In Montrose: Ute Museum Photography exhibit
The opening reception is tonight, but two new photography exhibits at the Ute Indian Museum will be up through February. They’re worth seeing: the exhibit features dozens of evocative, black-and-white photographs of Native Americans by Edward S. Curtis and T.W. Colman. Curtis is best known for The North American Indian, a 1,500-photograph, 20 volume series he produced with funds from the financier of J.P. Morgan in 1906. In all, he took over 40,000 photographs, and documented the life and lore of more than 80 tribes. His work remains controversial. Curtis often removed parasols, suspenders and other suggestions of Western culture from his subjects’ attire, preferring to dress them up in native regalia and portray them as “noble savages” instead of who many of them really were at that time: Native Americans struggling with a new way of living, often in squalor, on the reservation. When Curtis died in 1952, The New York Times all-but-dismissed his artistic career in its crisp obituary: “Mr. Curtis devoted his life to compiling history…[he] was also known as a photographer.” President Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote the forward to The North American Indian, viewed Curtis’ work differently. Perhaps he saw past the deliberate ornamentation, the ways in which Curtis clothed and posed his subjects, to something larger and more compelling: their vanishing way of life. “Curtis’ work has far more than mere accuracy,” Roosevelt wrote, as if he sensed the idea might linger and sting over the years, “because it is truthful.”
The second exhibit, a counterpart to Curtis’ embellished images, plays it straight, and is all the more poignant for that. Its subject is a gathering of White River Ute Indians, members of the 6th U.S. Cavalry from Fort Meade, and African American Buffalo Soldiers from the 10th Cavalry on a sunny afternoon in early November, 1906. The get-together was in Campbell County, Wyoming – the Utes had fled their Utah reservation six months earlier in protest to its opening to white settlers, and Campbell County was as far as they had gotten before the cavalry caught up with them. The Absentee Utes, as they were known, had been making national headlines for weeks, and Collier’s magazine dispatched its photographer, T.W. Tolman, to the scene. At the meeting that day, the Utes agreed to return to Fort Meade with the cavalry, provided they be allowed to meet with the President and other government officials to address their concerns. The exhibit leaves the question of whether the Utes ever did meet with the President unanswered, but Tolman caught the quiet tension with his camera.
Dolce Voce in Ouray County
Dolce Voce means “sweet voice” in Italian. It is also the name of the musical group of eight singers who will perform a Christmas concert in Ouray County on Dec. 8. The concert, an annual event sponsored by the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild, will be sung a capella (without musical accompaniment). It’s the way Dolce Voce performs all their pieces, but it wasn’t always this way. The chorus was formed seven years ago, when several of its members met while singing with the Valley Symphony Orchestra. “We wanted to do Madrigals at first,” says Barbara Boulden, who sings alto. “We started singing Christmas carols in downtown Montrose. Someone stopped and asked us to sing at their Christmas concert, and we just went from there.”
In the concert Dec. 8, as they do every year, the group will perform its saucy version of “Jingle Bells,” as well as “White Christmas” and “Silent Night.” They are likely to include “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” and “Carol of the Bells” as well. There’s no hiding behind instruments in an a capella group. “The music has to fit our voices,” Boulden says. “With us, it’s the blend that’s the most important thing.” New this year will be “The Huron Carol,” a Native American carol “that does have that kind of a sound to it,” Boulden says, and a new version of “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen. The composer tries to simulate light in his work. “One way he does that is by putting two, three or even four musical notes together,” Boulden says. Boulden first heard the work on the radio last spring. She determined to track it down. Some people go looking online. Boulden went listening, until she found Lauridsen’s piece. She calls it “stirringly beautiful.”
In Telluride: A Cinderella adaptation
Take one part Cinderella, add a touch of the 1950s and you get Cindy and the Saddle Shoes, a Young People’s Theatre production from the Sheridan Arts Foundation. The musical, written and directed by Jennifer Julia, keeps the Rodgers and Hammerstein score. Julia penned the libretto. Cinderella originally starred Julie Andrews in the only musical the composers ever wrote for TV. They didn’t let the small screen keep them from making memorable music; listen to In My Own Little Corner or Impossible just once as a little girl, and you’ll never get them out of your head. Julia is working with a cast of 21 six-to-eighth-graders, and she tailored her storyline to them. Adolescence is “a very intense time,” she says. “There’s so much going on.” In the TV version of Cinderella, the cast was composed of adults, but the themes of the play – teasing, name-calling, issues of identity – ring especially true for middle-schoolers. Which is why Julia chose it in the first place. That, and it suits the voices and abilities of her young actors. “I have a very talented, enthusiastic cast,” she says. As for the audience, “Little ones will love the Cinderella story.” And grown-ups will like that it’s tongue-in-cheek. Cindy and the Saddle Shoes plays nightly, this Friday through Sunday, at 6 p.m.