ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald
Sitting in Marilyn Garst’s music room Saturday, listening to a wonderful concert and knowing a delicious meal was to follow, I realized the evening was a prime example of what makes our community great.
We have so many talented people, in so many fields, who give generously of those talents to causes they believe in. In Garst’s case, she not only combined two of her talents as a pianist and home chef, she “imported” her sister, Bonnie Mangold, who was a cellist for the Utah Symphony for 37 years, from Teasdale, Utah, for the event. Garst’s cause in this instance is Durango Friends of the Arts.
The evening takes serious planning and preparation. Garst selected the music and began rehearsing in April, as soon as she finished her final recital in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s series.
First up was choosing a theme.
In recent years, the event has roamed the world by visiting Spain, France and Latin America, but this year Garst chose to bring it home to the good ole U.S.A.
She elected to focus on work from primarily the first half of the 20th century. But Garst also decided to surprise us with works perhaps not as well-known by famous names such as Aaron Copland, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin and Dave Brubeck. Yep, it was a cross-section of American styles as well, with ragtime, jazz, blues and Broadway musicals all represented.
She started with Joplin, the oldest of the composers on the program, with his “Palm Leaf Rag,” a surprisingly lyrical “Solace” and one of her personal favorites, “Elite Syncopations.”
Then it was off to one of America’s best known classical composers, with two selections from Samuel Barber’s “Excursions,” and then on to Copland. After a lovely “In Evening Air,” she played a piece she has been wanting to learn for years, “The Cat and the Mouse: Scherzo Humoristique.”
When Garst was teaching piano and harpsichord for 25 years at George Washington University, she often heard colleagues assign the saga of the feline and its prey to students.
“I thought it must be relatively easy,” she said over dinner afterward. “But I had to memorize it, because it was so complex.” Garst thought perhaps the softer ending of the piece after some dramatic moments and rigorous chasing, might mean the mouse had survived to scamper another day. I’m afraid to break it to her, but I think it was the cat licking its whiskers and looking for a nice place to stretch out and bask in the sun while it digested its meal.
Garst was joined by Mangold on two stunning pieces by a composer I had never heard of – Ernst Bacon. Mangold actually knows his third wife and daughter, so there was a sense of intimacy with their playing. The “Schilflied: Nocturne,” was one of the most beautiful pieces for piano and cello I’ve ever heard. (Note to Music in the Mountains musicians – it would make a perfect piece for a chamber music performance. And now I’ve set it up for you!) Bacon’s moderato movement from his sonata for cello and piano showed how two sisters who’ve played together on and off for many years can take a piece to new heights.
Mangold is a double threat, as they say in sports, composing as well as performing. She soloed on two of her pieces, “Cry for the Earth” and “Protest.” Linked by a solitary note, they lived up to their titles.
Then, Garst was back on the keyboard and on to Gershwinland with “The Man I Love “ and “I Got Rhythm.” (I’m listening to Dorothy Dandridge sing the latter as I write. Let’s just say I’ve got a little rhythm, too.)
After a visit to Gershwin’s well-known – and beloved for a reason – preludes, we enjoyed jazz innovator Brubeck and two of his experiments with tempo, “Blue Shadows In the Street” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk.”
After a well-deserved standing ovation from their private audience, it was time to eat. Joanie Petersen-Thomas and Marilee White have been Garst’s partners in crime in preparing the meal in previous years, and they stepped up again for the evening of Americana.
What is American food for an elegant evening? Well, we are a melting pot, with foods from all over the world, so the women used their menu selections to represent that diversity.
They served American wines, including a lovely sparkling Gruet brut from New Mexico, which Ron Garst told me is served in fine restaurants across the country, a Snoqualmie sauvignon blanc from 2009, a 2011 Cline viognier (sounds French but from California) and a Sacred Stone Master’s red blend.
(Garst didn’t just serve as sommelier, he also worked the kitchen and cleaned up. Another example of how Durango works – it only takes one half of a couple to volunteer to get both many times.)
Appetizers included chipotle-shrimp wontons, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with pecans, endive leaves with goat cheese and orange and muhammara, a walnut dip with pita chips. Noshing took place while enjoying the beautiful view from the Garsts’ deck.
After sitting down to dine, guests enjoyed lettuce with tomatoes, avocados and a dressing made with Midori melon liqueur and lime juice. The entrée was a divine lemon chicken with artichokes and Parmesan accompanied by snow peas with marjoram. That is one underused herb. Delish.
The dessert choices were fruity, perfect for a summer evening. Guests could choose between lemon delight (Petersen-Thomas actually made the lemon curd), and frozen strawberry pie. There was Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s English toffee for those chocoholics who couldn’t live without a bite or two.
My fellow guests were Richard and Cindy Cortese, Gary and Carol Treat, Hugh and Deborah Miller, Paul and Jacky Dziubek, Karren Little, GaryPenington, Sandra LeFevre, Cristy Krug and Steve Berwick.
The ultimate recipients of the evening are the artists and arts organizations who receive grants from the Friends of the Arts. Many of them, such as Music in the Mountains Goes to School, Jeff Solon and Suzy DiSanto with Take the Lead ballroom dancing classes, use their grants to bring music and the arts into our classrooms, so we will have another generation who both make and appreciate the wide diversity of music from our country and around the world.
Another standing “O” for all involved in creating a truly memorable evening.
Happy monsoon-season birthday greetings go to Sally Folk, Charles Gordon, Richard Jaye, Sienna Latham, Jim Ottman, Sydney Beekman, Kent Somsen, Charlie Diehl, Mimi Smith, Lynn Weger, Jaylie Burns, ErnieGregg, Katie Pannell, Byard Peake, Susan Rambo, Tina Trotter, Nicholas Betts, Sherri Gaugh, Cherie Hughes, Cameron Barnhardt, Jordan Helms, Sandy Hoel, Ryan Zollinger, Will Downs, Ed Dudley, Tom Higgins, Chloe Ragsdale, Sophia Tucker, Sarah Lawton, Guy Tomberlin, Marina Hayes, Jessica Martin, Anna McBrayer, Christine Priaulx, Sonya Fleming, MichaelRohren, Van Butler, Scott McClellan, Karen Anderson, JenniferRudolph and Summer Lynch.
Regular readers will remember my story earlier this summer about Big Red’s retirement. The red van that has carried thousand of physically and mentally disabled people of all ages on outdoor adventures for the Adaptive Sports Association is calling it a day, but you can’t have a retirement without a retirement party.
Food will be served starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, and Ralph Dinosaur and the Fabulous Volcanoes will be rockin’ out by 6 p.m. at the Edgemont Picnic Grounds. There will be brats and coleslaw, beer and other beverages as well as a chance to give Big Red a fond pat on the ... bumper – this is a family newspaper – and make a donation toward his successor. (Never a replacement. Those tires are too big to fill.)
Get your dancing shoes on!
Enjoying homemade peach ice cream for their anniversaries – made with Palisade peaches, of course – are Ed and Karla Dudley, Johan and Julie Kleva, Wayne and Rose Hildgedick, Gerry and Muriel Mulder, Curt and Angie Raulston, David and Terry Clark, Shawn and Leslie Slater, Richard and Norene Smith, Richard and Dianne Pratt, Bill and Linda Russell, Scott and Carol Wallace, Ted and Nancy Carr, Doug and Priscilla Shand, Craig and Charlotte Wright, David and Susan Kolb, Don and Shirley Spangsberg and Jim and Marge Murphy.
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Courtesy of Richard Cortese