Grammys. One of my favorite parts was that not only did Lippia point out the composers of every song, he also mentioned the arrangers, who have so much impact on how a song sounds.

Not only did Nancy Fisher organize the event with Georgann Reitz, she and her husband, Jim, sponsored the concert.

Diane Welle and her merry Rat Pack of volunteers had great fun decorating the Festival Tent at Durango Mountain Resort in black and silver for the casino theme. Tables sported black tablecloths with silver lamé toppers, centerpieces of dapper black fedoras with silver crystal bands holding jaunty lime green feathers along with electric candles with what I can only describe as disco-ball lids. The green was picked up by the napkins, which added a great splash of color, and the napkin rings matched the blingy bands on the hats.

Bank of Colorado donated packs of cards to coordinate with the theme, and my table used them to cut for high card to see who got to take home the centerpiece hat. Ellen Noonan won with her jack of hearts, which was meant to be, because she was wearing black and white.

More kudos go out to the display artists of the silent auction, who mounted the artwork with lights so you could really see the pieces and displayed the jewelry on busts wearing fascinator headbands of black feathers and silver bows.

Donors for the extensive silent auction were a veritable who’s who on the local scene. Jewelry included creations by Mar of Santa Barbara from Karyn Gabaldon Gallery, an Albert Tsosie piece from the Diamond Circle Gift Shop, Silpada pieces contributed by Mary Claire Patterson, and jewelry by Jinx Bolli from Modern Treasures, Pip Howard from Feet of Clay, Chiara Amoroso, Carol Martin and Carol Salomon. Donna Frank, who exhibits through A Shared Blanket, donated a distinctive amber and silver guitar pin.

There were art pieces galore: Photos by Branson Reynolds, Jerry Baumann, Dr. Ronald Ritz, Chet Anderson, Howard Rachlin, Paul Boyer, Walter Pfau, Linda Pampinella and Debra Parmenter; artwork by Mary Lou Murray, Dave Sipe, Eileen Baumgardt, Mary Anne Nelson, Nick Blaisdell and Jeanne Bradley.

Byard and Nancy Peake donated works by Raleigh Kinney, Don Stivers and Eileen Crespin. Holly A. Laird and Myriam Palmer knitted covetable pieces, and Palmer and her husband, Tony, donated two phenomenal bottles of Chateau Cos d’Estournel wine.

There were vacation getaways, services, items for the home, a ride on Al Harper’s General Palmer Coach on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and, because this is a music festival, performances in the lucky bidders’ homes. Scott Hagler will accompany Gemma Kavanagh for one lucky winner and play dueling pianos with Linda Mack at another performance. Alison Dance will get jazzy with her trio.

Before the concert, the more than 150 guests enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Jimmy Nicholson and Durangourmet Catering. Hors d’oeuvres included Korean beef with a spicy dipping sauce, Manchego cheese with apricot chutney on a rice cracker and spinach-basil crêpes stuffed with cream cheese, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes.

After a salad of mixed greens and arugula, sunflower seeds, roasted beets and goat cheese with shallot-ginger dressing, a tradition at Pops Night continued. The main course is served family style, so after a quick decision whether to pass right or left – my table chose left – we settled down to a superb smoked beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce, five-spice duck breast with hoisin-citrus glace, quinoa herb pomegranate and grilled vegetables.

Another tradition is that dessert doesn’t require a plate and fork. For this year’s Pops Night, Nicholson served delicious peanut butter-crunch brownies.

Leah Deane and Republic National Distributing made sure there was plenty of the fruit of the grape on hand.

Last year, a group of talented folks donated a Bel Canto Opera Dinner at the home of Diane and BernieWelle. I wrote about it and drooled over it. This year, the theme will be Carmen, and it promises to be even more over the top. The dinner went for $4,000 in a short live auction, where another tradition of Calvin and Pat Story selling high-priced items took place.

The live auction also included the Albert Dreher painting used for this year’s promotional materials and donated by Mary Jane Clark and Jackson Clark of Toh-Atin Gallery, stays in Hawaii and Aruba and, the highlight, the sale of the conductor’s baton to Fort Lewis College President Dene Kay Thomas, who did a very creditable job of conducting “The Liberty Bell March,” by John Philip Sousa. She was on the beat and everything!

Another part of the fun was the Music in the Mountains staff members who dressed in tuxedo shirts with matching colorful bow ties and cummerbunds. Watching festival Executive Director Annie Simonsen “shake her groove thing” to “Luck Be a Lady” was worth the price of admission.

An the final cherry on top? Music Director and Conductor Emeritus Mischa Semanitzky and his wife, Jenny St. John, who was the guru of fundraising for Music in the Mountains for many years, came to party and visit with old friends.

Bravos to all involved.

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Zeus is flinging lightning bolts across the sky for the birthdays of Gay Robson, Carleen Utterback, Haley Benjamin, Roger King, Lois Bartig-Small, Greta Cahill (reaching double digits!), Kleber Araujo, Terri Oliver, Chad Shelton, CarlinDaves, Sonya Willmett, Mary Ellen Portz, Miles Roessler, Cindy Scholfield, Emily Ter Maat, Joan Forry, Lauren Rardin, Anne Chase, Jean Robinett, KathyBurns, Jill Nelson, Bill Donelan, Tom Compton and John Peel.

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If you’re in the mood for a drive or some fun music today, head to Silverton for the free public concert at the Silverton Barbershop Music Festival. The Durango Barbershoppers will join fellow singing groups from Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. The concert will start at 7 p.m. and will take place at the Silverton School Gym.

The 70-voice Festival Chorus will be joined by other groups and quartets from throughout the Southwest.

This is a great way to entertain company.

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Thunder is booming for the anniversaries (can’t tell when I’m writing this column?) of Jim and Nancy Ottman, Ron and Janet Holligan, Jeff and SariBrown, Tony and Nancy Stohl and Bobby and Kay Lehmann (51!).

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

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