Plenty of places to sing in the valley |

Plenty of places to sing in the valley

Julie Imada-Howard/Eagle Correspondent
Harmony Mt2 12-8 CS

Harmony is echoing through the valley. For local musicians and music lovers, the Eagle Valley offers a surprising number of musical outlets encompassing everything from the string section to a capella.

Not for humbuggers

The Dickens Carolers evoke memories of Christmas past. The holiday a capella caroling group has been a mainstay in the valley and around the state for more than 20 years.

Longtime member and current group president Jon Gamble said he credits the group’s tenure to the valley’s strong arts community. Gamble, a residential designer, and his wife Nancy, a school teacher at Eagle Valley Middle School, have been members since 1978. Gamble said part of the group’s charm lies in the fact that its members are just “average folk” who love music.

The group has about 30 members and rehearses two hours a week from September through December in order to perfect the traditional and modern Christmas songs in their repertoire. The group performs between Dec. 12 and Dec. 23 at various locations including street performances, private parties, the Vail tree lighting as well as at churches. They also perform every night from 9-10 p.m. at the Lodge at Vail.

Like the Gambles, Julee and Dave Kramer have been involved in the group since its inception. Dave, the music teacher at Red Hill and Eagle Valley elementary schools, is the group’s director. “It keeps us on the streets. That’s what is so beautiful about it. We’ve met so many people and it’s an extension of our family,” said Julee.

One of the people she met was Dave.

“We sang at Dave and Julee’s wedding,” said Gamble, who also met his wife through the group. “He proposed to her in the group with a song that he wrote.”

The Gambles and the Kramers say the holiday music they sing touches a special chord in the hearts of those who listen.

“Fulfillment comes when we have performed and actually brought people to tears. It brings back early family days. There is something about music and singing – it is a direct route to the heart,” said Gamble.

The group has also acted as a springboard for the families to become involved in other musical endeavors.

Gamble also performs in local barbershop quartet, High Country Four, and the Kramers are members of several local bands including bluegrass band Where’s Floyd and their church’s band, Bluegrace. The also give voice lessons.

“It’s one of the reasons that keeps us in this expensive valley,” said Julee of her musical endeavors.

Harmony in the hills

The ladies of Mountain Harmony know how to put on a show. The barbershop-style group has been performing at various public and private events throughout the valley for 14 years.

Singing in four-part harmony, the group’s members offer the community a taste of American folk music. Singing that American music are valley residents who include immigrants from Sweden and Australia. The group is also as diverse as the valley with members’ ages ranging from the teens to “young at heart.”

“It’s a great sound and a great group of women,” said director Deb Swain.

The group rehearses two hours per week, with additional time spent in section rehearsals. Swain said the group offers members the opportunity to spend time with like-minded friends as well as an opportunity to step back from the stress of everyday life.

“When you put yourself into music, some of that other stuff moves to the background. I get an incredible joy and have a great time. It’s a great group of women I wouldn’t have met otherwise and we all do something we love,” said Swain, adding members facing family illnesses and crisis’ come to perform just to renew their spirits through the music and the group’s camaraderie.

Every fall the group holds auditions for new spots in the group. Members need to be able to read music and be able to memorize at least 30 minutes of material. Members also make their own costumes for performances including 19th century English-style winter costumes that include long red skirts, fur hats and vests.

During the holidays, the group performs at the Mountain Hospice Tree of Lights celebrations in Edwards and Eagle as well as at tree-lighting ceremonies in Beaver Creek and Vail. They also perform in Vail every Saturday during the Christmas season.

“Every time we perform, we make people smile and at this time of the year, we get to be a part of the magic that is Christmas,” Swain said.

A Child’s Voice

The Vail Valley Children’s Chorale, started nine years ago by Gypsum resident Joy Ortiz, provides a unique musical opportunity for local elementary school children.

Ortiz says she started the group out of concern for local children, including her granddaughter, who were traveling to Denver once a week to participate in the Colorado Children’s Chorale. She approached several other families to organize a local choir that would be similar to the Denver group. Today, the program continues to grow, offering more than 90 first and second graders the opportunity to sing, perform and meet new friends.

Five years ago, Ortiz passed her leadership post to Leanne Gulizia, the full-time musical director, and board president Marka Moser.

The chorale consists of children from 12 Eagle County schools, from Red Cliff to Gypsum. Rehearsals are spread throughout the valley, to even out the driving required of parents.

Every student pays tuition which ranges from $10 per session to $300 per year. The tuition pays for the director’s salary, music, and scholarships for students who would not otherwise be able to participate. Moser noted that nearly one-third of the organization’s budget goes toward scholarships. Most of the group’s funding comes through various grants, donations and fund-raising activities.

The group performs a holiday program every December and a spring program in April.

“It is an extremely valuable resource for kids. It is about fun, liking to sing and liking music. We foster a lifelong love of music,” said Ortiz.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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