A harmonic con­ver­gence

Mu­sic di­rec­tor Linda Raney

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Mes­siah, MU­SI­CIAN LINDA RANEY

Linda Raney is one of the most ubiq­ui­tous fig­ures on Santa Fe’s mu­sic scene — and many lo­cal con­cert­go­ers have wit­nessed her work first­hand, whether they re­al­ize it or not. Raney has served as di­rec­tor of the Santa Fe Sym­phony Cho­rus since 1996; as mu­sic di­rec­tor of the Santa Fe Women’s En­sem­ble since 1988; and as or­gan­ist and mu­sic di­rec­tor at First Pres­by­te­rian Church since 1986. In 2010, her ef­forts were re­warded with the Mayor’s Recog­ni­tion Award for Ex­cel­lence in the Arts.

“Mu­sic is a won­der­ful field,” Raney said, “be­cause you can ex­plore all as­pects of the dis­ci­pline. Most mu­si­cians I know are also gifted teach­ers, fundrais­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, and more. It’s rare if you only do one thing.”

Born in Casper, Wy­oming, Raney grew up in West Lafayette, In­di­ana, home of Pur­due Uni­ver­sity, where her fa­ther taught civil en­gi­neer­ing. She had her first mu­sic les­son at age seven, when she be­gan study­ing pi­ano with Mil­dred Bradley, whom she re­called as “a won­der­ful teacher” — but her in­ter­est in mu­sic pre­ceded those lessons. “I al­ways loved mu­sic and singing,” Raney said. “I re­mem­ber be­ing home sick from preschool one day, get­ting up from bed, go­ing to an open cor­ner of our liv­ing room, and singing along with Mar­ion Mar­lowe as she per­formed ‘Lover’ on the Arthur God­frey morn­ing ra­dio pro­gram.”

Raney’s pas­sion for mu­sic was also shaped by her prox­im­ity to Pur­due. “The uni­ver­sity had a very ac­tive con­cert se­ries, and my par­ents took me to many per­for­mances,” she said. “I heard the Metropoli­tan Opera reg­u­larly; I heard [mezzo-so­prano] Mar­i­lyn Horne in recital when she was just be­gin­ning; and I heard [pi­anist] Van Cliburn and Euro­pean or­ches­tras, to name just a few.”

The sum­mer be­fore her se­nior year in high school, Raney en­rolled in col­lege-level mu­sic cour­ses at In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity in Bloom­ing­ton, and an im­por­tant new path opened up for her. “I took my first or­gan lessons that sum­mer and was smit­ten,” she said. “The or­gan can be so loud and so soft, and it has so many dif­fer­ent [kinds of] sounds. Also, back then, I loved the ped­als and soon re­al­ized my dif­fi­culty reach­ing oc­taves was quickly solved by adding my feet to the play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.” To­day Raney de­scribes the or­gan as her “ma­jor in­stru­ment” — harp­si­chord, pi­ano, voice, and con­duct­ing are “other stud­ies.” Those high-school sum­mer classes were just the be­gin­ning of Raney’s ex­pe­ri­ences at In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity. In the years that fol­lowed, she earned her bach­e­lor’s, mas­ter’s, and doc­toral de­grees in mu­sic from the school, whose alumni in­clude vi­o­lin­ist Joshua Bell, pi­anist Jonathan Biss, trum­peter Chris Botti, and bassist Edgar Meyer.

In 1985, Raney moved from Lafayette, In­di­ana, to Santa Fe with her hus­band, Ray­mond, a for­mer news ed­i­tor for The Santa Fe New Mex­i­can who cur­rently serves as Canon to the Or­di­nary for the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of the Río Grande, which is based in Al­bu­querque. The fol­low­ing year, Raney be­gan her work at First Pres­by­te­rian Church.

“At First Pres­by­te­rian, I di­rect the chan­cel choir and the chan­cel bell choir, play the or­gan, man­age a weekly recital se­ries called TGIF, and per­form other du­ties as needed,” Raney said. “The chan­cel choir is a su­per group of singers who en­joy chal­leng­ing mu­sic and work­ing hard. We’re also blessed with David Solem, our ac­com­pa­nist, who can play any­thing.” The choir’s reper­toire in­cludes new mu­sic, thanks to “four very gifted com­posers [in the choir] who share their com­po­si­tions with us,” Raney said. “The chan­cel bell choir, which rings five oc­taves of hand­bells and hand­chimes, is another group of hard work­ers who en­joy a good chal­lenge. Hand­bell groups ex­ude what teamwork is all about — in their mu­sic, in their com­mit­ment to re­hearsals, and in mov­ing all the equip­ment.”

Raney de­scribed First Pres­by­te­rian’s TGIF se­ries as “one of the big sur­prises” of her ca­reer. “Be­tween our won­der­ful 5:30 Fri­day au­di­ence and the very gifted per­form­ers who of­fer cre­ative and beau­ti­fully ex­e­cuted per­for­mances week af­ter week, it’s quite an amaz­ing scene to be­hold,” she said. “It’s fun to watch ev­ery­one en­joy mu­sic to­gether ev­ery week. The chal­lenge,” she added, “has been to keep the se­ries as trim and sim­ple as pos­si­ble so that it can fit with my other mu­sic-di­rec­tor re­spon­si­bil­i­ties but still be a ser­vice to our com­mu­nity.”

Two years af­ter join­ing First Pres­by­te­rian, Raney be­gan work­ing with the Santa Fe Women’s En­sem­ble, which “had al­ready been a vi­tal part of the Santa Fe scene for six years,” she noted. The en­sem­ble com­prises 12 to 16 singers, per­forms seven con­certs each year, and oc­cu­pies “a unique niche in our com­mu­nity as an au­di­tioned choir that sings mu­sic for women,” Raney said. “The spirit of this group is un­stop­pable,” she added. “To have ex­isted for 36 years in Santa Fe is an ac­com­plish­ment, and the en­sem­ble has been very re­spon­sive to the changes of the times. Also, our ac­com­pa­nist, Bill Ep­stein, is a very gifted mu­si­cian.” The en­sem­ble per­forms reper­toire that rep­re­sents a va­ri­ety of cul­tures, and it has com­mis­sioned and pre­miered more than 30 new works. In 2012, it won the Cho­rus Amer­ica/ASCAP Award for Ad­ven­tur­ous Pro­gram­ming.

This past year marked Raney’s 20th an­niver­sary as di­rec­tor of the Santa Fe Sym­phony Cho­rus — a job, she said, that cen­ters on pre­par­ing men and women to “sing sym­phonic lit­er­a­ture with the or­ches­tra” dur­ing four or five con­certs each year. Those con­certs in­clude an­nual per­for­mances of Han­del’s which the sym­phony pre­sented at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter last month.

Her work with the sym­phony has been par­tic­u­larly re­ward­ing, Raney said, “be­cause I’ve got­ten to work with very gifted con­duc­tors. It’s been an ex­cit­ing ed­u­ca­tion to learn how each con­duc­tor thinks about their scores.” Also, “putting to­gether a per­for­mance with so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple is a very de­tailed man­age­ment feat, and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how each con­duc­tor tack­les such a task.” Re­hearsals are another as­pect of the job Raney sa­vors. “I en­joy dig­ging into the mu­sic with the cho­rus to dis­cover the vo­cal, mu­si­cal, and emo­tional im­pli­ca­tions of our part.”

Re­cently, the cho­rus launched the Sum­mer Cho­ral Arts Academy, which Raney said al­lows the en­sem­ble’s singers “to hone skills in mu­sic-read­ing, cho­ral vo­cal tech­nique, and [the move­ment-cen­tered] Feldenkrais Method. It’s great to have this time [be­tween the sym­phony’s sea­sons] to fo­cus solely on im­prov­ing our tech­nique.”

When asked if she has ever con­sid­ered a ca­reer that didn’t in­volve mu­sic, Raney said, “Not in a very long time. I get to do such a va­ri­ety of things and work with many dif­fer­ent peo­ple on many di­verse projects, so each day feels like start­ing a new ca­reer. I love the chal­lenge of keep­ing up with the times and chang­ing how I do things. It keeps life fresh and ex­cit­ing.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on First Pres­by­te­rian Church, go to www.fpc­santafe.org; for the Santa Fe Women’s En­sem­ble, www.sfwe.org; and for the Santa Fe Sym­phony Or­ches­tra & Cho­rus, www.santafesym­phony.org.

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