Sandpoint’s musical wizard

By Jodi Rawson

Reader Contributor

Witnessing Mark Reiner conduct during a performance, with his disheveled white hair and magical wand, waving dozens of musicians into oneness, proves to me that he is a modern wizard. Last December, he and his wife, Caren, led a majestic performance that packed the house and earned a standing ovation. After 20 years of dedicated service, they continue to inspire Sandpoint.

Because the Pend Oreille Choral and Chamber Orchestra is all-inclusive, I decided to attend their free concert last year. It was dessert to my ears, so this last autumn I decided to join.

“It is more fun being in the middle, being a part of it, than just listening,” says Cate Huisman, and I couldn’t agree more.

The two hours each week that I am with my choir are some of the most empowering moments of my week. Like a great yoga session, I am stretching, and entirely present in the moment. While the Reiners are quite intense, they always thank us for our hard work.

I was welcomed into their off-grid home recently, and they offered me their undivided attention for hours. Aside from music, Caren specializes in gardening and cooking vegetarian masterpieces, while Mark ornately carves wooden sculptures that adorn their home. Then there’s the music, which is divine to them and encompasses much of their existence. Caren earned a master’s degree in piano performance, and each day her fingers fly over the keys of her Steinway grand piano. Their library includes the finest classical tunes for listening, and for reading they have biographies on the likes of J.S. Bach.

In this upcoming spring recital, we are performing compositions never before heard. This composer’s forum features pieces created by local artists. One of Mark’s pieces unfolds like a story or painting, transforming like a seed into a flower. This 20-minute piece entitled “Transformation” features both the choir and orchestra.

Another composer featured is Marj Cooke, a teacher and accompanist for the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint. Like Mark, Cooke wrote her first composition in high school and went on to receive her master’s degree in music theory and composition. Her nine-minute orchestral piece entitled “The Bears” was inspired by watching the bears in her own North Idaho back yard. Other local composing geniuses are: Rich Beber and his saxophone quartet, Mike Young and his piano and woodwind quintet and Caren, who plays cello in a quartet. Cindy Borup wrote “There Is a Place.” She is the only composer that will not be physically present to lead her piece. Sadly, she has passed on, but Beth Pederson, the singer and songwriter that partnered with Borup, will pick up her guitar and do the solos. This piece is an interesting merger of folk and classical with a deep message.

The composer’s forum is a vision that Mark has nurtured for years and will be a spectacularly uplifting event. Beyond gratitude, there is often a sense of awe for the Reiners. Their marriage is an awesome union of teaching, composing, writing and performing music. Their desire to share has inspired countless people to rise.

The “Composer’s Forum” will take place on June 12 at 7 p.m. and June 14 at 3 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church on Olive Street. Admission is free.

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