Telluride Choral Society: WinterSing This Weekend

Telluride Choral Society: WinterSing This Weekend

The very thought of it make some people shiver in anticipation; others shiver with angst and cold. Whichever your camp, in America you still own it: whatever its origins – pagan, connected with the winter solstice or Christian, based on the birth stories about Christ – Christmas now belongs to everyone, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, everyone.

Telluride Choral Society performs at the Schmid Ranch.

Telluride Choral Society performs at the Schmid Ranch.

To prove the point, traditions associated with the holiday are secular and universal: mistletoe kisses (from Druid lore); chipmunks and Charlie Brown; Nat King Cole; secret Santas; gift-giving and store window displays; elves and grinches. It is Rudolph and tricked out giant conifers, baked ham and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and one too many tipples of eggnog. The holiday is classic movies such as “it’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” But most of all, Christmas is music.

Perhaps no other holiday in the world is more closely associated with lively and lush sounds – and locally Christmas music means the Telluride Choral Society’s WinterSing, one of the premier events of the holiday season in town.

This year WinterSing takes place at Telluride’s Christ Church, Friday, December 12, 7 p.m. and Saturday, December 13 at 3 p.m. The 2014 holiday program, developed by artistic director Rhonda Muckerman and performed by the Choral Society’s Chorale, the Chamber Singers, and student ensembles plus the Jewel Tones, includes “People Look East,” “Calm on the Listening Ear of Night;”  “Winter Troika Ride:” “Newgrange,” by Grammy-winner and Telluride Bluegrass regular, Tim O’Brien;  and “Jingle Bells,” a must for Christmas. Bobbie Shaffer and Susan Ensor accompany the groups.

About the Telluride Choral Soceity and Rhonda Muckderman:

An inspired musician and teacher named John Yankee was the driving force behind the Telluride Choral Society, and the non-profit’s first director in 1995. Yankee created a community within a community for both kids and adults, and developed the ever popular “Sings.” When Yankee left in 2002, Dr. David Lingle stepped into Yankee’s large boots, leaving his distinct imprint on Telluride’s sonic landscape: Masterworks, musicals with the Telluride Repertory Theatre, collaborations with the Telluride Dance Academy. Then Lingle left town, heading for red dirt country and another chorus to lead. Taking up his baton, was the Telluride Choral Society’s first woman director, Rhonda Muckerman.

Rhonda was hardwired for a career in music. She began playing a number of instruments – harmonica, organ and guitar – but settled on the flute. She went on to earn a bachelor of music degree from Michigan State and a masters degree in music education from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. For the past 24 years, the last 15 of which in Norwood and Telluride, she has taught instrumental and choral music to people of all ages.

Rhonda was on a Grail hunt to find her spiritual family when she moved to Telluride – a place she saw in a dream, but had never heard of – right around the time Yankee & Friends founded the Telluride Choral Society. She pulled into town one balmy July day. Lots of people were milling around Main Street and a film by Almodovar was playing at The Nugget. A foreign film in a pea-sized town? Promising. A meeting with Telluride Choral Society member/music teacher Ulli Sir Jesse sealed the deal. After a brief trip back to Seattle where she had been teaching, Rhonda returned in August and had 25 students within a month. In short order, she also met her husband-to-be, Peter Muckerman, at a meditation class, an event two psychics in San Diego predicted would happen: “There’s a man and a little boy waiting for you.” (Muckerman had a son Elliot, recently deceased.) Kismet in 3-D.

En route to the Telluride Choral Society’s podium, Rhonda taught kids brass and woodwind, sang in Yankee’s Telluride Chorale (auditioned singers), and joined the a cappella group Heartbeat. Now she is teaching a new group of second graders.

Cue “Climb Every Mountain.”

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