Concert series spotlights a Fifth of Beethoven

SouthWest brings San Juan Symphony to Cortez

Violinist Odin Rathnam performs with the San Juan Symphony last October at the Community Concert Hall on the campus of Fort Lewis College. He’ll be at Montezuma-Cortez High School on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. Enlargephoto

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Violinist Odin Rathnam performs with the San Juan Symphony last October at the Community Concert Hall on the campus of Fort Lewis College. He’ll be at Montezuma-Cortez High School on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m.

Now that we are in the belly of summer, it’s not easy to think any further than the next barbecue or golf game. And yet it is also in our nature to look ahead, to anticipate, and to plan for events that we know are coming up. And Cortez in particular has something to look forward to.

In October, SouthWest Colorado Concerts will begin its 61st season of delivering professional entertainment to Montezuma Valley. SWCC is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization comprised of local residents who are dedicated to bringing affordable high-quality concerts to Cortez. Its 2014-15 lineup of shows and performances promises to be memorable. Tickets are on sale now.

Many local music lovers will recall last October when Cortez hosted the San Juan Symphony for the first time. Playing to a full house, conductor Arthur Post and a full orchestra enthralled concertgoers with a powerful and passionate performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony.

On Sunday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m., Southwest Colorado Concerts is bringing the San Juan Symphony back to the Montezuma-Cortez High School stage to perform another of Beethoven’s masterworks: the formidable and haunting 5th Symphony. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is an icon of Western culture and is perhaps the most recognizable of his nine symphonies, characterized by the dark and stormy “fate theme” of short-short-short-long threaded throughout its four movements. Compositionally, Beethoven wages a battle between darkness and despair and hope and triumph, producing a thrilling piece of music. In live performance, Beethoven’s symphony is exhilarating.

On the same ticket is returning violin virtuoso, Odin Rathnam, who will perform a selection of enchanting romantic showpieces from composers Saint-Saens and Massanet. Rathnam endeared himself to the Cortez audience last year when he performed, along with the orchestra, a wildly difficult showpiece by German composer, Max Bruch. Expect another breathtaking performance in October from this virtuoso.

This same program will be offered in Durango and in Farmington, but fortunately for those who live in Montezuma Valley, there will be no need to make the long drive. It’s a rare opportunity to hear music of this caliber. And it is especially noteworthy because this will be Maestro Post’s final season with the San Juan Symphony after 13 memorable years.

In November, another returning Cortez favorite, Tony DeSare, will come to town. DeSare is a critically-acclaimed New York singer, pianist and songwriter who possesses enough talent and hunky charisma to fill Times Square. Described by one critic as “two parts Sinatra to one part Billy Joel,” DeSare is touring a new show, which he calls “My Generation” and which features a wide variety of tunes from early songwriters including George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Jerome Kern to more contemporary popular songwriters such as Elton John, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney.

A small accompanying jazz combo rounds out the the nightclub effect. DeSare is friendly and easygoing, a delight to hear sing and watch play the piano with the confidence and ability of a seasoned performer.

In 2015 the second half of the SWCC season features two more performances. On March 30, Quartetto Gelato from Canada will perform on the M-CHS stage. “Classical by training. Eclectic by design” is how this group characterizes itself.

Known for clever programming and humor along with flashy showpieces, the award-winning and unlikely combination of cello, violin, oboe, and accordion is sure to entertain and delight its Cortez audience. Pyrotechnical solos and blazing gypsy show pieces are part of the repertoire of this original and energetic foursome. Add to the mix an opera tenor and a World Accordion Champion and a fun-filled evening awaits.

To finish out the 2014-15 season, the Chicago’s Alliance Brass Quintet will take the Cortez stage on May 7. From Canada and Mexico to Russia, the U.K., Italy, and Japan, this group of young performers has performed with many major orchestras and chamber ensembles. Their music ranges from Renaissance to jazz and everything in between.

In addition to playing their evening shows, Tony DeSare, Quartetto Gelato, and the Alliance Brass Quintet are slated to perform student concerts the next day. Interactive and informal, these performances reach out to young people and introduce them to a world of music that they might otherwise miss. Friendly banter, questions and answers, high-octane instrumental pieces, and showy theatrics entertain and educate. Past student response to these shows has been overwhelmingly positive. SWCC, school administrators, and the musicians all deserve praise for making his happen.

For local readers who might believe that there are limited cultural opportunities in Cortez, this lineup of musicians may be the perfect answer. SWCC Board President Joyce Stevenson says, “From the symphony orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth to the smoldering sound of Sinatra to a world-champion accordion player to the resounding sounds of a brass quintet, this season we have concerts for everyone.” This year’s theme for SouthWest Colorado Concerts is Concerts for Everyone and it looks as if the organizers plan to deliver on that promise.

The concert board is committed to keeping prices low so that these shows are affordable to all people. An adult season ticket is only $45 and for children and students it is an unbelievable $10. Single show tickets are also available, but by far the greater value is a season pass to all four shows.

Tickets will be sold at the door the afternoon of the San Juan Symphony. However, due to the growing swell of interest and support, and to save yourself waiting in line the day of the show, it is highly recommended that tickets be purchased in advance. Season ticket holders may also attend concerts in Delta and Gallup, New Mexico at no additional charge.

The world is coming to Cortez. We have Southwest Colorado Concerts to thank for that.

Wendy Watkins is owner and operator of S’more Music, LLC, a private Suzuki piano studio in Cortez. She can be reached at 970-565-4129.

Arthur Post conducts the San Juan Symphony playing Beethoven’s Third Symphony on stage at the Montezuma-Cortez High School last October. The symphony returns to Montezuma-Cortez High School on Sunday, Oct. 5. Enlargephoto

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Arthur Post conducts the San Juan Symphony playing Beethoven’s Third Symphony on stage at the Montezuma-Cortez High School last October. The symphony returns to Montezuma-Cortez High School on Sunday, Oct. 5.

Ken Marshall conducts the San Juan Symphony during Pops Night last July at Durango Mountain Resort. Enlargephoto

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Ken Marshall conducts the San Juan Symphony during Pops Night last July at Durango Mountain Resort.