Otero College Student and Community Choir Brings Broadway to La Junta

Description: What About Love? from The Color Purple is sung in a performance last Monday night by the quartet - Mike Shima, Tracey Salzbrenner, Katie Lagergren and James Lind. In background is Nancy Jenniges. (Photos by Bette McFarren)

Published: 05/05/2022
Byline: McFarren

Otero College Student and Community Choir Brings  Broadway to La Junta

By: Bette McFarren 

Heather Pidcock-Reed soloed with “She Used to Be Mine” in the “Broadway Lights: 2000 to the present on Monday night at the Ed Stafford Theatre on the Otero College Campus.

          In a stunning performance by the Otero College Student and Community Choir on a Monday night, April 25, in the Ed Stafford Theatre, a large crowd of La Juntans were exposed to extraordinary music in “Broadway Lights: 2000 to the Present.” This show was first rehearsed two years ago, before the COVID shutdown. Director Dean Rees picked songs that, except for “Unchained Melody,” were not well known. After the show, he commented that he was surprised when he realized his selections had almost all been used in movies as well as Broadway shows.

Katie Lagergren, soloist on Heart of Stone, with backup singers Kathryn Gates and Kristin Golding-Langston.

They are songs with deep personal meaning which appeal to a wide audience of listeners. Kathryn Gates sang “The Light in the Piazza,” from the Broadway show of the same name, but it may be better remembered for the movie. A wealthy mother takes her intellectually challenged daughter to Italy, where she finds love and companionship among people who speak a different language and have a different culture. Gates’ soprano voice is melodic and captivating.

Grant Elliott belts out “Make a Move!” from Shrek, the musical. Left to right: Dan Haddan, Susan Shand, Elliott, Mike Shima (partially pictured)

“Shrek, the Musical” features soloist Grant Elliott, a familiar voice to La Junta audiences for his Picketwire performances as well as choir. He belts out some good advice to everyone, no matter how you look, if you care about someone, “Make a move!”

“Opening” from “Waitress” opens the show - here in rehearsal April 18 are Katie Lagergren, Heather Pidcock-Reed and Kristin Golding-Langston soloing and Dean Rees conducting. Choir in background.

Standout performances emerged from every number, starting from the beginning, with “Opening Up” from “Waitress,” featuring Kristin Golding-Langston, Katie Lagergren and Heather Pidcock-Reed. Who hasn’t sympathized with the waitress, who is responsible for everything? “She Used to Be Mine,” a later solo by Pidcock-Reed, particularly impressed Judy Hensley, who said, “She sang, and she acted, too, and she spoke (sang) directly to the audience. She wasn’t reading the words - she knew them.”

Tenor, baritone, bass up front in Otero College Student and Community Choir on April 18 in rehearsal. Left to right, front row: Dan Haddan, Grant Elliott, Mike Shima, Jacob McNally; second row: Becky Grantham, Alicia Haldeman, Kandence Lagergren, Susan Shand.

The quartet - Katie Lagergren, James Lind, Tracey Salzbrenner, and Mike Shima - captivated the audience with “What About Love?” from “The Color Purple.” Later, Lagergren soloed in “Heart of Stone” with backup from Gates, Golding-Langston and Salzbrenner.

Heather Pidcock Reed and Kristin Golding-Langston solo in opening number of Otero College Student and Community Choir “Broadway Lights: Songs 2000-present” at rehearsal April 18 performance at Ed Stafford Theatre.

The performance of the choir was memorable, scenes from “Ghost” leap to the imagination with the unforgettable “Unchained Melody” - Time goes by, so slowly, and time can mean so much - are you still mine? “Once Upon a December,” from “Anastasia,” twinkles with the sound of Christmas - or is that the piano, played by the masterful Sally Kappel, choir accompanist? Al Guadagnoli on bass guitar, Jordan Borrego, on drums, are setting the background music for the entire show. Lynda England is magical on flute.

La Junta will really miss its fine young band director, Matthew Beard, who is moving on next year. His strong voice was a backbone throughout the concert and he did a short solo at the beginning of “Kinky Boots,” which also featured Elliott, Gates, Golding-Langston, Katie and Kaydence Lagergren, Pidcock-Reed, Omayra Pumalpa, and Shima. Who knew high-heeled boots could save a shoe factory?

These Student and Community Choir concerts are featured at the end of each semester, unless cancelled by a pandemic. The choir perfects its performance throughout the semester, and the professional musicians come in at the end - with the exception of Sally Kappel, pianist, who does the whole semester. The parking lot by the auditorium was completely full. La Junta and surrounding towns and outlying areas supplied a big audience this semester. We are all glad to welcome back the Otero College Student and Community Choir, under the direction of Maestro Dean Rees.

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