Caliente Community Chorus returns with two performances this fall

Group plans fundraiser in October and full concert in November

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Caliente Community Chorus director Virginia Nickels-Hircock says her group has retained most of its membership despite being idled for nearly a year and a half by the pandemic.
  • The cabaret fundraiser takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 at the Farmington Civic Center.
  • The fall concert will be performed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington.
  • Tickets can be purchased at calientechoir.org or at the door.

FARMINGTON — Among San Juan County's many performing arts groups, the Caliente Community Chorus has been one of the last to return to the stage.

That's because of the size of the group, which typically numbers several dozen people, and the restrictions that have been in place for much of the past year and a half on large gatherings of people.

But Caliente's hiatus finally has come to an end, as the organization resumed rehearsals last week for its annual cabaret fundraiser in October and its annual fall concert in November. Director Virginia Nickels-Hircock said even though things aren't quite back to normal, she is enjoying interacting with her singers again.

"I love it," she said. "I'm very happy to be back making music with people, creating, and I'm so sad we are still masked and distanced."

Nickels-Hircock said that while there has been a lot of joy associated with the group's return to action, she also has been disappointed at some of the complaints that have surfaced among members, with some people protesting about still having to wear a mask and others grumbling about people who won't wear one.

When the pandemic meant no live performances, members of Caliente went virtual to reach audiences. In this photo Virginia Nickels-Hircock, left, and Robyn Woodard prepare for a recording session in March of 2021 during the shooting of the group's Broadway for Breakfast fundraiser.

"The diametrically opposed points of view are driving me crazy," she said. "I'm just trying to keep people safe. I don't want to wear a mask more than anyone else, but (the pandemic is) still a concern, and we have to do it. … I'm trying to bring people together."

Nickels-Hircock is hoping her singers will feel more cohesiveness as they adjust to the requirements and continue to prepare for their two upcoming performances. The cabaret fundraiser, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 at the Farmington Civic Center, features an evening of singing, dancing and appetizers with music from the 1980s being spotlighted. A cash bar also will be available.

Nickels-Hircock promised a show full of "leg warmers and big hair." The full chorus will perform such numbers as "Copacabana," while individual performers will tackle tunes by the likes of Annie Lennox, Cyndi Lauper and the Eagles.

The event was held in a virtual format last year because of the pandemic, but Nickels-Hircock said even the return to a live format will feature a change of location this year.

"We did it for years at the Totah (Theater)," she said. "But with that not being available (because of a renovation project), we've moved it to the Civic Center ballrooms. Hopefully, in the future, we can move it back to the Totah because it's really the ideal place for this kind of performance."

Caliente will present its fall concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington with a program centered on the theme of struggle. Nickels-Hircock said the music will reflect that theme in many forms, such as race inequality, health issues and economic struggles.

"It's going to be kind of an interesting program," she said.

Nickels-Hircock said that despite the chorus' long hiatus, it managed to retain most of its members. When the group begins rehearsals each year for its fall performances, Nickels-Hircock said she typically can count on between 60 and 65 people showing up, with 50 to 55 sticking with it over the full season.

This year, she said, the chorus saw a little more than 50 people at its first rehearsal in early September, so there have been some dropouts over the last 18 months. But she is still pleased at how many folks have returned to the fold.

And more are always welcome, she said, noting that the commitment for being in the group is minimal. Members are expected to attend a weekly two-hour rehearsal on Tuesday nights and spend time rehearsing on their own. Other than the performances themselves, that is all that is required, she said.

Tickets for the cabaret fundraiser or fall concert can be purchased at calientechoir.org or at the door.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.