Caliente Community Chorus, college orchestra featured

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FARMINGTON — A long-awaited collaborative effort between two local music groups finally will take place this week when the Caliente Community Chorus and the San Juan College Orchestra perform a concert in the Henderson Fine Arts Center.

The leaders of the two groups — Virginia Nickels-Hircock for the chorus and Teun Fetz for the orchestra — have had several discussions over the past few years about staging a joint production. But getting their groups together was far easier said than done, Nickels-Hircock said.

"It just didn't like we could ever get together because of our schedules," she said.

But the stars finally aligned this fall, and at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the center's Performance Hall, the two groups will share the stage for a concert with a "From Cradle to Grave" theme that celebrates the life milestones of several highly regarded composers.

Fetz said he was excited about the chance to organize a project with Nickels-Hircock, explaining that he admires what she has done with Caliente and other groups over the years.

"She's a good musician," he said. "She always has good high school choirs at Piedra Vista."

Fetz had worked with the choral group before on a limited basis, serving as a percussionist during a couple of its performances. That experience gave him the confidence to pursue this project.

"Caliente has a good following," he said. "They've been successful in a lot of different performing opportunities."

Nickels-Hircock said the chorus began rehearsing for the performance in August amid its other scheduled performances. The two groups aren't scheduled to stage a rehearsal together until tonight, at which point a lot of last-minute work will need to be done — particularly for the handful of musicians who sing with the chorus and play with orchestra.

"People will be wandering back and forth from one number to the next," she said.

That certainly will present some challenges, Fetz acknowledged.

"One of the hardest things about this concert is the logistics and the positioning, making sure everyone is able to see and hear," he said. "There are a few people who play in both groups, so that'll be an interesting twist. But that was one of attractions of doing this. I didn't want them to have to choose between the two groups. This is a showcase for them to show they could do both."

The three works the groups will perform together will be "Ave Maria," "Christmas Lullaby" and Mary Chapin Carpenter's "The Thanksgiving Song." The orchestra also will perform "Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielle, "Funeral March of a Marionette" by Gounod, "Irish Tune from County Derry" by Grainger, "Mambo Movement" from "West Side Story" suite by Bernstein and "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen by Grieg.

Fetz described "Mambo Movement" as an especially complicated piece that will test the limits of his orchestra. He said he's looking forward to seeing how his musicians respond.

"It's got a lot of rhythmic technicalities," he said. "It's loud and boisterous. It's not a subtle piece at all. It's a fun piece, but also pretty tough. It's a little bit more of a stylistic change of pace than what we're used to playing."

Both Nickels-Hircock and Fetz are expecting the performance to go well and are open to the possibility of arranging another joint concert in the future.

"I don't know about annually, but definitely again," Nickels-Hircock said. "I think community efforts like this are a good thing to bring new people in, to attract a new audience. I think there will be people coming who have never heard my group and people who have never heard the San Juan College Orchestra. I think they'll be happily surprised, but also entertained."

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Fetz said the experience already has been a success in his mind.

"I think it's a treat to be able to work with this organization," he said. "I'm really proud of the orchestra for shaping up and making this work. Everyone involved should feel a sense of accomplishment."

Tickets to Tuesday's concert are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 for children 12 and younger. They can be purchased online at sanjuancollege.edu/silhouette or in person at the box office. Call 505-566-3430.

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4620.

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