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Local choirs fill Las Vegas with holiday music

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By Birdie Jaworski

Andre Garcia-Nuthmann’s voice swells with pride when he speaks of his choirs.

“Last Spring we did a huge Vivaldi concert with the Santa Fe Symphony. We performed this summer at the National Hispanic Center in Albuquerque, again with the Santa Fe Symphony, and we travelled to Europe to perform at the Classical Music Festival celebrating Haydn’s 275th Birthday. Every year we just get better and better. And all of this is due to our incredibly loyal community members.”

As a music professor at Highlands University, Garcia-Nuthmann directs three professional-level choirs — from jazz to madrigal. Both groups consist of members from both NMHU and the community at large.

“Sixty to 70 percent of our three choirs are members from the community,” boasts Garcia-Nuthmann. “That’s one of the aspects that brings excellence into the performance, and the students get to work with seasoned singers and really advance because of the experience. The strongest singers perform in all three choirs and dedicate over ten hours a week of their private time, not to mention extra rehearsals before big shows.”

Garcia-Nuthmann’s holiday schedule kicks off this Saturday, Dec. 1, with a NMHU Jazz Choir concert at the City of Las Vegas Museum. The group will perform holiday-inspired tunes to help celebrate the museum’s launch of its Endowment Campaign. The second stop on the NMNU Music Department’s busy schedule is the “Songs of Hispania” concert at Ilfeld Auditorium on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m.

“The Madrigal Choir will sing an ambitious program,” explained Garcia-Nuthmann. “I can’t even begin to describe how mysterious and beautiful this music is. They will sing seven Sephardic folk songs, from the middle ages when the Jews were still in Spain. People passed these melodies and lyrics on over generations. The melodies are the ancient ones, but the choral renditions are quite modern.”

Elizabeth Bunch, accomplished pianist, will accompany the choir in one of her last performances before retiring to Santa Cruz, California, with her husband.

“Elizabeth has been a part of my life here in Las Vegas ever since I arrived, eighteen years ago. I don’t know what I’ll do without her,” Garcia-Nuthmann muses.

The choir will sing a selection from Georgio Allegri, a Vatican composer who lived during the Baroque period. His music was considered some of the most holy, with deep expressive pauses and angelic harmonic moments that call to mind the very fabric of the universe. In Allegri’s time, his compositions could only be heard by the pope and his cohorts. It was against the law to perform the sacred pieces anywhere outside the Vatican.

“I’ve been wanting to do this piece, but never had a soprano high enough,” explains Garcia-Nuthmann. “The part is unbelievably high, and finally, I have my soprano,” he continued, referring to Mariachi child star Karliz De Marco.

“She has recordings and CDs in Mariachi, but she has found a new love for opera. She has a really high voice, she’s going to be a coloratura soprano. She sings with such ease, it has taken me 17 years of being here in Las Vegas to find this woman.”

Garcia-Nuthmann sighed. “We’re ending the program with two a capella folks songs, one from South America, a peace song, and the last piece from Peru. This concert has taken a lot of people a lot of incredibly hard work. We know the results will be worth it, and we hope the community comes out to hear us sing.”