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Pit orchestra adds pizazz to ‘Cinderella’

How many small towns can boast a volunteer pit orchestra that regularly and enthusiastically accompanies its musical theater performances? Not many. Pagosa Springs has had the distinction of enjoying the talents of its volunteer orchestra for many years, and Music Boosters presentation of “Cinderella,” slated for production in the high school auditorium, June 29 and 30, July 1, 5, 6 and 7, will be no exception.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s charming music is lovely to the ear but not always easy to play. Often music is scored to suit the vocal ranges of the actors with little consideration given to the difficulty for the instrumentalists. The scores are written with paid professional instrumentalists in mind and there is no quarter given when it comes to its challenges. But the volunteer instrumentalists here in Pagosa Springs are undaunted, picking up the challenge of playing in difficult keys that do not rest easily under the fingers. Their desire to do their best and to provide our actors with well played accompaniment makes them prepare with even greater diligence.

“I often remind our actors how fortunate we are to have such amazing talent in our orchestra pit,” says director Dale Johnson. “If we had to actually pay union-scale salaries to these amazing musicians, we certainly would never be able to afford them.” That is the beauty of Music Boosters. All of its actors and musicians give freely of their time and talent, providing our community with truly amazing musical theater. All are dedicated to the same purpose – to strengthen youth through the arts and adult volunteer mentorship.

The orchestra rehearses for weeks in advance to prepare music for the busy schedule of dress rehearsals and performances. Many hours of work go into each performance, both individually and as a group. A “sing-through” with the cast precedes the actual on-stage dress rehearsals. Once all of the tempos, dynamics and pacing issues are ironed out, the long hours of rehearsing the play onstage begins. Each dance number must have a precise and consistent tempo, each solo or group number must be carefully coordinated.

“Providing musical accompaniment for a play is much different than playing a concert,” says Johnson. “It can be very tricky to get everything just right. Fortunately, we have some real veterans in our pit orchestra who have been playing for our musicals for many years. They know the pitfalls and recover from the ‘surprises’ that always happen when dealing with live theater. The real trick is to make it sound easy … and they do.”

Tickets for “Cinderella” are $15 (adults); $12 (seniors 65-plus) and $10 (students), with children age 5 and under admitted free. They will be made available online through Brown Paper Tickets ( and at the Chamber beginning June 15. The 2 p.m., Sunday matinee performance on July 1 will include a special offer for children age 10 and under. Children who dress in a costume of their favorite fairy tale character will get in free.

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