Between wildfires, the local economy and political angst, our community has not experienced a great start to the summer. The Durango Herald has had its share of discouraging news to write about. But there are many silver linings, and I want to share one directly from our vibrant arts community.
While we have all been consumed with the 416 Fire, a very significant event may have passed under the local radar. As an eternal optimist, I offer Durango a breath of fresh air (irony noted) that just might help remind us that our town is indeed unique and wonderful.
Did you know that the Durango Choral Society just returned from a performance at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall? Nearly 50 local singers spent five days in the Big Apple rehearsing and performing for an enthusiastic New York audience. Our talented and dedicated singers have been working for nearly 18 months in preparation for this event. Fate nearly intervened to thwart us at the last moment. Several of our members warily left evacuated and pre-evacuated homes in the middle of the carnage. We all, however, maintained hope and prayers for property, lives and firefighter safety. I received a code red pre-evacuation alert moments before taking the stage to conduct the dress rehearsal on the Carnegie Hall stage with the choir and orchestra. A strange juxtaposition of events, to say the least.
But when Durango rallies, we stand together. I wish our entire community could have seen and heard the magnificent performance given by our singers. Every single one of them stood well-prepared, professional and completely focused at all times. The Durango Choral Society is a true family of friends who care about one another, respect one another and never give up striving for their very best.
In true Durango fashion, our group fanned out and took in all things New York: from Broadway shows to the 911 Memorial to a Yankees game, Central Park, museums, jazz clubs, hot dogs and pizza on the street, Macy’s, a beautiful evening cruise past the Statue of Liberty and much more. In all of the excitement, however, they never wavered from job No. 1. Our singers, accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble and joined by choirs from Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Hamilton, Ohio, stood with pride on the Carnegie Hall stage and gave an absolutely beautiful and inspiring performance of three major choral works.
What is it like to perform on a stage known around the world for its perfect acoustics and unrivaled beauty? For most, it is a once-in-a-lifetime musical thrill. For some lucky ones, a return visit. For all, a milestone in their artistic careers. For me, watching the intense concentration, joy and pride in the eyes of my beloved musicians as I stood on the podium was the greatest possible reward. Having performed on many national and international stages, I can tell you the Durango Choral Society represented themselves and our community at the highest artistic level worthy of Carnegie Hall.
Our singers returned home exhausted but exhilarated, rightfully proud of themselves and armed with lifelong memories of their achievement. Ask one of them to tell you about it, and you will be treated to a very wide variety of bright stories. My hope is that each of them will remember their New York experience as a reward for hard work, cooperation and dedication.
We don’t all get to perform in Carnegie Hall, but we can all experience the joy and satisfaction of working toward a common goal. Just as our community comes together in appreciation for our heroic firefighters, we bond together in countless ways to celebrate the promise of living. So, even though it has been a tough start to the summer, let’s persevere by embracing some of the good news that happens every day in our town.
Linda Mack Berven is conductor for the Durango Choral Society and Women’s Choir as well as being a longtime music professor at Fort Lewis College.