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Divertimento Quartet to play at Art in the Garden Festival

A need for a little diversion from their normal day to day lives manifested into the formation of the Divertimento Quartet. In the fall of 2009, a group of local musicians started playing together for the sole purpose of enjoyment and for the enriching experience of playing with other musicians. They had played together for West Side Story, and also as a duet at last year’s Art in the Garden Festival, when Heidi Tanner and Kate Kelly decided to form the quartet. It wasn’t long before the duo was able to entice Nancy Smith and Valley Lowrance to form a completed group. The Divertimento Quartet, one of eight musical sets, will perform Aug. 21, 3 to 7 p.m. for this year’s Art in the Garden Festival at the lovely home and gardens of Werner and Maryse Buck in beautiful Continental Estates off U.S. 84.

After the decision was made to form the quartet, Nancy Smith’s well-kept secret surfaced. She is a longtime Pagosa Springs resident whose reputation hails from her beautiful singing voice. However, unbeknownst to many folks, she can play violin. That revelation helped make her the perfect candidate for playing second violin. At that point, Kate moved from cello to viola vacating the spot for a cello. Local bassoonist Valley Lowrance came in with another option; she was willing to try the cello’s parts with her bassoon. The bassoon’s range is comparable to the cello, hence the birth of the Divertimento Quartet.

So far, the group has been able to perform together at one of the Episcopal Church’s Sunday night services this past spring. The group is looking forward to playing at the third annual Art in the Garden Festival. For this year’s event, however, Valley Lowrance will not be able to participate. Therefore, Carol Pierce Phillips, violinist, who played Handel’s “Violin Concerto No. 4” at Art in the Garden 2008 will replace her. To accommodate three violins the quartet will be shifting gears in instrumentation at this year’s event. This is made possible because of Kate Kelley, multi-string player, who is able to shift from one instrument to another with ease. She most likely will be playing both cello and violin at the festival.

When Heidi Tanner was 9 years old, she began playing the violin. By her senior year in high school, she had progressed to co-concert mistress of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Youth Symphony. But in her early 20s the demands of college and working toward a degree in business made it necessary to set her instrument aside. The challenges of career interest, marriage and children all helped drag her further away from her musical ability. Thankfully, her move to Pagosa Springs in 2006 encouraged her to return to playing her violin once again. She was given the opportunity to perform a solo with the Community Choir conducted by Larry Elginer. Since then, she has continued to remain committed to playing music with her violin. And she especially enjoyed playing for the local high school’s production of “West Side Story” and more recently for the Music Booster’s production of “Annie.”

Kate Kelley started her lessons on the violin when she was 10 years old, staying with it six years into high school. While there, the high school orchestra conductor decided Kate had the capability to fill the position for a much-needed violist. It was a relatively easy transition for Kate. She adapted quickly and continued playing the viola for her last two years of high school. In college, at the University of Connecticut, she persisted with her music during her four years there. By that time, Kate was married and had two busy boys. Therefore, she made the choice to set aside her instrument to focus on being a wife and mother. Fifteen years had passed when her friends started urging her to fetch both violin and viola from their storage place and return to her playing. She has been faithfully playing them for the past ten years. However, about four years ago, Kate was encouraged to take on the cello, She explains, “It’s become the instrument that most grabs at my heart”.

Nancy Smith and husband Jim moved to Pagosa in 1977. Nancy has been involved with various singing groups over the years, and she sang with a women’s singing quartet that participated at last years Art in the Garden.. But this is her first experience playing in an instrumental group. Nancy had lessons in violin while attending sixth through eighth grade. Forty years later, in 2003, she decided to try lessons again on the violin, selecting Kate Kelley as her instructor. While at last years festival, Kate approached Nancy about joining an instrumental quartet. She readily agreed and has been happily rehearsing with the Divertimento Quartet ever since.

While in fourth grade, Carol Pierce Phillips began playing the violin. Now, at 52, she feels that’s a long time to be playing the instrument. Her musical highlights include playing with the Denver Symphony Youth Artist Orchestra and being able to accompany Up With People with a fiddle. She credits the Colorado public school system for putting importance on music and giving the opportunity for children to learn to play an instrument. Carol, her husband, Chris, and two children, Samuel and Eva Marie, reside here in Pagosa Springs part-time

The third annual Art in the Garden Festival will include the music of the Divertimento Quartet along with seven other musical sets. Along with the music, 15 regional artists will be displaying their artwork in the art galleries and working plein air throughout the lovely grounds. Samplings of gourmet French food will be served and, as part of the French Country theme, a market place will be available and selling freshly baked bread and fresh, locally grown vegetables.

Art in the Garden’s mission is to help provide aid to the poor, needy and elderly of our community. Everyone is invited to help with that goal while enjoying a day of fun and relaxation on Aug. 21 from 3 to 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Nello’s and Community United Methodist Church. A single ticket is $45 and two or more tickets purchased at the same time are $40 each. Information about Art in the Garden can be seen at website: If you have an interest in helping with this event, there is a need for more volunteers. A volunteer page is available at the website; please sign up there.