One of the favorite traditions of the holiday season for Mancos, Cortez, and Dolores is the return of the Mancos Valley Chorus. Since 1998, this community choir has been heralding in the holidays and chasing away the winter blues with their lively, warm, witty, and welcoming concerts that leave everyone smiling. Sunday, Dec. 6 at 3:30 in the Mancos Methodist Church at 470 West Grand Ave. will be the first of their four shows.
“Snowflakes and Other Wintry Things” is the theme of this season’s show. Director Kriss Larsen, a classically trained vocalist and veteran performer, has a reputation for themed shows that offer variety, humor, depth and a wide range of music: secular to sacred, silly to serious, witty to wistful, and raucous to reverent. Her productions feature a panoply of musical styles that challenges her singers and delights her audiences.
Unlike the faceless canned and bland holiday loop we are force-fed in public places as we scuttle through our shopping list, you can expect to be dazzled by some fresh, lesser-known holiday treasures like “Tambourine Noel” and “A Doo-Wop Christmas.” The chorus is especially honored this year to be presenting an original piece, “Christmas Star,” the lyrics written by Mancos resident and owner of the Millwood Junction, Roma O. Riffel, and set to music in 1986 by Brent Pierce.
Because of the far-reaching appeal of the program, families are especially encouraged to attend. Children – and the child in you — will squeal with delight during the “Three-Minute Nutcracker” (complete with slide show), and the wildly popular “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen.”
Other musical gems include a 1954 piece by Alfred Burt entitled “Some Children See Him” and an African Christmas song, “Furaha!” sung in Swahili. Also on the program is “Everlasting Light” by David Shire and Sheldon Harnick (“Fiddler on the Roof”) which pays tribute, says Larsen, to the loyal concertgoers who celebrate Hanukkah.
For the traditionalists among us, there is “Winter Wonderland,” accompanied with piano and hand bells, and “Snow” by composer Irving Berlin from the iconic winter movie “White Christmas.”
Sprinkled throughout the hour-long program will be six solos, a fun counterpoint to the choral numbers. They are the tinsel on the tree, carefully selected and placed within the larger program, adding to the overall sparkle of the show.
Kriss Larsen will be joined by accompanist Lee Bartley. Bartley, a Colorado native, is a lifelong composer and performer with three solo piano CDs to his name, and is a former band member of the popular Denver-based group Images. Audiences will be treated to Bartley’s original piano solo “Overjoyed,” from his most recent CD, “Carried Away.”
Twenty-eight voices strong his season, Larsen calls her troubadours “small but mighty.” But she is quick to add that new members are always encouraged to attend. “We love welcoming new members, but at the same time we require a high standard of responsibility in learning the music,” says Larsen. There is a special need for basses. So gentlemen, consider making the leap from singing in the shower to singing on stage and visit their website for more information at www.mancosvalleychorus.org.
An exciting collaboration is afoot this season: A Celebrate! concert has been arranged through the SouthWest Colorado Concerts organization: the Montezuma-Cortez High School combined Concert and Chamber Choirs will partner with the Mancos Valley Chorus in the brand-new Ralph A. Vavak Auditorium on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. This will be the first time these choirs have sung together. Each choir will present its own shortened program and then will combine voices on the ever-popular “Master of the House,” directed by M-CHS Choral Director, Marla Sitton. “We are honored to be part of the Southwest Colorado Concert Series sharing the concert with the Montezuma-Cortez High School Choir and consider this a wonderful opportunity,” says Larsen.
Steeped in the tradition of community choirs, the Mancos Valley Chorus shares its resources freely with its community. There is no charge for any of the concerts, although donations are happily accepted. Additionally, the chorus will be performing a concert on Dec. 6 for the residents at the Valley Inn Nursing Home in Mancos and one for the Mancos elementary school children on Dec. 9.
The chorus’ final two shows take place back at the Mancos Methodist Church on Friday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3:30 p.m. Plan on arriving early to get yourself a seat; often these popular shows are standing-room only. And brace yourself for a good time.