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Storm clouds and sun with Southwest Civic Winds

Last Sunday, the Southwest Civic Winds musically crashed storm clouds together and brought out the sun. So much energy went into the winter concert, the first of four this year, the audience roared with shouts and applause.

Launching the 12th season with dual performances in Farmington and Durango, the Winds are an essential part of the Four Corners musical scene. In 11 years, the ensemble has coalesced into a brilliant symphonic band in the best American tradition of the form.

Artistic Director Jared Wright has an easy, informal manner. He welcomes the audience and chats throughout the program. More important, he’s a focused and precise conductor when it comes to the music. Garrulous by nature, Wright is a perfect host even as he goes into some detail explaining his concert concept, his appreciation for the musicians and his gratitude for patrons.

Wright singled out Winds co-founder Ruth Katzin, who plays in the flute section. Katzin garnered a solid round of affectionate applause because 11 years ago she and the late Mark Walters brought the community band to fruition. Last fall, the Winds paid tribute to Walters in a memorable concert.

Sunday’s 2024 winter offering opened with Charles Carter’s “Overture for Winds.” As brilliant as a Renaissance fanfare, the contemporary piece served as a wake-up call. Wright and company followed with Zo Eliot’s “British Eighth March.” Wright promised a stately English procession, more formal than Sousa-Americana. He proved to be right.

Samuel Hazo’s “Enchanted Spaces” glimmered with everything the percussion section could muster: chimes, glockenspiel, gong, bass, timpani and the snap of snare drums. That shuddering work preceded the most enigmatic music on the program: Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep.” Wright read Whitacre’s quiet, poetic inspiration before the musicians played its sonic equivalent.

From that mysterious center, the rest of the program rose to a high-gloss beginning with España Cañi. Familiar to everyone, especially moviegoers, the quintessential Spanish call to the bull ring triggered alert concert status once again.

Wright and company sustained that Spanish energy through the final three works: Stephen Melillo’s “Time to Take Back the Knights,” Bruce Fraser’s “Bannockburn” and concluded with Leonard Bernstein’s jazzy tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich, affectionately known as “Slava.” The beloved Russian cellist and conductor was a close friend of Bernstein. The American composer’s boisterous, off-beat rhythms pierced the air, and the whole parade ended when all the musicians suddenly shouted “Slava.”

The next Winds concert will be the morning of July 4 in Rotary Park.

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