Musical energy in all directions
Some artists are dreamers; others are leaders. Linda Raney, who receives a Mayor’s Recognition Award for Excellence in the Arts on Thursday, Oct. 21, for her contributions to the musical life of the city, is among the latter. Raney directs three choral groups, is music director and organist at First Presbyterian Church, puts together bell choirs and drumming groups, and teaches harpsichord in her spare time. Come December, her high season, it is all she can do to be in the right place at the right time with the right music. “A goal is to learn to pace oneself more graciously,” she told Pasatiempo. “It can get very intense.”
The Mayor’s Awards also honor the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Santa Fe New Music, painter Darren Vigil Gray, and poet Miriam Sagan, founder of Santa Fe Community College’s creative-writing program. Kinsey Spude, a young filmmaker and senior at Desert Academy, receives the Melissa Engestrom Youth Artist Award.
Raney loves being an organist as much as she loves directing choral groups. To watch her behind the keyboard of the recently installed replacement pipe organ at First Presbyterian (“a glorious instrument,” she said) is to understand something more about Raney’s personality. Handling multiple keyboards, hitting buttons and tabs (called stops), and stepping her way through a booming bass line on the pedals is work, but it’s also a joy. “It’s fun to play with both the hands and the feet,” she said.
Raney received her doctorate in organ and religious studies from Indiana University. She moved to Santa Fe with her husband, Raymond, in 1985. After playing the organ at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, directing a woman’s chorus in Albuquerque, and teaching at Santa Fe Community College for several years, she received job offers from First Presbyterian Church, then the Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble, and finally the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. “Perhaps I do tend to overwork,” she said. “But I love what I do.” She has been at the church for 23 years, with the women’s ensemble for 20, and the symphony for 13.
In spite of her schedule, Raney says it’s impossible not to get excited by all the possibilities in Santa Fe. “I think of this community as a hotbed,” she said. “People I come into contact with are so inspiring.” During the summer, church services at First Presbyterian include soloists from the ranks of the apprentice singers at Santa Fe Opera. A popular TGIF series at First Presbyterian offers short Friday after-work concerts that feature a rotating lineup of groups, including flute choirs, cello and piano duos, and young performers from the Santa Fe Concert Association’s EPIK Artist program for talented vocalists, dancers, and instrumentalists.
“The neat thing about musical groups is that they are a metaphor for what community can be like,” Raney said. “Music brings together people of various backgrounds. Music is edifying and inspiring. It’s a model for what the world can be like.”
Linda Raney; above, Raney in Gloucester, Massachusetts, playing the organ now in First Presbyterian Church; opposite page, Raney with the Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble in Italy, 2008