A Christmastime classic | VailDaily.com

A Christmastime classic

Special to the Daily/Kent Pettit

BEAVER CREEK – A well-dressed woman walked straight up to Pat Hamilton and told her it’s not Christmas until she and Peter Vavra perform their annual concert.

She won’t have to wait long.

Hamilton and Vavra’s 22nd annual Christmas concert is Thursday evening in the Beaver Creek Chapel, which made Hamilton a child prodigy when she started this.

They do it for the local Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program, for which they’ve raised around $250,000 over those two decades – and they’ve had a great time doing it.

“We keep doing it because people keep asking for it. I think people should do things until they can’t,” Hamilton said.

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It started with their first Christmas album, “Christmas in Vail.” To promote it, Hamilton and Vavra put on a benefit concert for the Salvation Army.

They liked it so much that they’ve been doing it every year since.

“This is probably the only Christmas event that has become a tradition,” Vavra said. “It’s heart warming to hear some of the stories from the people this helps. This really helps needy families, and there are more than you think.”

Never enough

After 20 years, Hamilton and Vavra thought they might have had enough, but no one else had. Tsu Wolin-Brown was having none of it. She’s the executive director of the local Salvation Army chapter and a force of nature.

“Tsu Wolin-Brown is a saint. She’ll be first in line at St. Peter’s gate,” Vavra said.

And Hamilton and Vavra had just added a couple of songs to the concert lineup, and you simply cannot stop then.

And Hamilton had just gotten a new Christmas dress, and you have to wear a new Christmas dress at least two times.

So here they are.

They really do love doing it, and they make you love it, too.

“We practice all the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Vavra said.

Every year, they add a song or two and then fine-tune the ones they added the year before.

“We’re exploring more levels of musicianship than we have before. Sometimes when we practice and something wonderful happens, we look at each other and say, ‘Hey, that sounds pretty good!'” Hamilton said.

When he’s not doing this, Vavra performs at Splendido on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and alternate Wednesdays.

He’s still teaching piano and says he’s always looking for a few good students.

The music and musicians

Graham Ohlson joins Hamilton and Vavra on the cello this year. Chase Wiens will play the bass. It’s his first year with them.

Sally Peterson returns for her fourth Christmas concert as a vocalist. Jeff Layman returns on drums and percussion.

They’ll perform Hamilton’s original music and some time-honored classics, and Vavra will perform a solo medley of Christmas music.

You’ll recognize it all, and you’re welcome to sing along, but you’ll also recognize that they put their personal twist on the music.

“Everything we do has been arranged by us,” Vavra said.

It’s a combination of holiday standards such as “O Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Silver Bells” and more. At least half of the concert will feature Hamilton’s original songs.

Hamilton’s mother is back to perform “White Christmas” with her.

And this one is really special for Vavra. He’s performing in honor of his father who passed away this summer and who never missed one of the concerts.

“My father came out every year for this,” Vavra said.

Three of his sisters will be in the audience for the first time, he said.

But the concert’s benefits go well beyond ticket sales.

“It brings a lot of attention to our programs, like Adopt-A-Family,” Wolin-Brown said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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