The Snowmass Chapel stages Rutter’s Requiem |

The Snowmass Chapel stages Rutter’s Requiem

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesPaul Dankers, music director at the Snowmass Chapel, has organized a performance of John Rutter's Requiem for Monday at the chapel.

SNOWMASS VILLGE – Paul Dankers was able to use his musical talents in remembrance of his father, Lyle, playing some piano at the memorial service. But it wasn’t an entirely satisfying experience.

On a Thursday and Friday in late January, Dankers performed in a stage show, “Radio Gals,” at the Snowmass Chapel, where he is director of the music program. After the second performance, he drove to Denver, caught an hour of sleep in the airport, then flew to Wisconsin, arriving in tiny St. Croix Falls, in the state’s northwest corner, just in time for the memorial.

“I got to the church, nodded to my family, got up on stage and played,” Dankers said. “It was surreal. It wasn’t real.”

Dankers, though, is getting a second shot to remember his father with music, and this time he is making sure it counts – not just for himself, but for other singers and instrumentalists who care to remember a loved one in song. Dankers is presenting a performance of John Rutter’s Requiem featuring a 34-voice choir and 20-piece orchestra Monday at the Snowmass Chapel. And Dankers has invited all the participating musicians to dedicate the performance to a dearly beloved – in particular, to someone who played a supportive role in their musical pursuits.

Following his father’s death, Dankers found that some people had given money to the Snowmass Chapel with the intent that Dankers would arrange a memorial concert. The amount wasn’t enough to bring in paid musicians, but it was sufficient to buy the music for a choir concert. Still, that left Dankers in the uncomfortable position of asking a bunch of musicians to play a concert, without pay – and, for the singers, to attend nine rehearsals – to honor his own father. He sought a way to expand the scope, so the concert would be meaningful to all the participants.

“So I thought, what if it isn’t just about my dad?” the 40-year-old Dankers said. “What if it’s a chance for everybody to express their grief, love, remembrances?”

He sent out a mass email, and was moved by the response: One musician wrote back that her parents had paid for her music lessons and attended all her concerts; of course she would play. A pair of siblings who are strings students at the Aspen Music Festival joined in to honor their father. The concert program gives all the musicians the opportunity to dedicate the performance in someone’s memory.

“When something like this happens, people come out of the woodwork – people you don’t know, people you don’t know well,” Dankers said. “You realize you’re not alone in this. Everyone who’s lived a while has a story of loss and how they deal with it.”

Dankers story is one of loss, but also of gratitude. He was raised in rural Wisconsin in a family that numbered five sons and a daughter. Their father was “a regular guy,” who introduced his sons to hunting, fishing and trapping, Dankers said.

“All my brothers were right in line with that, typical guys,” he continued. “Then you have this one son playing piano, learns the flute, becomes a singer, gay – all in this conservative Christian home. I’m sure my dad was wondering what to do with this one.”

If the situation puzzled Lyle, he didn’t show it in his actions. “He always let me know he supported my decision to become a musician,” Dankers said, adding that in his father’s last years, he always ended conversations with a reminder – “I’m proud of you,” “I respect you” – of his support. “Now, being the odd son, this is one thing I can give him. He gets this beautiful concert in his memory.”

Dankers has not gotten choked up yet over the upcoming tribute. For one thing, he’s not the outwardly emotional type; for another, he’s been too busy with preparations. But he was getting ready to pass responsibility over to Wendy Larson, who has volunteered to conduct the concert, and was moving into the emotional stage.

“The urgency of getting the music learned hasn’t given me a chance to get there, emotionally,” Danker said. “But at this point, it’s in her hands. So now I can just get in the choir and really have my moment. I’m looking forward to just being able to sing my heart out and think of dad.”


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