St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church will be the setting for a special benefit concert this Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m., by Night Song, a local classical trio with Jessica Peterson on flute, Heidi Tanner on violin and Sally Neel on piano.
The concert will help raise money for Curtains Up Pagosa! (formerly Music Boosters), an organization that supports arts in the public schools.
Sally Neel, music director and member of the CUP board, came from Dallas, Texas to Pagosa Springs four years ago with her husband, Doug Neel, rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, and son, Robert, a CUP scholarship winner currently attending Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
“Before accepting the position as rector of St. Patrick’s, my husband asked me if, as a professional musician, I thought I could adjust to a small town. For many years I had enjoyed singing with the Dallas Symphony Chorus, being a member of The Orpheus Chamber Singers (a professional Dallas choral ensemble), and had opportunities to play on some of the finest organs in the nation,” said Sally. “But at heart I’m a small town girl from Paris, Texas, a little town with an abundance of artistic talent. I knew there were many treasures to be found in small towns, and I felt the mountains calling our name! I knew pretty quickly that there was a lot of music to be made in the San Juans and I have never for one minute regretted our decision to move here.”
Flutist Jessica Peterson, grew up in a musical family. Her mother is a harpist and her father played clarinet. She began playing flute in high school and played in the Pagosa Springs High School band. She spent some years studying and making music in New York City, but ultimately returned to Pagosa Springs where she met and married her husband, Pete. She apprenticed with David Nighteagle to learn the art of making Native American style flutes and, once he was satisfied that she could carry on his excellent reputation as a flute maker, he sold her his Nighteagle Flute Company. Jessica has written 15 music books with CDs for flutists, published by ADG Productions (under the name JessicaWalsh).
Jessica’s solo concert at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts this past summer was praised as one of the best concerts of the summer. Of particular interest and novelty is her mastery of a tiny instrument of ancient origin called the ocarina. She acquired this particular instrument as a gift.
“I had ordered an ocarina for each of my family members as Christmas gifts,” said Jessica. “ I ordered different sizes so that we could play in ensemble if we wanted. I sent the long list of particulars to the flute maker and at the end, as a joke, I included the words, ‘And a partridge in a pear tree!’ To my delight they sent me the order, and as a thank you they included a tiny ocarina shaped like a little bird that was placed in a nest! I was totally charmed by this tiny instrument and began to experiment. Lo and behold, it has a beautiful tone and can make some glorious music!” She has since delighted audiences with its versatile and beautiful sounds, and astounded them by playing such delights as a Vivaldi flute sonata and a humorous rendition of “Listen to the Mockingbird.” The tiny ocarina will make a return appearance this Saturday.
Violinist Heidi Tanner has a story often heard in our beautiful mountain town, a talent that laid fallow for many years and, thankfully, has been revived. Heidi received extensive training in her youth, beginning violin training at age 9 and advancing to the prestigious position of concert mistress for the Tulsa Youth Symphony. But she put down her instrument in her twenties as she got busy pursuing a career, married and started a family. Fortunately for all of us, she was inspired to return to her art when she moved to Pagosa Springs with her family in 2006.
“I was pretty rusty at first and it took a lot of practice to regain that lost ground,” she said. But persistence pays and her beautiful sounds have returned. Heidi is currently a violinist in the local Divertimento String Quartet, a member of the Curtains Up Pagosa! pit orchestra, a member and board member of the Pagosa Springs Community Band, performed recently with Thingamajig Theater’s first pit orchestra and is now a member of “Night Song” trio with Sally Neel and Jessica Peterson. She has performed as a soloist on numerous concerts with pianist Jean Smith and willingly steps in to lend her musical talents to benefit arts in Pagosa Springs.
These three local musicians will combine their talents Saturday with a concert of classical and contemporary music sure to please audiences of all ages and musical tastes. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $5 for students. All the money made from this concert will benefit arts in the schools and CUP’s scholarship program for students majoring in the arts.
Curtains Up Pagosa! is a non-profit community sponsored organization founded in 1989 whose mission is to strengthen youth through the performing arts and adult mentorship. For more information about how you can become involved in this important organization, go to www.pagosamusicboosters.org. Volunteers are always welcomed.