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Durango Choral Society welcomes Telluride and Wellesley singers

There will be two performances of “To the Stars” this weekend in Durango. (Judith Reynolds/Special to the Herald)
Weekend performances offer a musical journey to the stars

The Durango Choral Society, one of our most important cultural institutions, will turn a page on Saturday and Sunday. Sixty voices strong, the group will be conducted by its new artistic director, Rhonda Muckerman. For the last two years, she’s worked alongside Linda Mack Berven as both assistant and associate conductor.

“I’m setting a new tone for our new chapter,” Muckerman said. Consequently, the title she’s given to the early spring concert: “To the Stars.”

“My objective is to continue the tradition of vocal excellence and high-quality repertoire along with performances that will energize, inspire and uplift our audiences,” she said. “We’ll be singing contemporary music throughout – works we haven’t performed before.”

Rhonda Muckerman

The Choral Society, the Women’s Choir and guest choral society from Telluride will present a full concert of all new music at 2 p.m. Saturday at Christ the King Lutheran Church. In addition, the Choral Society will sing the first set on Sunday evening to welcome a formidable guest, the Wellesley College Choir, also at Christ the King.

“Our traditional two-concert spring weekend had already been planned when I got a surprise email saying the Wellesley Choir would be on tour in the Southwest and were we interested in hosting the singers,” Muckerman said. “I brought the possibility to our board, and we consulted with Telluride. I asked everybody. As it turned out, the new possibility of a two-concert weekend would be better for all of us. We could present our complete concert on Saturday afternoon, and we (the Durango Choral Society) could be the opening, welcoming act of three pieces for a full concert by the Wellesley Choir on Sunday evening.”

If you go

WHAT: “To the Stars,” Durango Choral Society and Women’s Choir, Rhonda Muckerman, conductor, and Telluride Choral Society, Hal Adler, artistic director and conductor.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Christ the King Lutheran Church, 495 Florida Road.

TICKETS: $20 general, $5 students and free for children under 12. Available online at www.durangoconcerts.com; the Welcome Center, 802 Main Ave.; by phone at 247-7657; and at the door.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.durangochoralsociety.org.

* * *

WHAT: The Durango Choral Society and the Wellesley College Choir.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Christ the King Lutheran Church, 495 Florida Road.


MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.durangochoralsociety.org.

The Wellesley concert will be free, Muckerman said, so Choral Society fans have a chance to attend two different choral concerts in one weekend.

The Durango singers will open both concerts with “We are the stars,” a new work with an Algonquin text, Muckerman said. “It’s technically challenging. It opens with a grandiose statement: ‘We are the stars which sing,’ and transitions to a slow, beautiful middle section, and then has a big finish.”

The opening set also includes a work by American composer Randall Thompson, who happened to conduct the Wellesley Choir in the late ’20s. That may be pure luck, but it’s something to be noted as the esteemed guests arrive. The Wellesley Choir carries forth a 123-year tradition. The college was founded in 1870, the choir later. Situated in the Greater Boston area, the school is one of the legendary Seven Sisters.

Lisa Graham

At the center of Saturday’s performance, the Durango Women’s Choir will present five works followed by guest singers from the Telluride Choral Society. The pandemic aside, the Telluride guests have become a tradition as Muckerman used to live, sing and conduct in Telluride. It’s worth noting their very different style and tone, proving that all choral music is not alike.

The Durango Choral Society will sing a final set including George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” And all of the local singers will conclude Saturday’s performance with “Deep Peace,” a traditional Gaelic tune and blessing.

Wellesley College

Founded in 1870, Wellesley was established as a female seminary and is now known as one of the Seven Sister Colleges in the Northeast. With an enrollment of 2,400 students, it’s considerably smaller than Fort Lewis College. But from the beginning, Wellesley has held a reputation for a superior education.

Among its famous graduates count the late stateswoman Madeleine Albright, writer Nora Ephron, actor Ali McGraw and, perhaps its most famous graduate -- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In its 123-year history, the choir has sporadically toured Europe, Canada and the United State. For the last 20 years, thanks to the leadership of Lisa Graham, the singers have toured annually during spring break. Graham completed undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in California before being hired at Wellesley in 2003. That same year, her singers appeared in the Julia Roberts’ movie “Mona Lisa Smile.”

Graham directs the Wellesley College Choir, Chamber Singers and the Choral Scholars. She’s also music director of Boston’s Metropolitan Chorale of 100 singers. Founder and past president of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, Graham is the 12th music director in the college’s history.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.