RORY CHAPMAN/Special to the Durango Herald
Talk about a jam session.
Put 57 random musicians in a room and most people would want to lock the door and run. But Mark Walters has taken that chaos and created not only order but harmony. The director of bands at Fort Lewis College, working side-by-side with music store owner Ruth Katzin, will lead the Southwest Civic Winds in the group’s third concert Thursday at the Community Concert Hall at FLC.
“Dances with Whales” is the group’s spring concert though it comes six days short of winter’s end. The program will feature two dance suites: the “San Antonio Dances” by Frank Ticheli and the classic “Suite of Old American Dances” by Robert Russell Bennett. The program takes its name from the other featured work, W. Francis McBeth’s five-movement “Of Sailors and Whales,” a musical tribute to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The Melville tribute also includes spoken narration by Gordon Thomas, the husband of FLC President Dene Thomas.
Rounding out the program will be two short pieces. “Perthshire Majesty” is a traditional Scottish folk tune and the “Valdres March” comes from Norway.
With only two concerts under their belts, it’s hard to call the Civic Winds “seasoned,” but Walters said the band has acquitted itself well so far. The first concert was in April 2012 at the Community Concert Hall and that was followed by a free concert in July in Rotary Park. Many of the musicians are veteran performers, including some of Walters’ fellow FLC music faculty members and high school educators. But practice still makes perfect, and with only three rehearsals, Walters has to accomplish a lot in a short period of time.
“It’s a lot of fun, and the group’s great, but they were a bit off, and I had to read the riot act to them yesterday,” Walters said about Sunday’s second practice.
The final rehearsal for Thursday’s concert will be held tonight.
“He has very high standards. The stuff that sounded OK to me, he wasn’t happy with, but he’s the master, so he knows what he’s doing,” said Karen Mesikapp, one of the Civic Winds’ “ringers.” Mesikapp is a violist with the San Juan Symphony who said the Civic Winds provides a nice diversion; the band has no string section and Mesikapp plays trombone in the community band. She said she has had previous bad experiences with similar startup attempts, but words such as “volunteer,” “community” and “just for fun” belie the quality of this group.
“I’ve discovered that the things I didn’t like – players who aren’t good, being forced to play horrible music – aren’t the case here,” Mesikapp said. “We have excellent players, and play real music written by real composers. It’s just a joy to play in.”
The Civic Winds is a unique bunch. Community bands are not a new concept, but the level of professionalism sets the Durango group apart. Band members come from Pagosa Springs, Cortez and northern New Mexico to participate. Such dedication speaks to the musicians’ commitment.
“I’ve got people going out and buying pro instruments – they’re into this thing,” Walters said.
The Southwest Civic Winds summer concert will be held July 21 at Rotary Park.