Hundreds paid tribute Saturday at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall to Chris Bettin, a musician, real estate business owner and former Durango city councilor who Dec. 15 at age 52.
Members of the San Juan Symphony, led by music director Thomas Heuser, performed two classical pieces – Mozart’s “Romance” from his Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for strings and Tchaikovsky's “Andante Cantabile” – in memory of Bettin, who was also a philanthropist, sailor and writer.
Bettin died from large cell neuroendocrine cancer. He endured diagnosis and treatment with positivity and grace, said Christina Rinderle, his life partner, in a previous interview with The Durango Herald.
He had a passion for music, having made three albums under his birth name Robert Kent Voss. In 2021, Rocky Mountain PBS released a documentary about Bettin’s musical pursuits called “Stage Name.” The film is about how Bettin, who was adopted, created a “complementary identity” as he searched for his birth name, Robert Kent Voss.
Before the San Juan Symphony’s performance, Heuser recalled his first conversation with Bettin. Bettin told him the San Juan Symphony needs to play with Robert Kent Voss.
“I pride myself on being exposed to a lot of musical styles, but I sort of paused and said, ‘Who’s that?’” he said. “From there we had this wonderful conversation about his musical journey.”
Rinderle, Bettin and his parents have supported the San Juan Symphony and the Nutcracker Ballet composed by Tchaikovsky, he said, and Rinderle’s family has a background in classical music.
“I’m sure that many of you are struck as I am by what an incredible presence this gentleman had. It’s remarkable,” he said.
Heuser said Bettin’s “selflessness and humility” stand out in Heuser’s memories of him. He said he spoke with Rinderle and Bettin when Bettin was receiving treatment. He asked the couple what music would help them be “centered, calm and connected to one another,” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came to mind.
“We wanted to sort of play this Romance as testament to the beautiful romance that was Chris and Christina and always will be,” he said.
Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile, the second piece performed on Saturday, was fitting because of its origin, Heuser said. The story goes, Tchaikovsky overheard a house painter whistling a Russian boatman folk tune, which served as inspiration for the composer.
“What a more appropriate way to honor Chris than to play this piece of beautiful, romantic folk music that is inspired by the sort of seafaring and wayfaring life that he so embraced,” he said.
Bettin’s music took inspiration from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams and John Prine, according to his website, robertkentvoss.com. In 2014, he published a record with singer and songwriter Tyller Gummersall under the name “The Wrecking Balls.” His last album, “Time Machine,” was released in fall 2022.
CD’s of his album with Gummersall were on display at the concert hall on Saturday along with photos honoring the Durango man.
Rinderle said she held a private burial Dec. 21, the winter solstice and the darkest day of the year. The darkest day was chosen knowing the days ahead would only grow lighter.
Bettin cofounded Vacation Rental Collective in 2011 with Keith Brant and co-owned Durango Land and Homes with Rinderle. He served one term on Durango City Council from 2017 to 2020, as well as with various boards and nonprofits.