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One bright, shining moment

C. Scott Hagler, left, outgoing founder and executive director of 3rdAve.Arts, and Thomas Heuser, artistic director of the San Juan Symphony, display the sacred tie, a symbol of the rite of passage. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

Last week, the Durango Chamber Music Festival concluded its 15th season of noontime recitals to overflow crowds. For 15 years, the festival has prompted locals to ask: Can you believe the music we have in our small town? We’re living in Camelot, and we don’t even know it.

Co-founder of 3rdAveArts and festival Executive Director C. Scott Hagler was on hand to say goodbye and also to perform. He’s retiring from the sponsoring organization. At June 8’s farewell dinner, 3rdAveArts board president and co-founder with Hagler, Steve Kiely, paid tribute to his friend’s legacy. Kiely also oversaw a passing of the sacred Bach Festival tie to Thomas Heuser.

Piano-four-hands is performed by Kyle Osborne and Linda Mack Berven for the June 8 recital. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

On July 1, 3rdAveArts and its universe of chamber concerts and festivals will be subsumed under the banner of the San Juan Symphony. Heuser, artistic director of the Symphony, was on hand at the dinner to accept the tie. Years ago, Hagler, a professional graphic designer, created the festival artwork and the tie as an afterthought. Heuser humbly accepted the tie in Kiely’s mock ceremony.

Dinner and fun aside, festival Artistic Director Mika Inouye deserves a lot of credit for attracting a variety of musicians from Durango, Farmington, Santa Fe and California for this year’s sequence, in turn, the musicians brought fresh programming.

The woodwind sextet takes a bow at concluding recital June 9. From left: oboist Elaine Heltman, bassoonist Denise Turner, clarinetist Lori Lovato, flutist Kathryn Shaffer, hornist Erica Otero and pianist Kristen Folden. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

Among the delights:

  • June 5: Returning to Durango from California, cellist Dieter Wulfhorst and violinist Susan Doering partnered with flutist Shelley Mann to put on a program of first classic then humorous and haunting contemporary music.
  • June 6: Operatic music filled the sanctuary as soprano Gemma Kavanagh and mezzo Nan Wagner brought Puccini’s “Musetta” and Bizet’s “Carmen” into the hall before concluding their musical bouquet with Delibes’ shimmering “Flower Duet.” A visitor from out of town whispered: “I had no idea Durango celebrated opera.”
  • June 7: The Durango Chamber Singers performed six beautiful songs featuring unusual solos by soprano Christine Richards and clarinetist Katie Patton. The ensemble closed with a comic and choreographed send-up of out-and-about stray cats. Director Elizabeth Crawford smiled throughout, and unseen by many, pianist Amy Barrett entrusted daughter, Breeanna, to swiftly and deftly turn pages.
  • June 8: Two piano-four-hand duets bracketed a major performance of Mendelssohn’s “Variations Concertantes.” Farmington musicians, cellist Hans Freuden and pianist Levi Brown, brought this rarely performed work to light with energy and precision. Freuden sustained a 16-bar solo line as Brown transformed Mendelssohn’s rippling pianism into a vision of sunlight on water. Opening the recital, Kyle Osborne and Linda Mack Berven seriously settled into complex four-hand piano music. After jaunty ragtime, a serious march and sparkling Star Wars, the duo switched to satire. Variations on “Chop Sticks” included a long, brazen arpeggio by Mack Berven as Osborne raced to change seats. The recital concluded with Inouye and Hagler furiously playing Moritz Moszkowski’s invigorating “Spanish Dances.”
  • June 9: Four musicians from Santa Fe joined Durango’s dynamic twins, pianist Kristen Folden and flutist Kathryn Shaffer, to close out the week. The players delivered a vigorous interpretation of Poulenc’s “Sextet pour piano, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn.” Alternately intense, romantic, strident, lyrical, energetic and profound, Poulenc’s masterwork provided another “bright shining moment” here in Camelot.
Durango Chamber Music performers June 8, from left: Kyle Osborne, Linda Mack Berven, C. Scott Hagler, Mika Inouye, Levi Brown and Hans Freuden. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

Mark next year’s calendar for the 16th annual Chamber Music Festival, scheduled to run June 3 to 7, 2024.

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