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Harp, flute duo featured at St. Patrick’s concert

Special to The PREVIEW

This Saturday, at 7 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church will present two of Pagosa’s own classical concert artists in concert, as harpist Anita Briggs performs with her daughter, flutist Jessica Peterson.

For a town the size of Pagosa Springs to claim to have resident classical concert artists is a bit of an anomaly, but for those who live in this beautiful mountain valley town, this comes as no real shock. Pagosa Springs is filled with local amazements and among its most delightful, its incredible scenic views notwithstanding, is the number of fine musicians and artists who reside here.

St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church has been at the forefront in exposing the community to the high-quality musicians among us, and through its new concert series will be bringing even more opportunities to enjoy fine music.

There are arguments as to whether or not musical talent is an inherited gift, but Jessica Peterson is one who can certainly sway the argument toward the positive. Jessica was born into a very musical family. Her grandmother was an opera singer, as are various aunts and cousins. Her father played clarinet and her mother, Anita Briggs (formerly Titsworth), is a concert harpist. Mother and daughter have become real audience pleasers as they combine their considerable talents.

Anita and Jessica were featured performers at the recent Classic Christmas concert at the community center and at the St. Patrick’s Christmas Eve service, mesmerizing their audience and the church’s congregation with the beauty of their ethereal sounds. Last week, the two performed in Cortez to a packed house, bringing $1,200 in ticket sales to assist Grace’s Soup Kitchen.

“We thought we would arrive early to tune and warm up,” said Jessica, “but the audience came quite early to get good seats. We warmed up to a half-full house!”

Jessica has also been featured in solo concerts in town, most recently this past summer at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts where she performed music of the Americas. Many proclaimed it as the best musical concert of the summer season. She is also a member of a new classical trio called Night Song, that includes the talents of Heidi Tanner on violin and Sally Neel at the piano. The trio recently performed a concert to an appreciative audience at St. Patrick’s.

“Jessica is truly a community treasure. She has played numerous times at St. Patrick’s to our utter delight. Her skill and the incredibly beautiful tone that she derives from her flute are equal to that of many professional flutists I have known. What a blessing to have her here in Pagosa Springs,” says Fr. Doug Neel, rector of St. Patrick’s. “When her talent is combined with that of her mother’s, we are assured of an amazing and spellbinding musical experience.”

The concert will include a variety of music, beginning with an invocation played by Jessica on the Native American flute. Jessica not only plays the flute, but owns a business called Nighteagle Flute Company, where she handcrafts Native American Flutes. Her flutes are in demand from clients all over the world.

The concert will continue with “L’Ete” by the French composer Cecile Chaminade, an impassioned ode to summer. (Perhaps this will bring a musical respite to those who are digging out their driveways in sub-zero temperatures.) “The Young Prince and Princess” from “Scheherezade Suite,” by Rimsky-Krosakov, offers a work of oriental splendor. The Pierne “Concertstuck” for harp and piano (an orchestral reduction played by Sally Neel) is one of the most beautiful harp works of the romantic period.

Following the intermission, Marcel Grandjany’s delightful “Children’s Hour” offers a musical story of youthful play with four segments: “Giddap, Pony,” “Playing in the Garden,” “Parade” and “The Sandman.” Celtic music is represented by “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” from Ireland, “The Gentle Maiden,” a Yorkshire tune, and the well-loved “Irish Washerwoman,” played on the fabled bird ocarina. The program concludes with flute variations on themes from Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”

This is a not-to-be-missed opportunity. Anita Briggs will soon return with her husband to her second home in New York City after her extended stay in Pagosa Springs. To have a professional harpist in our midst, combined with the lovely sounds of Jessica Peterson on the flute, is a unique and exciting experience, one that we in Pagosa Springs are privileged to enjoy.

“I hope parents will bring their children to hear this music as well,” says Fr. Neel. “It is so important to expose our children to high quality music and the arts. It is from concerts such as this that children begin to understand the bi-products of hard work and practice. Nothing inspires children in the arts more than the opportunity to hear beautiful music.”

A suggested donation of $10 will be collected at the door, $5 for students. The proceeds will benefit music ministry and the new public concert series at St. Patrick’s.

St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church is located at 225 N. Pagosa Blvd. For more information, call 731-5801.

This story was posted on January 17, 2013.