REVIEW Counting down chorus’s blessings

The Mancos Valley Chorus completed its Christmas season of shows on Sunday afternoon in Mancos at the Methodist Church. This year’s theme was “Countdown to Christmas.” Each piece had a number or a reference to counting in its title. Concertgoers were treated to pieces such as On December 5 and 20, The 1st Noel, I Saw 3 Ships, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep (from the movie, White Christmas), We 3 Kings of Orient Are, and even 4 Unto Us A Child Is Born.

Here is a countdown of the Top 10 reasons why this was worth seeing.

10. It did not include The Little Drummer Boy.

9. It’s free! Given all the technical assistance, community donors, and collaboration (and free cookies) required to put on these shows, it would be a great value at twice the price.

8. The generosity of the Mancos Valley Chorus. In addition to their four regular concerts, they performed two bonus concerts for the Mancos Valley schoolchildren and for the Valley Inn assisted-living facility. They invest in their community.

7. The instrumentalists: Silvia Fleitz on flute, Bob Newnam on trumpet, Sherry Grazda on keyboard, and Judy Osterhoudt, Lindsay Havran, and Jim West on hand bells.

6. The soloists. For the uninitiated, it is hard to imagine the diversity of talent that stepped out onto the stage as solos, duets, and trios. Marian Rohman, Gloria Thatch-Woody, Terry Wells, Laura Martin, Linda Bellush, Lynn Robb, and Jill Ward all presented their voices and musical styles with flourish and flair.

5. The Twelve Days After Christmas, for the bah-humbug in all of us. Shooting the partridge with a cartridge, wringing the necks of the turtle doves, chopping down the pear tree: all were gratifying.

4. Lee Bartley, the accompanist and solo performer. Bartley is the oil that keeps the engine of the chorus purring. A professional musician and recording artist, he lends his talent to the chorus seamlessly, knowing just when to assert and when to support. He also he beguiled the audience with one of his original solo piano compositions, Riverside, which skipped like a stone across water.

3. The director, Kriss Larsen. Larsen is in control of her singers, understands her music, and conducts with a zeal that attracts even the unsuspecting.

2. The singers. Community members from Mancos, Cortez, Dolores, and Durango all commit two hours a week for 12 weeks each season to deliver the best show possible. They were well-rehearsed and knew their parts, and were especially effective when asked to swell to a full forte sound as in the lovely arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon interwoven with The First Noel. They tackled with assurance some difficult rhythms in God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, reshaped in a challenging 5/4 time. The chorus sings with gumption and interacts wholeheartedly with the audience.

1. Alchemy. There was a seemingly miraculous chemistry that happened between the performers and their audience. It felt as if everyone in the packed house were collaborating toward a common goal: to have a happy time. With the countdown to Christmas fast upon us, this was a gift worth remembering.

Wendy Watkins is owner and operator of S’more Music, LLC., a private Suzuki piano studio in Cortez. She can be reached at 565-4129.