Red was the color du jour, roses abounded, and love was the theme at the Durango Choral Society’s Wine, Women and Song on Valentine’s Day.
The event was held at St. Mark’s Parish Hall, but one would never have never recognized the hall’s “day job.” The room was transformed into an evening in Gay Paree, with sparkling lights, Chinese paper lanterns, and a blinking Eiffel Tower, thanks to Michelle Hegenwald (also the chef for the evening) and Dan White. The 50 guests – they kept the number low to maintain an intimate feeling – wined , dined and enjoyed a simply marvelous evening.
The evening was Stan Crapo’s idea. (He’s the owner of Star Liquors. I gave him a hard time – as if he doesn’t donate enough wine around town, now he’s creating events to give away even more? But, as he says, his wife, Alice, sings with the choral society, so he has to support the organization. They were both there happily pouring their donations.)
Guests were greeted at the door with pours of Roederer Estate Brut (or sparkling apple cider for the nonimbibers) and the piano musings (isn’t what they call it in piano bars?) of Margi Coxwell.
Hegenwald cooked for three days to create a five-course extravaganza, and she was ably assisted in the kitchen by choral society Executive Director Dawn Spaeder, Debra Lehl and Dale Wingeleth.
The first course was fruit and vegetable trays, “bonjour” chicken wings and a fromage dip. Attendees noshed and schmoozed their way around the room during this stage of the evening.
Then it was time to take a seat for a smooth, easy evening that delighted all the senses. A seafood course including raw oysters with caviar, crevette (shrimp) cocktail on hot crab glaçage with cracker and smoked salmon crostini was accompanied by Királyudvar Tokaji Furmint, a delicious white wine.
The Durango Women’s Choir, as elegant as they are beautiful and talented, kicked off the song of part of the evening with “The Night They Invented Champagne” by Lerner and Lowe, and then “God’s Bottles,” a song reflecting the condemnatory views of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union on the aforementioned champagne. The singers throughout were accompanied by Christi Livingston, who doesn’t get enough credit for being a thoroughly solid and unflappable accompanist.
Next up came another plate of tastes – grilled bacon pimiento on baguette, a farcie champignon, also known as a stuffed mushroom, bacon-fromage tarts and a French-onion boulette, or meatball. Crapo and his certified specialist of wine Jolin Freshood selected a Milbrandt Syrah Clifton Hill Vineyard to pair with the rich dishes. Then it was time for the glorious Gemma Kavanagh, who, brought tears to the eyes with her version of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and “More,” the theme from “Mondo Cane” by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero.
A little digesting and laughter, then it was time for the fourth course, a stuffed London broil and poulet chasseur in cognac served with a Pruno Tempranillo, which Crapo called the wine find of the night. He described it as “the essence of purity” in the program C. Scott Hagler designed.
The women returned to sing “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine,” with Liza Tregillus soloing (and giving that man of hers, husband, Peter, a big smooch); a Gershwin hit, “My Funny Valentine,” which I believe is required singing on Valentine’s Day, with a solo by Kavanagh; and another Gershwin standby “Embraceable You,” with a solo by Alison Dance.
I’m not sure how folks found the room in their stomachs, but most managed to thoroughly enjoy a dessert course featuring truffles, chocolate and plain profiteroles and gateau au fromage, a superb cheesecake. An equally superb Kopke Late Bottled Vintage Port provided the grand finale to the evening’s libations. The Durango Women’s Choir put their own stamp on the evening with a charming version of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” another de rigueur song on a day dedicated to lovers. Sarah Choszczyk performed a lovely solo to send us out into the night.
(What can I say? I’m completely in a French mode right now. Chocolate Fantasia the previous weekend, and, coming in the column Saturday, the Durango Film’s French gala, also on Friday, have catapulted me thoroughly into the days of my youth, when I lived in France for a short time.)
If his wife volunteers, Frank Hegenwald finds himself willy-nilly pulled into volunteering, too, so he was the official photographer for memento shots.
There was a lot of plating going on with all those courses, and that meant a lot of serving, too. Jeanne Bandy, Paul and Cathy Duggan, Sue Giddings and Katherine Reynolds were hopping all evening long.
And, as always, Linda Mack Berven not only selected the perfect program, she conducted it with panache, too.
Next up for the Durango Choral Society is the Saints & Sinners concert, with two performances at 7 p.m. March 7 and 2 p.m. March 8 at the First United Methodist Church of Durango. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.
Visit www.durangochoralsociety.org to learn more about the concert and to purchase tickets.
Happy birthday to the first of the Pisces birthday celebrants – Ellen Patterson, Betsy Petersen, Stan Crapo, Herb Folsom, Odette Zenizo, Sandra Olson, Don Briscoe, Dan Howell, Pat Mahan, John Serwe, Allen Washburn, Jessie Davis, Michelle James, Devin Lewis, Joel Priest, Jim West, Hall Sippy and Meade Harbison.
If you know a young person who is a sophomore or junior in high school in La Plata County who is interested in community service and wants to learn leadership skills, then you should clip this item.
The four Rotary Clubs here are seeking nominations and applications for the Rotary Youth Leadership Award. Here’s the sweet part of the deal – the students who are selected get to attend a four-day intensive leadership retreat from June 13 to 16 at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus near Glenwood Springs.
The retreat is professionally led, and it’s absolutely free to the attendees. Students come from across southern and western Colorado, so it’s also a chance to meet other inspired, committed kids.
A community member can nominate a young person or a young person can nominate themselves. Anyone who would be interested in funding a scholarship so more local students can attend is welcome, too.
John Angst, who’s coordinating the nomination process for the county’s clubs, said three of last year’s attendees, Elle Rathbun, Katja Walton and Rachael Bennett spoke to the Rotary Club of Durango Daybreak recently. They were still excited about what they had learned and brought back to share with their high schools.
Nominations are due by March 31, but this is definitely something you don’t want to put off until the last minute.
Visit www.RYLA5470.org to learn more or get the nomination form. Or, easy peasy, you can contact one of these members of our local Rotary Clubs: Angst at Durango Daybreak, firstname.lastname@example.org or (252) 639-0770; Terry Swan at the Rotary Club of Durango, email@example.com or 247-1995; Heidi Holland at the Rotary Club of Durango High Noon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 946-6840; or Carol McWilliams for the Rotary Club of Pine River Centennial at email@example.com or 443-0093.
I hope Tom and Marian Townsend are enjoying their springlike February anniversary.
Here’s how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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) and include no more than three to five people.