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‘A Classic Christmas’ tomorrow

Photo courtesy Paul Roberts
Larry Elginer will emcee A Classic Christmas, play with the Pagosa Brass Sextet and participate in numbers with some of the other musicians scheduled to perform at the show. A Classic Christmas will take place Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center.

“A Classic Christmas” — in its eighth year as a Pagosa tradition — takes place tomorrow night, Friday, Dec. 21, at the Ross Aragon Community Center.

The doors open at 6:30 p.m. with refreshments and cash bar. Pagosa Brass Quintet plays pre-concert music beginning at 6:45. Please bring snacks and desserts to share.

Advance tickets for $12 are on sale at the community center. Tickets at the door are $15. Young people, 18 and under, are invited to attend the concert free of charge. There is a call out for help with teardown after the show in exchange for concert admission.

Please bring donations of non-perishable food items, which are being collected at the community center in support of our local food banks.

Call 264-4152 for more information.

The stellar cast “A Classic Christmas” includes John Graves, D’Ann Artis, Santa and the Snowflake Sisters, Kathy Isberg, Larry Elginer, June Marquez, Pagosa Brass Sextet, Jessica Espinosa Trujillo, Sally Neel, Emily Tholberg, Nancy Zevely, Larry Baisdon, Debbee Tucker, Dan Burch, Dave Krueger, Kathy Baisdon, Joshua Pike, Jessica Peterson, Anita Briggs and Ping.

Jessica Peterson’s musical vivacity is reflected in the enthusiasm that lights up her audience. Jessica headlines the second half of the concert with her mother, harpist Anita Briggs. Jessica is a consummate concert artist, a true inspiration in our quickly emerging music scene. She performs on concert flute, clay bird ocarina and Native American flutes. Sarah Savage describes Jessica’s music as, “ethereal notes from a flute so delicately played that they seem to come from the Milky Way painted across the sky.” A world-renowned maker of Native American flutes, Jessica is the proprietor of Nighteagle Flute Company, which she operates from her Pagosa home. She is the author of several educational books with CD’s on flute music.

Celebrated concert artist Anita Briggs will grace our concert stage with her awe-inspiring, heavenly harp. Dan Fogelberg took a stunning photograph of Anita with her harp, which was published on The Pagosa SUN Preview cover in April 5, 1984. The article, written 28 years ago by Kay Hughes, was entitled “Joy of music leads child prodigy through piano lessons at age four to career as acclaimed harpist.” Anita had already achieved a remarkable degree of accomplishment in the classical music world as principal harpist for symphony orchestras, ballet and opera companies and as a soloist.

“One of the great joys of my life has been playing with Jessica,” says Anita. “We started performing together when she was just fourteen. We’ve played many concerts in Colorado and New York. There is an almost otherworldly spirituality about her playing, rare even in celebrated artists. She can also be very merry, and her madcap humor enlivens her recitals in a wonderful way.

“Jessica and I have played lots of weddings, and sometimes had to bite our tongues to keep from laughing. There was the earnest groom, who in trembling tones declared ‘With this wing I thee red,’ then promptly keeled over in a dead faint. And the dignified minister who queried, ‘Jane, do you take this man to be your loyally wedded wife?’

“The incident I would most like to forget occurred at the University of Connecticut. Arthur Fiedler, of Boston Pops fame, was to conduct the New Haven Symphony (of which I was principal harpist) in a pops concert of our own. Correctly anticipating a huge crowd, the university had decided to hold the concert in the gymnasium, which has amazingly good acoustics. Fiedler provided the players with music for five encores, with no specification as to order, one being ‘Moon River.’ This gorgeous arrangement began and ended with a spectacular solo harp cadenza featuring glissandos. To play a glissando, a harpist simply slides a finger rapidly over the strings: no problem, except that the pedals that control the strings’ pitches (seven pedals, with three positions each) must be set in precise positions. Otherwise, total harmonic disaster!

“We finished the concert with a rather rowdy version of ‘Mack the Knife.’ Fiedler took numerous bows to the accompaniment of thunderous applause. Remounting the podium, he mouthed ‘Moon River’ and simultaneously swept his baton down for the first beat. In a total panic, I kicked at my seven pedals and launched into the first glissando, expecting cacophony. To my astonishment and relief, the pedals had somehow fallen into perfect position. I was enjoying my cadenza when it occurred to me to wonder who the rude person was who had shouted, in piercing tones, ‘You idiot,’ just as Fiedler’s baton fell. Surely, it couldn’t have been … me? I finished the final cadenza, and Fiedler, mustaches twitching, gestured for me to stand up for a bow. More thunderous applause. I spent the ensuing four encores brooding over the unlikelihood of my ever playing along the eastern seaboard again.

“As the auditorium emptied and I packed up my harp, I saw Mr. Fiedler approaching across the stage. I made myself as small as possible to no avail. But the splendid man had come to congratulate me on my speedy footwork and to say that indeed he WAS an idiot to forget that a harpist has to have a few seconds to prepare the pedals. When my teeth stopped chattering I offered my own apology, and we ended with an amicable chat and the discovery of mutual musical acquaintances.

“When my family really wants to get at me,” says Anita Briggs, “they only have to hum a few bars of ‘Moon River.’”

Wonder if there’s any way she could sift that one into a Christmas concert.

Experience the joyful music of a great Pagosa, classical music, mother-daughter duo, and the glorious music of an enormous cast of colorful musicians, tomorrow night at the community center.

For further information, call 264-4152.

“A Classic Christmas” is presented by Elation Center for the Arts in collaboration with the Ross Aragon Community Center. The Pagosa Springs SUN is event sponsor.

This story was posted on December 20, 2012.