San Juan College concert choir back on stage this weekend

Evening of lighthearted, cheerful music planned by Virginia Nickels-Hircock

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The concert choir will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22 in the newly renovated Connie Gotsch Theatre.
  • Tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors at the box office.
  • The program features Broadway tunes, pop songs and folk standards.

FARMINGTON — No one is likely to accuse Virginia Nickels-Hircock, the choral music director at San Juan College, of not taking music seriously.

But as she prepares the college's concert choir for its annual fall concert this weekend, she promises the mood will be decidedly cheerful, offering a welcome respite from the last 18 months of COVID-19-related grimness.

"The concert is going to be very lighthearted, and, hopefully, it's going to be fun," she said. "I think I might be trying to convince myself that I can be a light in the darkness."

With that goal in mind, Nickels-Hircock has put together a program of upbeat material, highlighted by a trio of Broadway tunes. The list includes "Waitin' for the Light to Shine" from "Big River," "Light of the World" from "Godspell" and "Good Morning Starshine" from "Hair."

The program also will feature performances of "I Make My Own Sunshine" by Alyssa Bonagura, "Shine" by the British pop group Take That, "Be a Light" by Thomas Rhett and two folk standards, "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" and "This Little Light of Mine."

Nickels-Hircock acknowledged that a program comprised primarily of pop and Broadway tunes is not the norm for her choir program. But she said it was important to her to maintain a positive tone throughout the evening.

"We're trying to be inspirational," she said.

San Juan College choral music director Virginia Nickels-Hircock has put together a program of upbeat music for the College's concert choir performance this weekend.

As always, the concert choir is made up of a mix of college students and community members who are enrolled in the college's Encore program, which is targeted for students who are 50 years old and older. Nickels-Hircock said the Broadway material in this weekend's show was included specifically with the latter group in mind.

"We're singing their music," she said.

The choir will be accompanied by a small combo that features Teun Fetz on drums, Robyn Woodard on piano and Ryan Woodard on bass, guitar, ukulele and other instruments.

This will mark the choir's first performance in front of a live audience since the pandemic began, and Nickels-Hircock said that has presented its own set of challenges, especially since the concert will take place in the college's newly renovated Connie Gotsch Theatre. She explained that she spent an hour on Oct. 18 working with college staff members just to figure out the ticketing system in the box office.

"The machine is not very well oiled," she said, chuckling.

And even though the choir will be performing for a live audience, the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt. Nickels-Hircock noted that she regularly receives messages from choir members who have to miss rehearsal because they have been exposed to someone who recently became ill. And all the performers have been rehearsing in masks and will perform the concert in masks.

The situation isn't ideal, but Nickels-Hircock is determined not to let it get her down.

"I'm getting used to it," she said. "It's the state of the world."

The concert choir will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22 in the newly renovated Connie Gotsch Theatre on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors at the box office.

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