Someone must have planned it. How else to explain the multitude of musical choices this weekend? Call it a February festival or a Post-Snowdown Frolic.
Tonight, there will be three stellar concerts to choose from. Saturday will bring a repeat and the next installment in The Met: Live in HD simulcast series, this time with a rarely performed opera featuring none other than Placido Domingo.
Here are the highlights:
b The Durango Choral Society will present twin concerts of sacred music tonight and Saturday afternoon at First United Methodist Church. Titled Ave Maria, the concert will include a number of settings of the famous prayers to Holy Mary and the Magnificat. Some will be familiar and some will be new, particularly Franz Schuberts setting. Director Linda Mack-Berven said once again her singers will perform in the round.
The Methodist Church has great acoustics, Mack-Berven said in an interview last week. Youll be surrounded by the singers for a truly stunning finale. A double chorus will circle the sanctuary and perform the serenely beautiful Ave Maria by Franz Biebl.
Mack-Berven has assembled an unusually large and diverse set of performers. The Choral Society numbers close to 100 singers. The Durango Womens Choir will perform as will the Fort Lewis College Chamber Choir. In addition, a new group will join the Society from Telluride.
Its a small ensemble and they call themselves The Renaissance Singers, Mack-Berven said.
Leaderless for the moment, the group invited Mack-Berven to drive to Telluride and conduct final rehearsals for tonights program.
Bachs Magnificat is rarely performed in these parts, so it will be a rare treat. Soloists will include Gemma Kavanagh, Kim Farrell and C. Scott Hagler. Because the composers 326th birthday is only a few weeks away, its an appropriate prelude to the fast approaching Bach Festival that will be performed at St. Marks Episcopal Church from March 14 to 19.
b The Unitarian Recital Series tonight will feature clarinetist Anne Bjella Sanchez in a concert with friends. Sanchez can be heard as principal clarinetist with the San Juan Symphony and acquitted herself well last Sunday, particularly in Stravinskys Danses Concertantes. She has a clean, assured tone and is an exceptionally expressive player.
Sanchez has invited musical colleagues to join her in works that range in style from the classical to the contemporary; Mozart, Heinrich Baermann and William Osborne, to note the first half only. The second part of the program will include a quintet by American composer Douglas Moore and a duet by Mitchell Lurie with FLC piano professor Lisa Campi. Other musicians playing in this recital will include violinists Tennille Taylor and Catherine Pope, violist Sharon Neufeld and cellist Rebecca Caron. Its a mini San Juan Symphony all in an evening.
Sanchez migrated to FLC from Arizona. She earned her first music degree at FLC, then went on to Florida State University for a masters. Shes subsequently performed with a number of professional ensembles including the Sarasota Opera Orchestra, the Animas Music Festival and the New Music Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall. Sanchez lives in Denver and teaches music in the Jefferson County Public Schools. Shes one of the dedicated professional musicians who travels to Durango for our Symphony concerts.
If you havent been to a Unitarian recital, youll be surprised at the beauty and acoustics of the venue.
b Also tonight, the FLC Music Department will feature one of its outstanding percussionist students, Neil Hemphill, at Roshong Recital Hall. If youre up for a mixed evening of modern jazz and even more modern classical music, this is the place to be.
Hemphill is a senior from Colorado Springs and the centerpiece of his program will be a Sonata for Timpani by American composer John Beck. Each of the three movements increases in tempo and complexity and was written to honor jazz drummer Steve Gadd. A rare snare drum solo by William Cahn incorporates aspects of Afro-Cuban music.
In addition to the solo pieces, Hemphill has assembled varying jazz ensembles to perform works by John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Dave Holland and John Beck. Youll hear saxophonist Zack Jones, pianist Jack Maynes and bassist Evan Suiter.
To close his recital, Hemphill will perform his own composition Cannon in G, for Warren, inspired, Hemphill says, by the early 90s hip-hop artist Warren G.
I created the theme just messing around on a keyboard, Hemphill said. Then I morphed it into second line New Orleans funk and incorporated a light melody from Warren G.
To the initiated, that must mean something. Whatever. Sounds like an interesting recital.
b Iphigénie en Tauride. The Met Live in HD broadcast will return Saturday with a rare performance of Christoph Glucks interpretation of the ancient Euripedean play of the same title.
The opera follows the general plot and centers on the last remnants of the highly dysfunctional House of Atreus. After generations of interfamily betrayals and murder, it comes down to a brother and sister who barely slip the knot.
Orestes arrives in Taurus on a secret mission to reclaim a sacred statue that will put an end to the family curse. Unbeknownst to him, his sister, Iphigénie, is the high priestess in charge of slaying every foreigner who arrives. Because Orestes and his pal Pylades are both strangers and therefore doomed, a cat-and-mouse situation ensues. Eventually, sister and brother realize the truth in a worth-waiting-for double recognition. Family ties are revealed and reinforced. And, not to give anything away, there is a happy ending but not until the famous Greek Furies and an evil king are vanquished and a goddess unexpectedly arrives. This is opera, folks; quirky plots and resolutions are givens.
What isnt a given is Glucks elegant, crystal-clear music. Embedded in the Classical era, Gluck wrote more than two dozen operas. Iphigénie en Tauride was his last significant effort. It premiered in Paris in 1779.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a resurgence of interest in Glucks music developed. But its been 90 years since the Met staged Iphigénie. The new production features the irrepressible Spanish tenor Domingo singing the baritone role of Oreste. Domingo turned 70 on Jan. 21, so this is a significant performance by all standards. The celebrated American soprano Susan Graham sings Iphigénie.
The live broadcast runs close to three hours. The opera is sung in French with Met subtitles in English. If you havent seen a live Met production, expect excellent sound production, lots of close-ups, intermission interviews with principals and backstage activity.
What a weekend.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.