Symphony's 'Majesty of Mozart' concert will be presented on grand scale

Nearly 200 performers will take stage during weekend concert

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The San Juan Symphony performs its “The Magic of Mozart” concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in
  • Tickets range from $10 to $30.
  • Call 970-382-9753 for more information.

FARMINGTON — It’s always an enjoyable experience when the San Juan Symphony is able to collaborate with other music groups from throughout the Four Corners, says music director Thomas Heuser.

But when his orchestra takes the stage this weekend with three local choral groups and four vocal soloists for its “The Majesty of Mozart” concert, the experience will be a memorable one, even for a seasoned classical music professional like Heuser.

Between the members of the symphony, the Caliente Community Chorus, the Durango Choral Society, the Fort Lewis College Chamber Choir, the four soloists and Heuser himself as the conductor, nearly 200 musicians will be onstage at the same time for the performance of Mozart’s Requiem.

Heuser, who is now in his sixth season with the organization, said he has led performances of this work with other orchestras, and the San Juan Symphony has performed the work previously under other conductors. But this will mark the first time the two have worked together on the legendary composer’s masterpiece.

“This has been on my bucket list for quite some time,” Heuser said, the excitement evident in his voice.

Music director Thomas Heuser says the San Juan Symphony's performance this weekend of Mozart's Requiem will be a treat for first-time listeners, describing it as "breathtaking."

In addition to the beauty of the music itself, Heuser said the opportunity to perform Mozart’s Requiem represents a return to an era when the conductor played an even larger role in classical music than he or she does now.

“It is different. The larger the performance, the more important the role of the conductor becomes,” he said, noting that in Mozart’s day, it was common for classical music performances to be conducted on such a grand scale. “ … You’re doing what the role was created to do.”

Despite its iconic nature, Mozart’s Requiem also leaves plenty of room for interpretation, he said, which is another reason why Heuser enjoys it so much.

“There’s a lot you can do with the music on the program,” he said, explaining that the interplay between the orchestra, the choral groups and soloists Wesley Dunnagan, Drea Pressley, Michael Hix and Sarah Brailey will allow him to put his personal touch on the concert. “You can shape it into something unique each time.”

The San Juan Symphony will perform "The Magic of Mozart" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall on the San Juan College campus.

Virginia Nickels-Hircock, the director of Farmington’s Caliente Community Chorus, said several members of her group have performed the Requiem with the symphony before, although it has been several years since they have done so. But she said the opportunity to perform a work of this nature never gets old, especially under such elaborate circumstances.

“It is spectacular,” she said. “ … To sing with an orchestra, it adds an element of power, it adds an element of wonder.”

Rehearsal time between the various groups involved in the concert is extremely limited, so Nickels-Hircock said that familiarity some of her singers have with the material will serve them well.

“It was really nice in preparation for this that many of my people already knew it and weren’t sight reading,” she said.

That gives them the freedom to focus on the other elements of the performance and their role in that overall sound, she said.

“Bringing Mozart to life is always a challenge,” she said. “You want to sing all the notes and rhythms accurately, but you really want to bring his music to life. And there are some particularly challenging sections.”

Those who have never heard the Requiem are in for a treat, Heuser said.

The San Juan Symphony will be joined onstage this weekend by four vocal soloists and three choral groups, including Farmington's Caliente Community Chorus.

“For first-time listeners, a monumental work like this will be breathtaking. They will be surprised by the scale, by the (measure) of the sound itself,” he said, adding that the work alternates between moments of profound intensity in which all elements of the symphony and choral groups are engaged and those when the vocal soloists take center stage, creating what he described as a unique combination of overwhelming power and intimacy.

“Mozart was a brilliant creator of those contrasts,” Heuser said.

The San Juan Symphony performs its “The Magic of Mozart” concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets range from $10 to $30. Call 970-382-9753.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 Support local journalism with a digital subscription: