A beloved Vail Christmas tradition, Hamilton and Vavra’s Christmas concert, turns 30
Pat Hamilton, Peter Vavra’s 30th annual Christmas concert still seen ‘Through Angels’ Eyes’
BEAVER CREEK — Three decades ago, Pat Hamilton stood on stage beside Peter Vavra for their first Christmas concert.
“It’s the 30th year. Can you believe it?!?” Vavra said.
Their annual Christmas concert has become one of the valley’s most treasured traditions, and a successful fundraiser for the local Salvation Army.
Over the decades the annual concert has raised more than a half-million dollars for the Vail Valley Salvation Army. Naturally, the Salvation Army’s Tsu Wolin-Brown asked if they’d please do it again.
They said “yes” that year and every year since. Monday is their 30th annual Christmas concert. It starts at 7:30 p.m., but get there early; there is no reserved seating.
They do it because it’s fun.
“It’s a lot of rehearsals, but I say when we begin the concert, ‘Let’s have fun!’ and we do,” Vavra said.
It’s like a group of old friends, which it is.
“You walk back into the room and pick it up with ‘Now, as I was saying,'” Hamilton said.
This year Hamilton and Vavra are joined by Sally Peterson (vocals), Galen Jacobs (vocals and piano), Brent Gordon (vocals and saxophone), Nancy Wright, Jeff Layman (drums), Joe Bianchi (bass) and Elizabeth Kirk.
Hits you in the heart
Hamilton and Vavra’s annual Christmas concert hits you where Christmas lives – in your heart.
“It’s always a beautiful evening where you can sit quietly and absorb and reflect on the meaning of the season. The chapel is beautifully decorated with greenery and poinsettias, with subdued lighting,” Wolin-Brown said.
They change the performance every year, which can be the toughest part of the show. People have come to expect certain things, so each year, they walk a delicate balance of changing things up and sticking to tradition.
“Everyone always loves the songs. It’s difficult to drop some songs, but we want to give people something new,” Hamilton said.
They’ll add, “Merry Christmas, Baby” and some other surprises to this year’s show, as well as some strings and solo material from Jacobs and Peterson.
“It adds a little glitter and class to the program,” Vavra said.
Besides the new songs, there will also be a surprise guest performer. She politely declined to reveal who the surprise might be … it would ruin the surprise.
Their Christmas gift
The concert began 30 years ago as a community gift to spotlight the first Christmas album Vavra and Hamilton produced, “Christmas in Vail.” That album included Pat’s first original holiday song, “The Christmas Infant.”
They’ve since added more CDs, “You Are My Christmas,” featuring many more Hamilton original compositions, and their latest, “Through Angels’ Eyes, titled after one of Hamilton’s original songs.
All the CDs will be on sale at the Beaver Creek Chapel before and after the concert.
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“Instead of throwing $1,000 to a music relief fund — that’s great — I’d rather throw it to the three local guys who are struggling in my backyard.”