A seasonal highlight in choral music is speeding toward Durango with a concert by 175 singers, tonight and another by 116 performers next weekend.
Both will be conducted, wholly or in part by Durango's most seasoned Carnegie Hall performer, Linda Mack Berven, who is on the faculty of Fort Lewis College..
Mack Berven just returned from a week in New York City, where she sang in the soprano section of the Carnegie Hall Festival Chorus, a body of 54 singers recruited by national audition. They sang Haydn's "The Creation" in German conducted by Helmuth Rilling with an orchestra and soloists. It was her fourth appearance with the chorus, and she's booked to return next year as a guest conductor.
Speaking Thursday, Mack Berven was full of praise for Carnegie Hall's acoustics and appearance.
"You can hear everything and see everyone in the audience," she said.
Rehearsals were nine hours a day for four days and on her single night off she enjoyed a change of pace seeing the musical "Jersey Boys."
Back to the complex tasks that lie before her, Mack Berven is preparing for tonight's innovative music, "Town and Gown" a concert by the Fort Lewis College Choirs, Durango High School Colours and the Durango Choral Society.
She will be one of four conductors; the others are Andrew Homburg on the FLC faculty, student conductor Beverly Tafling and Durango High School choral director Tom Kyser.
For the finale, all 170 performers will shake the rafters of the Community Concert Hall by singing Sanctus from "Missa Luba" along with the college's Percussion Ensemble.
In describing the second of the two concerts "The Glory of Venice," Mack Berven used her research skills to spin an intriguing tale around Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere," which will be performed for the first time in Durango.
She sent an e-mail that said: "Gergorio Allegri, born in Rome in 1582, was a priest who served as a singer in the Chapel of Pope Urban VIII. His setting of the Latin text of Psalm 51 known as 'Miserere ... is surrounded by secrecy and mystery. 'Miserere' was composed for the Pope's own choir and performed during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. The manuscript was kept as a jealously guarded church secret. A ban was ordered on copying or publishing it, with harsh punishment threatened for any who broke the ban. In 1770, the 14-year-old Mozart, traveling in Rome with his father, heard the 'Miserere' and transcribed it from memory."
This concert, which Mack Berven will conduct, will be performed by the Durango Choral Society, the Durango Women's Choir and the FLC Chamber Choir. They will take full advantage of the acoustics of the First United Methodist Church. The choir will sing from around the church, complemented by a solo quartet of Kim Farrell, Kelly Zick, Andrew Homburg and C. Scott Hagler.