Singers bring joy to the season

Katrina Hedrick proved her mastery of a number of percussion instruments at the Durango Choral Society’s Traditional Christmas concert Sunday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. When she wasn’t hitting the gong or playing the marimba, she sang with the chorus. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Paul Boyer

Katrina Hedrick proved her mastery of a number of percussion instruments at the Durango Choral Society’s Traditional Christmas concert Sunday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. When she wasn’t hitting the gong or playing the marimba, she sang with the chorus.

It’s been so warm, dry and brown, it’s been tough to get into the holiday spirit this year. But the Durango Choral Society’s annual Traditional Christmas concert at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College banished that old Grinch.

The name of the concert is a bit of a misnomer, because virtually every number was a new take on a traditional song of the season. Music Director and Conductor Linda Mack Berven said that’s actually the biggest challenge every year, finding new and innovative interpretations of old favorites. She always manages to pull it off.

Part of the fun is seeing families out together, especially with all the little girls dressed in their Christmas finest. It was clear that holiday-motifed sweaters have proliferated in recent years, with some interesting takes on those as well.

But as great as it was to see our friends and neighbors in the audience, it was even more fun to see them all on stage in color as the choral society ladies broke out their most festive tops and the gents sported red bow ties with their tuxes. Mack Berven glowed in gold.

It’s impossible to pick my favorite moment, because there were so many. Having grown up in a household where Gershwin, Porter and Berlin were the second holy Trinity, the Berlin medley that included “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Happy Holiday” was utterly lovely.

The Durango Children’s Chorale, under the direction of Amy Barrett, sang everything from the traditional to the modern, including a beautiful Basque hymn balanced by their mutual dislike of being kissed under the mistletoe, which had the audience roaring.

The Durango Jazz Combo of Gary Walker, Jeff Solon, Chad MacCluskey and Jonathan Latta added a great instrumental vibe to the concert, particularly rocking (wait, can you say rocking for jazz?) “Go Tell it On the Mountain.” They played alone and added some nice accompaniment to the choral society.

Rochelle Mann, stunning in red, accompanied several pieces on either the flute or the piccolo, including a couple of very intricate pieces.

As I’m going through this, I’m realizing just how much toing and froing there was as musicians and singers played a number or two, switched off with someone else, then came back to do it again. I’m guessing staging the movement to go so smoothly took some serious planning, too.

“Silent Night” is perhaps one of the best known Christmas carols, but it’s often a song we sing almost by rote. The arrangement the adults sang in German, Spanish and English transformed it into something stately and gorgeous.

The Durango Women’s Choir had its own share of memorable moments. When all 13, – joined by Mack to make 14, so there could be two singers for each of the seven parts on a version of “Ave Maria,” stood in a circle, with some having their backs to the audience, it was mesmerizing. Soloists Alison Dance, Gemma Kavanaugh and Elizabeth Crawford added an ethereal texture to the song.

They’re not all serious music, though. These ladies can ham it up with the best of them, as they proved on “Santa Baby,” after Jolly Old Saint Nick arrived. He seemed to be having a swell time as Mandy Gardner perched on his lap.

Every year in May, the DCS holds a cabaret evening as a fundraiser. Last year, it offered “Conduct a Song in the Christmas Show” in the silent auction, and Cindy Cortese purchased it as a birthday gift for her husband, Richard. It was for a landmark birthday that’s higher than 60 and less than eight decades, if you want to do the math.

Anyway, this was no “here’s a baton, now go for it” item. Mack Berven gave him his own baton and conducting lessons, and he had to practice the song he had selected, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And it wasn’t just the chorus and pianist. Oh, no, Mack had to throw in Latta on percussion and soloist Megan Lopez to keep “Maestro Ricardo” on his toes.

But on top of all these highlights, the most fun was watching Katrina Hedrick, a recent grad of FLC who studied under Latta and John Pennington, not only sing in the chorus but play a plethora, no make that a cornucopia, no ... well, I’m out of synonyms, but more percussion instruments than I could count, while Latta did the same.

It was a great Sunday afternoon.

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Making snow angels (Hurray!) for their birthdays are Patricia Strumpf, Taylor Forsythe, Angie Raulston, Pat Root, Paul Schadt, Gary Ulrich, Tyler Dugan, Michelle Jungerberg, Corynna Roberts, Laurie Hakes, Kathryn Lavengood, Nick Salter, Amanda Gardner, Don Bruning, Charles Reid, Daniel San Miguel, Eloise Talbert, Patrick Leach and Barbara Dunne.

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Beth Suttle Estelle was reminiscing about her late mother, Louise Jarvis Suttle on Thursday. That’s because Suttle was born the last time we passed 12/12/12, a memorable date indeed.

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Walking in a winter wonderland for their anniversaries are Daniel and Stacy Webb, Tom and Ann Duft, Kip and Laura Stransky, Larry and Lauren Rardin and Frank and Linda Tikalsky.

Richard Cortese was guest conductor for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at the Durango Choral Society’s Traditional Christmas concert at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Paul Boyer

Richard Cortese was guest conductor for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at the Durango Choral Society’s Traditional Christmas concert at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.