Rain can’t squelch musical spirits

Andrey Ponochevny plays during the Summer Symphony Soirée at Durango Mountain Resort. The event thanked the businesses and individuals who sponsor Music in the Mountains. Enlarge photo

ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald

Andrey Ponochevny plays during the Summer Symphony Soirée at Durango Mountain Resort. The event thanked the businesses and individuals who sponsor Music in the Mountains.

Terry Bacon, president of the board of Music in the Mountains, raised a question Sunday night: Because rain began to fall just as the classical music festival started, can we say Music in the Mountains is the ultimate “rain dance”?

Empirical evidence would say that the monsoons generally start around the Fourth of July and continue into August, so Music in the Mountains actually adopted Mother Nature’s schedule. Whether the connection is real or happenstance, I agree with everyone in attendance at Sunday’s donors’ event: We would be happy if it rained every single day of the festival.

Before Music in the Mountains officially kicked off Monday, the festival held a special event to thank the people and businesses that make Music in the Mountains possible. Ticket sales cover less than one third of the cost to mount an event of this magnitude, so their generosity is the key to making it work.

Guests gathered first at Purgy’s at Durango Mountain Resort for appetizers, including smoked turkey, cream cheese and walnut wontons with raspberry-jalapeño dipping sauce; pan-seared bacon-wrapped scallops with brown sugar gastrique (I had to look that one up. It’s a “syrupy reduction of caramelized sugar and vinegar, sometimes with the addition of wine” according to New Food Lover’s Companion); heirloom-tomato bruschetta; chilled poached jumbo shrimp with atomic horseradish cocktail sauce (Sinus-clearing levels of horseradish. Delish.); and grilled slices of baguette with sautéed wild mushroom ragoût.

Then it was up to the Festival Tent. And if anyone needed proof that God loves classical music, the rain let up just in time for the journey.

I must laud Music in the Mountains Assistant Executive Director Angie Beach, who came up with the idea of a bookmark for the program – who says an organization can’t grow and change in its 26th year? Not only is the bookmark handy to keep track of that day’s concert in a book full of three weeks of concerts, they added the nice touch of marking that evening’s concert with the bookmark. Topping it off was a chocolate from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Beach told me those chocolates will be showing up throughout the festival.

In an intimate performance for 150 of Music in the Mountains’ friends, newcomer to the festival Andrey Ponochevny made a memorable début. A bronze medalist in the 2002 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, he chose three challenging pieces to wow the audience: Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata in B-flat, Op. 83; Frédéric Chopin’s Ballade in F minor, Op. 52; and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Five Preludes, Op. 23 and 32.

The Prokofiev also is known as one of the composer’s “War Sonatas.” Composed right before World War II, it’s the third movement where Ponochevny – and now this audience – finds hope for the victims of war. My personal favorite was the preludes, five little jewels that require all the skills of a pianist.

Greg Hustis, the artistic director of the festival, introduced Ponochevny by telling us about the first Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958, so we could understand his achievement. Begun in Moscow during the height of the Cold War, the competition was designed to demonstrate the Soviet Union’s cultural superiority shortly after the Sputnik launch had demonstrated its scientific accomplishments.

Enter Texan Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, who, playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, received an eight-minute standing ovation. As one might imagine, this perturbed the organizers. What was a good Soviet to do?

Judges asked permission of Nikita Krushchev to award the prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Krushchev is said to have asked. “Then give him the prize.”

Proof, Hustis said, that music is truly an international language.

(According to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition website, Van Cliburn was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City upon his return, the first and only time such an honor has ever been given to a classical musician.)

You can’t say you never learn anything in Neighbors!

Sunday’s performance was a wonderful start to what promises to be another great season. There are a number of extraordinary events ahead, including Pops Night featuring a tribute to Frank Sinatra, an evening of four of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos at St. Columba Catholic Church, an evening of Americana courtesy of Walter Dear and featuring our own Gemma Kavanagh, the return of Eileen Ivers, a number of renowned guest performers including festival favorite Aviram Reichert and wonderful music galore.

Tickets are available at www.musicinthemountains.com or visit the festival offices at 1063 Main Ave.

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Dancing in the rain for their birthdays are Debby Morgan, Bee Atwood, MaryHowell, Tanya Golbricht, Ralph Campano, Aubrey Mullis, Wyatt Ulrich, MichaelMeyer, Patricia Padilla, Gina Pruett, Paul Jackson, Phillip Kolter, BJo Hatten and Robin Goldman.

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Annie’s Orphans annual summer fundraiser will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. What more perfect place could it be held than the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge, 1150 Main Ave.?

This year, $10 will buy you a barbecue dinner plus one glass of beer or wine. Volunteers bake their hearts out to provide a veritable cornucopia of desserts for sale, and many generous donors contribute items for a cool silent auction.

Funds raised will support the shelter for six months or so. (If you’re looking for a puppy, a black lab gave birth five weeks ago to a litter of nine, which are darling and looking as though the “proud papa” may have been a German shepherd.)

This is a place where our dog-loving town can show its heart.

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Every year, the Colorado Bar Association selects up to six “Outstanding Lawyers in Colorado History.” The criteria are daunting, ranging from upholding the highest standards of the profession, making significant contributions to the CBA and the law, assisting other attorneys, especially novices, being involved in civic and community affairs and so on. Oh, and they must have died at least seven years before their nomination.

This year, one of Durango’s finest was selected.

His profile in The Colorado Lawyer’s July edition starts like this: “On those rare occasions when our office received a phone call for ‘Frank Maynes,’ it was certain to be a caller from out of town, because everyone in Southwest Colorado knew him as ‘Sam.’”

Tom Shipps, who joined Maynes’ firm in 1979, doesn’t know who nominated Maynes, but Shipps wrote a beautiful profile of one of the best known and most liked men in the area – a particularly significant achievement considering he did a lot of work in one of the most contentious areas of law in the West, water law.

Maynes worked with people in high places and achieved many things in his career, with perhaps the most notable achievement being his work on the Animas-La Plata Project. But to me, what says the most about him was his tender care of his beloved wife Jacqueline, or “Jackie,” as everyone knew her. She died in 2003 from complications of multiple sclerosis.

I learned some new fun facts in the profile about Maynes, including that he was a blue-ribbon baker who made pomegranate jam. And when El Pomar Foundation gave him a scholarship to attend Colorado College, it was conditioned on his maintaining at least a C grade-point average and “never embarrassing his mother.”

The profile is available online by visiting www.cobar.org and clicking on the publication. It’s a great read about a man who made a real difference in our community.

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I wished Amos and Julie Cordova a happy anniversary in June, but I didn’t realize it was their 60th. To celebrate, they spent five days in Santa Fe at the 2012 Genealogical Society of Hispanic America Conference and Annual Meeting at The Lodge at Santa Fe.

Many happy returns on this important milestone.

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Celebrating another year as partners in love and life are Jim and MargieWinkelbauer, Steve and Debbie Williams, James and Tina Trump and Brad and Susan Stamets.

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high quality, high resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory), include no more than three to five people.

Happy the 26th Music in the Mountains classical music festival is starting are Music Director and Conductor Guillermo Figueroa, center, his wife, Valerie Turner, left, and sister, Ivonna Figueroa, both of whom are performing during the festival. Enlarge photo

ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald

Happy the 26th Music in the Mountains classical music festival is starting are Music Director and Conductor Guillermo Figueroa, center, his wife, Valerie Turner, left, and sister, Ivonna Figueroa, both of whom are performing during the festival.