Art, music, hot dogs with Friends of the Arts

Never ones to let an opportunity for fun pass them by, members of Durango Friends of the Arts had a busy and entertaining July.

On the 12th, about 70 women gathered at Mary Husemoller’s lovely Lake Durango home for the annual potluck luncheon. In a summer that’s been so hot, the refreshing breeze coming across the water made it a perfect day for an alfresco gathering on her veranda.

After a quick meeting led by President Carol Bruno, it was time for the entertainment. Because DFA’s mission is to support local artists and arts organizations, the group has a tradition of asking grant recipients to show what they do.

This year, Durango Children’s Chorale Music Director Amy Barrett managed to corral (chorale, get it?) several children to demonstrate both their singing and how they learn to sing in a highly effective way.

On hand to sing were Calvin Chase, 10, the son of Art and Donna Chase; Andrew Papineau, 11, the son of Lenny Papineau and the late Mary Ellen Albright; Channing Syme, 9, the daughter of Roy and Tanya Syme; Camirose Hatten, 11, the daughter of Brad Hatten and Ruby Jo Walker; and Emma Vigil, 9, the daughter of Wivinia and the late Kevin Vigil.

Barrett chose pieces that displayed her students’ abilities. They sang “Festival Alleluia,” by Allen Pote; “Come Closer,” by Daniel and Christine Kallman; “Shake the Papaya Down,” arranged by longtime guest conductor and clinician for children’s chorale supporter Ruth Dwyer; and “The Eagle,” by Douglas Beam, with the text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. (They’re learning about poetry, too.)

Daniel Kallman heard the chorale sing his song on YouTube. Some of our students actually improvised bird calls, which he found delightful, and couldn’t believe he hadn’t included them in the original composition. Kallman was so impressed, he sent them new music to perform this year. I don’t think there can be a higher compliment than a composer wanting a group to sing his music.

Barrett asked the children what they liked about singing with the Durango Children’s Chorale, and the answers varied widely from enjoying learning to sing to singing in front of an audience.

Members were impressed. In addition to the grants DFA has given the chorale several times, the women “passed the hat” at the potluck. I guess passed the hat doesn’t have to be in quotation marks, because it was an actual hat. All told, they raised an additional $600 for the chorale, and Barrett was visibly touched.

It’s always fun and games with DFA, and they played the “Purse Game,” before going into lunch. They had made a list of items women were to look for in their purses, and the woman with the most would win a beautiful purse made by JoAnn Trimberger. Deborah Miller clocked in with nine items, far surpassing the competition. Among the items on the list were a bobby pin, a safety pin, a pen from a local bank (one from a local newspaper didn’t count, alas), a DFA pen, a sticky note, an expired grocery coupon and little blue pills. (Don’t go there – this is a family newspaper.)

Continuing her streak of generosity, Pat Lorenzen donated a necklace to be auctioned with monies raised going to the Grants Fund, and a bidding war ensued. Keep an eye on Ann Huttner’s neck. She’s going to be wearing some beautiful jewelry there. Lorenzen also donated striking yellow and purple floral arrangements as centerpieces, which several lucky women took home. It helps to be on crutches – no one wanted to take me on, so I enjoyed mine until it finally bit the dust Monday.

And then, lunch. What can one say about a potluck where some of the best cooks in town bring their “A” game? Two of my personal favorites were Deborah Uroda’s butternut squash lasagna with homemade noodles and Sandra LeFevre’s strawberries. My, what a little bourbon and some freshly ground pepper can do to dramatically change a fruit we love.

On Saturday, DFA members held their inaugural Artists Market at the Edgemont Ranch Picnic Grounds. More than 700 people showed up to shop at more than 40 booths, while Steve Dejka and one of the Stillwater Foundation combos (the foundation has several, and the foundation is another grant recipient) and Andy and Betsy Janeczek entertained. In the food tent, Hebrew National hot dogs were a hit.

“They’re the best hot dogs in the world,” Bruno said.

In the children’s play area, Dan and Susie Ammann had their hands full, with a number of other volunteers stepping up when they realized what a popular attraction it was.

The only downside was how hot and dry it was – Nancy Macho made a lot of friends among the artists by keeping them hydrated. You’ve gotta love a woman who serves you water on a silver tray.

Next on their fundraising calendar is a progressive game day at Edgemont on Aug. 16 – bridge, Scrabble or mah-jongg, anyone? And of course, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the 22nd annual Style Show, Luncheon and Silent Auction.

It will begin at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 28 at the DoubleTree Hotel, and with a theme of “Happiness is ...” there’s sure to be some joy for everyone. Tickets are $40, and reservations with payment must be sent to Myriam Palmer, 463 Cottonwood Creek Road, Durango, CO 81301, no later than Sept. 24. I’d get my reservation in earlier rather than later, though, because I predict this one will sell out early.

(And don’t forget to wear a memorable hat – the judges are perspicacious, and the prizes are great. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to throw that word in!)

Membership has passed 170 for a reason - this group works together for an important cause, builds deep friendships and has a blast. If you’re interested in learning more, contact Membership Chairwoman Carol Treat at

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“The hills are alive with the sound of music” (for real) for the birthdays of NancyWelch, Nellie Boyd, Pat Smiley, James Trump, John Hening, Marian Hamlen, Brenda TeBrink, Caroni Adams, Emily Jordan, Henry Campbell, Ollie Mallett, Nadine Ontiveros, Joe D’Augustino, Ken Portz, Eric Christensen, Frank Mapel, Vickie Hose and Merrilee Fleming.

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Music in the Mountains is presenting a beautiful 26th season in the midst of unthinkable tragedy. A major bravo goes out to John Pennington and Artistic Director Greg Hustis for coming up with the perfect response to the mass shooting in Aurora – Leonard Bernstein’s quote upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which was as apt on Saturday at the Festival Tent at Durango Mountain Resort as it was in November 1963.

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before,” Hustis quoted. And boy, did they.

In 1997, pianist Aviram “Avi” Reichert won the bronze medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition playing Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26. Later that year, he made his début at Music in the Mountains, reprising his prize-winning performance.

One of the best gifts I have ever received was the recording of his performance at the competition courtesy of Judith Reynolds, and I had to listen to it again before Reichert revisited the piece for his 15th anniversary with the festival. I didn’t think he could get any better, but like a fine wine, he has grown in musicality and lyricism while maintaining his meticulous technique. Wow.

The orchestra continued its dynamite performances during the second half with Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony in F minor, Op. 36. What Music Director and Conductor Guillermo Figueroa is able to achieve with one or two rehearsals with a diverse group of musicians is one of the wonders of the festival.

As one of the 40 or so attendees at Linda Mack’s pre-concert lecture, I, at least, was able to more fully appreciate the Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato movement, or sustained plucking of the stringed instruments along with staccato counterpoint by the brass and woodwinds.

Mack said: “There’s no separating their music from their lives, what was going on in their hearts and heads.” Understanding the difficult lives both composers lived makes their musical achievements even more remarkable. I was left with one question: Has there ever been a composer who didn’t have a tough go of it? Hmm, I think some reading is in order.

Figueroa had a surprise in store for the audience. In honor of the evening’s theme of Russian Rhapsody, Russian-heritage Conductor Emeritus Mischa Semanitzky and the numerous talented Russian-trained musicians, both in the orchestra and soloists, who have graced us with their performances, the festival staff members served up shots of vodka – Russian vodka – during intermission. (There was pink lemonade for the under-21 and nonimbibers in the audience.)

On Thursday, St. Columba Catholic Church was alive with the music of four out of six Brandenburg Concertos and a packed house. Hustis joked that if they were performing all six, the parishioners at St. Columba would be serving us breakfast, but truly, I think we would have been up for all six.

Daniel Morgenstern’s harpsichord – he actually built it, and it’s a work of art in its own right – gave the concert a true period feel. It was easy to imagine being in a nobleman’s drawing room or church in Bach’s time hearing the concerti performed for the first time.

A number of the musicians we see in the Festival Orchestra had the chance to shine. From a personal standpoint, I, like many longtime attendees, was struck by the timelessness of a concert that can feature flutist Jean Larson Garver, who has performed in all 26 seasons, including with the first orchestra of 11 musicians. And soloing with her was Chloe Trevor, who began her musical career at Music in the Mountains as Arkady Fomin’s student at Conservatory Music in the Mountains.

This is how festivals build strength and continuity.

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Enjoying fresh squeezed lemonade and picnics in the part for their anniversaries are Dan Martin and Melinda Riter, John and Judy Peel, Harlan and Bonna Steinle, Jack and Mary Irby, Tom and Diane Higgins and Bob and Calla Mae Tyner.

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