Telluride Choral Society: SpringSing, 3/18

Telluride Choral Society: SpringSing, 3/18

Telluride Choral Society presents a SpringSing Spectacular, a special dedication to Bobbie Shaffer. Event takes place Friday, March 18, 7 p.m., Michael D. Palm Theatre, Telluride. Artistic director Rhonda Muckerman conducts. Tickets available at the door. Adults, $20; Students, $10.



Some of you may remember a PBS show called “The Big Blue Marble.” The gist of the program was this: Planet Earth resembles a blue marble and boys and girls are pretty much the same all over the world.

In this same spirit, “we’re all on this Big Blue Marble together” (and a celebration of that fact), underlies the Telluride Choral Society’s SpringSing, Friday, March 18, 7 p.m., Telluride’s Michael D. Palm Theatre, as it presents “Music of the Land, Sea and Sky.” The performance features the adult choruses, as well as the high school ensemble Omni Voce, and two children’s choruses: Choristers and Training Choir. It also celebrates Bobbie Shaffer’s contribution to Telluride as Pianist-in-Chief of the town for about 40 years.

Choral Society Artistic Director, Rhonda Muckerman, now in her sixth year at the helm of the singing society, says SpringSing came about with this year’s theme not by watching “The Big Blue Marble” or any other TV program, but in a more roundabout way: it all began with two songs she felt she wanted to reintroduce to Telluride singers and their audience.




First, the soothing sounds of  “The Seal Lullaby,” Eric Whitacre’s beautifully-voiced song originally composed for a Disney feature film, popped into her mind. The film never came about, so Whitacre arranged the piece as a choral work. Second, Toto’s enigmatic 80’s synth-pop hit “Africa” lingered on her mind. That is one of those pop tunes that morph surprisingly well into a choral setting. From the seeds of these two pieces of music, Muckerman noticed a theme evolving around the earth, heaven, and the sea.  She followed the arc to this year’s Choral Society spring musical happening.  A few other examples of the popular ear candy on the program is Phillip Phillips’ folksy anthem”Home” and the Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road.”

The choir also tackles a song Mahalia Jackson popularized, “A City Called Heaven,” a staple in African-American gospel circles.  The song is an earthly longing for the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. Here, the new city,about 1,500 miles in length and width, is descended down from heaven in the final scene of the bible. The city is made of pure gold with a foundation of jasper and sapphire and is surrounded by 12 massive gates.  The door of each gate is a giant pearl. “A City called Heaven” was the gospel singer’s plea to leave this earth and go to that city. Singing the solo will be Norwood resident Juanita Ramsey.

Muckerman says of this Friday’s SpringSing:

“Also, at this time of year we feel the awakening of the earth – of spring – and of our spirits pushing forward into a new moment,  called by the growing light of the sun.”

With this sentiment in mind, the student choral ensembles will present a song called “I Am,” a piece that entirely encapsulates this year’s theme with its very earth-centric lyric:

 “I am the the field and the sky.

  Oh, I am nature,

  Earth, and sea.

  I am beauty,

  Earth, and sea.”

Adding an African ingredient to the program, the kids will knock out the rousing “He Lives in You” from the Broadway musical, The Lion King.

Muckerman came back to the Telluride Choral Society as director in 2010, when as she and her family moved back to Telluride from the faraway Serengeti of Norwood. In Norwood,  she served as director of instrumental music.  Twenty-one years ago, this flutist with a degree in music education and conducting had joined the Telluride Chorale as a tenor –and was new to choral music. However, Muckerman claims, however, she found the transition from instrumental to vocal conduction was, in fact, pretty seamless.

After 40 years in Telluride, it’s Bobbie Shaffer’s last performance, so SpringSing honors this tireless, talented accompanist.

Bobbie Shaffer, guest of honor at American Songbook Fest’s Name That Tune party, picture with friends.

Bobbie Shaffer, guest of honor at American Songbook Fest’s Name That Tune party, picture with friends.

The special component of Friday night’s concert, though, is pianist and accompanist, Bobbie Shaffer.

Most in Telluride know Shaffer through her highlights of Telluride history, which has appeared for years in the Telluride Daily Planet. Throughout her time here, she has been an integral part of its success of the Telluride Choral Society one the past 21 years. She has also accompanied numerous jazz programs. Shaffer has also been a guiding presence at virtually every Telluride Repertory Theater, now Telluride Theatre, production that involved music.

“This year’s Spring Sing will be bittersweet for me, as it will be my last piano performance, my swan song, after 40 years of living and performing in Telluride,” explains Shaffer. “I’m not sure how I’m going to get through it emotionally. My community identity since 1976 has been local music and theater. I started accompanying the Chorale in the early ‘90s when Peter Langstaff conducted ‘The Messiah’ every year during the holidays. Although I was temporarily living in London, I practiced over there and flew in about a week prior to performance to play in town.  I never looked back. I continued playing for The Telluride Choral Society for every director henceforth, including John Yankee, David Lingle, and now the lovely and loving Rhonda Muckerman. I have also been the pianist and occasional music director for practically every musical theater production for the last 40 years, including school plays and graduation, Standing Room Only (SRO) comedy troupe in the early ‘80s at the Nugget, The Plunge Players, the REP, and the current Telluride Theatre. The Choral Society and the Theatre have been my family. They have given me as much joy and feeling of belonging as I hopefully have shared in return. I’m leaving Telluride with a heavy heart, but the experiences of a lifetime.”

SpringSing Spectacular:”Music of the Land, Sea and Sky” is performed one night only, Friday, March 18, at the Michael D. Palm Theatre for the Performing Arts in Telluride.

Tickets are available at the door and are $20 for adults and $10 for children.

Call 970-729-0082 for more information.

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