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From snow shovel races to classical music festivals, with everything from mountain biking to snowboarding thrown in for good measure, Angel Fire Resort on the historic trail from Cimarron to Taos has music for the body and soul.

by Phaedra Greenwood

Horseback Riding Cowboy and Dog ©Jack AffleckLegend has it the Ute Indians and Spanish friars who admired the glowing sunrises and sunsets in the Moreno Valley named it Angel Fire. Others say it was named for strange lights seen over the valley from time to time. Today’s visitors might wonder if the name comes from the exhilarating mix of activities that await them in this quiet corner of northern New Mexico.

Just last month, an estimated 5,000 visitors came here to watch 300 world-class mountain bike riders from 30 countries compete in the 2005 International Cycling Union Mountain Bike World Cup. Five months earlier, while the two-mile high mountains were still covered with snow, snow shovels were the vehicle of choice for the annual World Shovel Race Championships. In between, the state’s premier snowboarding facility hosts monthly halfpipe competitions while cross country skiers seek more sedate outings. When the snow melts, horseback riders enjoy the mountainside and golfers try their hand at the resort’s championship course.

While it’s true most visitors will probably want to spend their days outdoors, Angel Fire has one more ace up its sleeve: the annual Music from Angel Fire festival. In late August, after a satisfying dinner at a local restaurant, music lovers can revel in food for the soul presented by some of the world’s best classical musicians.

The 22nd season begins Friday, August 19 and continues through Monday, September 5. Festival director John Giovando says, “I feel it’s a real gem of a music series in New Mexico. There’s nothing else like this anywhere.”

Music from Angel Fire is designed to serve the artistic needs of rural northern New Mexico. “It’s a team effort that wouldn’t be possible without large community support, enthusiastic volunteers and our dedicated board of trustees who are proud of the festival and keep it alive. It’s my passion for music that keeps me going — and appreciation from local communities,” he adds.

One of this year’s themes will be a preview of Mozart, he continues. “Next year, 2006, will be Mozart’s 250th birthday and everyone will be playing his music. Our preview moves toward a more concentrated focus on the master in 2006.”

22 Years in Northern New Mexico

Founded as a non-profit corporation in 1984, Music from Angel Fire is supported, in part, by the Eugene V. & Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and the McCune Charitable Foundation of Santa Fe.

Concerts are scheduled from Friday, August 19 through Monday, September 5 and are held in various communities. Festival rehearsals are open and all concerts are preceded by an artistic introduction.

For more information, see www.musicfromanglefire.org or call 505-377-3233 in Angel Fire. Outside Angle FIre, call 888-377-3300 toll free.

Giovando is also excited about the world premiere on September 4 of a commissioned work for piano quartet by the esteemed composer George Tsontakis, who is the 2005 American Composer-in-Residence. “Every year the festival engages a contemporary American composer for a new work, which, hopefully, will be performed again by other organizations such as New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Bravo! Festival in Vail,” he says.

Tsontakis received the 2005 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for his Violin Concerto No. 2. He also served as composer-in-residence with the Oxford (England) Philomusica from 1998-2002.

Another theme, “Spotlighting Our Soloists,” will allow many artists to shine, especially during baroque concerts at the United Church of Angel Fire on August 21 and September 1. An all-baroque concert is planned for August 31 in Taos. On September 2, works by Rossini, Martinu and Brahms will be featured at Raton’s historic Shuler Theater.

David Jolley, French horn, and Fred Sherry, cello, return this year while the program also includes the Miami String Quartet and festival favorites Anne-Marie McDermott, piano; Toby Appel, viola; Eric Kim and Peter Wiley, cello; Laurence Glazener, double bass; Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Lauren Skuce, soprano; and Ani and Ida Kavafian, violin.

Ida Kavafian enjoys an international reputation as one of today’s most versatile musicians. Her television credits include CBS’ “Sunday Morning” and NBC’s “Today Show.” She is also artistic director of music and has been with the festival for 21 years. “She’s vibrant and fun,” Giovando says. “It’s exciting to work with her.”

Born in Istanbul, Turkey of Armenian descent, her family immigrated to the United States when she was three and settled in Detroit. She began her studies at age six and earned her Master of Music degree with honors from The Juilliard School in New York. Her violin is a J.B. Guadagnini made in Milan in 1751. As a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, she made her New York debut at the 92nd Street YMCA with pianist Peter Serkin.

Since her founding membership in the innovative group Tashi nearly 30 years ago, Kavafian has enjoyed many chamber music appearances throughout the world. She and her sister continue to perform together regularly. Kavafian also founded Bravo! Colorado and guided it for 10 years, building it into one of the country’s leading festivals.

Music from Angel Fire produces two professional concerts for the young people of Taos and Colfax Counties, and maintains an active program of music in the schools in Red River, Taos, Raton, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Mora, Questa, Cimarron, Dixon, Peñasco and Las Vegas. Music from Angel Fire concerts are broadcast by National Public Radio throughout the United States to an estimated six million people.

This season the Angel Fire Young Artist Program plans to present ten outstanding young musicians from the famed Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia, Penn. One of these is a young composer, James Ra, whose music has been described as “coursing with adrenaline-pumping energy.” When the Curtis Chamber Orchestra took his Concerto Grosso No. 1 on tour in Japan, one reviewer wrote, “The Concerto Grosso No. 1 had a tremendous impact on the audience. Its themes of love, life and death were dramatically expressed.” This work also aired on National Public Radio.

These young professionals will also present complimentary concerts and lectures for area students. “Music in Our Schools,” an educational outreach project, sparks the musical interest of thousands of young people in the Angel Fire area.

Mountain Biking ©Jack AffleckFrom Mountain Biking to Snowboarding:

The Home of Championship Competitions

Imagine hurtling your mountain bike between trees, monster jumping through the air, tearing down a ski slope to the finish line. Competitors did that and much more in the 2005 International Cycling Union Mountain Bike World Cup held last month at the Angel Fire Resort.

Featuring 300 world-class cyclists from more than 30 countries, a crowd of 5,000 spectators and 150 reporters and photographers, the competition garnered worldwide publicity for the small resort in the Moreno Valley between Cimarron and Taos. But last month’s mountain bike championships were just the latest in an impressive series of national and international level competitions here.

Most conspicuously in the spotlight these days is the relatively young sport of snowboarding, begun in the ’60s in the United States. Angel Fire is New Mexico’s premiere snowboarding destination and host to United States Amateur Snowboarding Association (USASA) competitions from December through February annually.

These events draw approximately 1,000 competitors per season, ranging in age from six to 60. In 2004, Angel Fire was the proud host of the USASA National Championship, the largest snowboarding event ever to set edge in pipe, with over 1,100 competitors for five days of hot snowboard action. The New Mexico Department of Tourism produced a half-hour show for FOX Sports Network that received national air time.

In Liberation Park, close to the summit, snowboarding champions test their skills on the 300-foot Halfpipe, a big hollow in the snow that looks like half a pipe, where snowboarders slide back and forth from wall to wall, reach the top and perform tricks. USASA also sponsors 12 to 15 races. In the Boardercross Race, four snowboarders advance through an obstacle course with bank turns, rollers, jumps and spines, which are big wedges of snow in extended triangles.

The speedbump roller is a six foot snow mound with a lip so boarders catch air. The event is not timed; the first two competitors who cross the finish line advance to the next heat. A slalom and giant slalom are run on a groomed course. Winners take home USASA medals and prizes donated by various sponsors.

Why do sports enthusiasts consider snowboarding more fun than skiing? Sara Levy, who learned to ski in a school program at Taos Ski Valley, says, “With skiing, you pick a line and go down the mountain. With snowboarding, it’s all curves. I like going back and forth, taking my time. Snowboarding makes more sense to my body. You can learn to snowboard very quickly. I skied for years and never got any good at it, but I became proficient at snowboarding very fast.”

Angel Fire Ski School offers beginning and advanced skiing and snowboarding classes. For more information, call 505-377-6401. You can also visit www.angelfireecondev.com or contact bpeterson@anglefireresort.com.

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