A musical prelude from out of the 416 Fire’s ashes

Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 9:01 PM
The 416 Fire slowly burns through oak brush June 1 west of U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango. A prelude, “Brighter Than the Flames,” was written and performed as a tribute to the firefighters who battled the 416 Fire.

Composer David Sterrett’s prelude, “Brighter Than the Flames,” opened the 2018 Music in the Mountains festival as a tribute to the men and women who battled the 416 Fire.

That was July 13, when smoke still hung in the air.

Performed by the Festival Orchestra, Guillermo Figueroa conducting, the work was inspired by the Colorado wildfires that had been raging since early June.

Learning about the 416 Fire and the major effort to contain and control it, Sterrett said in an interview, the Dallas composer dedicated his concert prelude to the firefighters.

Now, a video has been made to commemorate the 416 Fire using Sterrett’s prelude as a soundtrack. It runs 6 minutes and is available on YouTube.

“It’s a gift to the community,” said Gordon Thomas, president of the MiTM Board and creator of the video. Thomas said he got the idea as he heard the work performed at every one of the classical concerts and simultaneously saw Jerry McBride’s spectacular photographs in The Durango Herald.

Securing permissions came next. Thomas worked steadily to obtain appropriate permissions from the composer and Festival management. He particularly wanted to choose from McBride’s massive photo archive. Thomas also sought official photographs from the Interagency Fire Fighters for the 416 Fire.

The video begins and ends with appropriate title slides, wrapping up with a kaleidoscope of thank-you signs that appeared throughout the county as the fire was contained. But it’s the middle section that’s truly dramatic – hillsides in flame; night fires; aerial shots taken from a helicopter; slurry drops; cordons of firefighters trudging through blasted forests; other emergency workers at various locations; evacuees; even animal rescues.

All in all, it’s a tremendous effort which results in a dramatic and telling film.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.